FolkWorld #78 07/2022
© Innes and Campbell Communications

Ruth Keggin & Rachel Hair

Two Shining Lights

Manx Gaelic singer Ruth Keggin and Ullapool harpist Rachel Hair have collaborated on a stunning duo album. Lossan, which celebrates the vibrancy and growth of the Manx Gaelic language and culture on the Isle of Man and the connections between the island and Scotland, is the first ever duo harp and Manx Gaelic vocal album to be released.

Rachel Hair

Artist Video Rachel Hair @ FROG

Ruth Keggin

Artist Video Ruth Keggin @ FROG

Two shining lights on the thriving Celtic music scene, Manx Gaelic singer Ruth Keggin and Scottish harpist Rachel Hair, have collaborated on a stunning duo album, set for release on Friday 8 July 2022. The body of work is entitled Lossan - a Manx Gaelic word, with meanings including ‘light’, ‘glimmer’, ‘sheen’ and ‘flame’, and is the first ever duo harp and Manx Gaelic vocal album to be released.

Ruth Keggin & Rachel Hair

Lossan celebrates the vibrancy and growth of the Manx Gaelic language and culture on the Isle of Man and the connections between the island and Scotland, whose native tongues sit within the same family of Celtic languages. Manx’s phoenix-like story has seen it rise from the ashes from being a gravely endangered indigenous language, to enjoying an upsurge of interest that has brought into focus the importance of worldwide efforts to protect and promote endangered languages.

Together Ruth and Rachel have thoughtfully arranged traditional Manx material alongside some newly-written songs by composers on the Isle of Man, reawakening traditional Manx lullabies,much-loved ballads and traditional jigs, exploring a range of themes including humanity’s connection with the natural world.

The pair met 10 years ago during the small hours of a traditional music session on the Isle of Man and have worked alongside each other on several musical projects celebrating the coming together of Celtic nations, both on the island and beyond, ever since. Their mutual love and respect for each other’s roots and traditions led them to first perform together as a duo in 2017. The pandemic allowed them the time to collaborate on a recording, and despite the challenges of a 14-month Isle of Man border closure, Lossan has made its way into the light.

The album was recorded on the stage of the Erin Arts Centre in Ruth’s hometown of Port Erin on the Isle of Man. Ruth and Rachel will return to the special venue to launch the album as part of the Mananan International Festival.

Ruth Keggin said: “I have long loved Rachel’s music and the way she approaches playing Gaelic songs and airs with such sensitivity, so it felt like the most natural thing to work together. It’s been wonderful to create a duo album - there’s something truly special about the fluid musical interplay between harp and vocals and the captivatingly-resonant space that is created between the two instruments. The word ‘lossan’ has such a rich meaning and we love the idea of the word being associated with tiny particles of light in the darkness - it felt very fitting to title the album this way. The word also has connections to the sea and sky and it’s these things that connect us both and are so important to our homelands.”

Rachel Hair said: “For years now I have been inspired by the culture on the Isle of Man, and its music, song and language. I’m so grateful to those involved in the cultural scene on the island for welcoming me - this acceptance has been a real inspiration, giving me the freedom to play the island’s music and help fly its flag around the world. Both of us have enjoyed and respected each other’s music for a number of years so it felt about time we recorded together. It has been an utter joy to arrange and perform songs both old and new from the island and the album has given me the chance to hone my skills as an accompanist, exposing the raw beauty of the harp.”

Ruth Keggin & Rachel Hair

Artist Audio Ruth Keggin & Rachel Hair "Lossan", March Hair Records, 2022

Ruth Keggin is a Manx Gaelic singer who is passionate about bringing Manx music and language to a wider audience. From the coastal seaside village of Port Erin on the Southern tip of the Isle of Man, Ruth was inspired to learn to speak and sing in her islands native tongue, having been brought up listening to Scottish Gàidhlig singers. She has recorded five albums, both as a soloist, as a member of the band a’Nish and as a member of the bold interGaelic vocal project ‘Aon Teanga:Un Çhengey’ (One Tongue), together with Scottish musician and broadcaster Mary Ann Kennedy and Irish sean-nós singer Eoghan Ó Ceannabháin.

Ruth has performed live at numerous BBC Radio and TV shows and at major festivals including Celtic Connections and the Festival Interceltique de Lorient. When not performing, she works as the Manx Language Development Officer for Culture Vannin in the Isle of Man, helping to support and promote the Manx Gaelic language both nationally and internationally.

Rachel Hair is a Scottish harpist who has recorded 5 albums and toured extensively throughout Europe, the USA, Japan and New Zealand, both as a soloist and with her duo guitar partner Ron Jappy. Born and Brought up in the North-West highland fishing village of Ullapool, a family move to the central belt in her late teens opened her eyes to sounds beyond her Highland roots and she is now settled in Glasgow, a city renowned for its melting pot of musical and cultural style.

A chance meeting with a man from the Isle of Man (now her husband) led her to discover the islands music and culture and having taken up the position as the visiting monthly Manx harp tutor in 2011, she is now emerged as the world’s premiere specialist in Manx Harp music and is at the forefront of the revival of Manx Harp Music. Her music and arrangements can be found performed by harpists throughout the world and she has published 5 books of harp music and her lockdown Harp at Home Youtube series was followed by thousands of harpists worldwide.

Photo Credits: (1ff) Ruth Keggin & Rachel Hair (unknown/website).

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