FolkWorld #78 07/2022
© HebCelt

Return Safely

The Hebridean Celtic Festival (HebCelt) has announced a range of specially commissioned shows to be performed by internationally famous artists. The commissions will form the part of their programme which will be staged at An Lanntair, the local arts centre which annually promotes a strong local cultural focus.


13 – 16 July 2022

Artist Audio HebCelt @ FROG

The Outer Hebrides of Scotland are steeped in the rich Gaelic tradition which is informed by the rugged wild Atlantic landscape and the people who this part of the world has shaped. One of the area’s greatest exports is its people who have gone on to forge lives and lay down roots all across the world though they never lost their sense of home in the Hebrides.

Many a tune has been written or a song has been created celebrating the ties back home or with those who have had to leave to seek a different life for themselves or their families.

This year’s focus could indeed feature in any year for the festival though we are delighted to present a number of commissioned pieces, celebratory concerts and shows that have perfect synergy with Scotland’s Year of Stories 2022.

Wednesday, 13th July: Till Slàn - The opening concert of HebCelt 2022 ‘Till Slàn’ (return safely) is a musical journey centred around the meaning of Home. Pairing ancient ballads with never before heard original songs and melodies, this unique evening of music explores our timeless connection to our heritage. The concert also features ‘The Journey’ - a short film commissioned by HebCelt for their 2021 Survival Sessions project. The original score by Josie Duncan will be performed live by some of Scotland’s finest musicians and is accentuated beautifully by evocative footage shot by Elly Lucas.

Artist Video HEISK @ FROG

Thursday, 14th July: Freumhan | Roots - Lewis lads and long-time friends and musical partners James MacKenzie, Norrie MacIver and Calum Alex Macmillan will come together at HebCelt this July to present ‘Freumhan | Roots’, a suite of traditional and newly written music and song which was commissioned to celebrate HebCelt’s 25th anniversary. Whilst waiting for this delayed event, over the past two years, James, Norrie and Calum Alex have collaborated on writing new material influenced by their Lewis upbringing with subjects related to their homeland delving into the stories, legends, characters, island landscapes, and communities which they each represent.

Friday, 15th July: Hebridean Women - An Lanntair’s legendary series of concerts featuring Hebridean Women presenting songs from their island homeland has long been a feature of HebCelt in addition to An Lanntair’s yearly programme of events. Anchoring this Hebridean Women show for HebCelt 2022 will be Mischa Macpherson and Josie Duncan alongside a cast of emerging Gaelic singers and instrumentalists. This much anticipated show demonstrates the wealth of storytelling, myths and legends that feature within the Hebridean song repertoire.

Saturday, 16th July: Fergie MacDonald and Band - World renowned ceilidh king, Fergie is no stranger to the islands where for many a year he played the length and breadth of the Outer Hebrides in ‘bothans’ and other gathering halls. With a traditional west coast style that is perfect for ceilidh dancing, Fergie was, and still is, very much in demand although in more recent times his travelling has been tempered. Expect a first half of stories and tunes compèred by band mate Allan Henderson and a second half where he will be joined by his band.


Vibrant six-piece Heisk banded together after noticing a lack of female representation in trad music. This inspired them to create the 10-track album with a range of other female creatives. Self-titled Heisk’s album was released in August 2021. Their relentlessly energetic music was brought together through Glasgow’s thriving music scene with the six members coming from all corners of Scotland. The funky folk band is made up of Becca Skeoch on electro harp, Catriona Hawksworth on keys, Lauren Macdonald on kit, Megan MacDonald on accordion, Rosie Munro on fiddle and Sally Simpson on fiddle.


Artist Video HÒ-RÒ @ FROG


From a humble beginning in the Scottish Highlands & Islands, Hò-rò are gradually becoming a force to reckon with in the Scottish music scene. This group has held their audience spellbound with their energetic performance and musical tune arrangements everywhere they perform in Scotland. The group released their debut album in the summer of 2016, and the acceptance has been remarkable with colossal success recorded in album sales. With a line-up that features bagpipes, border pipes, accordion, fiddle, and whistles; musical instruments that are aligned with traditional Highland music combined with the sounds of guitar, keyboards, drums, and bodhran, Hò-rò can play diverse styles and produce a set that features rich musical textures. This instrumental mix is complemented further by both the unbeatable poetry of Gaelic song and the vivid storytelling of the Scots song genre.


Exploding onto the indie folk scene to unparalleled effect, Elephant Sessions have appeared at some of the world’s most notable venues and festivals with audiences crowd surfing their way through the summer and marquee floors breaking under the weight of bouncing fans. Following their most recent album, ‘What Makes You’ in 2019, a UK tour was followed by a summer of festivals across Europe, including Glastonbury, Boomtown Fair, Tønder Festival, Wickham Festival, Belladrum, Towersey, Skye Live as well as a storming set at HebCelt. Returning from a tour of Australia in January 2020 and a quick appearance at Folk Alliance international in New Orleans, the band planned to again head out on the road to perform a few dates across the UK. Then came lockdown. It takes more than a worldwide pandemic to stop this band though! As soon as they were able to get together, in a Covid safe, socially distanced way of course, they started making plans to film a unique live performance in their home of the Scottish Highlands. As well as providing exclusive performance footage for fans, the stream ensured that their regular touring crew and wider teams, as well as their favourite local venue would all benefit from the streamWe can't wait to welcome them back to HebCelt!


Trail West

Artist Video Trail West @ FROG

If snow could sing, it would sing like Julie Fowlis…’…this is how her pure Northern voice was recently described by acclaimed nature writer Robert Macfarlane. Hailing from the Outer Hebrides and now based in the Highlands, Julie is a multi-award winning singer whose music is deeply influenced by the Hebridean islands where she grew up and by the Highland landscapes where she now resides. With a career spanning several studio albums and numerous high profile collaborations, her ‘crystalline’ and ‘intoxicating’ vocals have enchanted audiences around the world.

She will forever be recognised for singing the theme songs to ‘Brave’, Disney Pixar’s Oscar, Golden Globe and BAFTA winning animated film, set in the ancient Highlands of Scotland. One of these songs was long listed for an Oscar in 2013. A winner of ‘Folk Singer of the Year’ at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards, Julie has graced stages around the world, from village halls in the Highlands to Carnegie Hall in New York, the Mozart Concert Hall in Vienna, The Philharmonie de Paris, Shakespeare’s Globe in London and the World Festival of Sacred Music in Fez, Morocco. She has collaborated with the BBC Concert Orchestra in the Royal Albert Hall for the Proms, sang live at the closing ceremony of the Ryder Cup in Chicago in 2012 to a TV audience of 500 million, an event that was only eclipsed by singing live at the opening ceremony of the Glasgow XX Commonwealth Games in 2014, to a TV audience of over 1 billion. Her voice has been streamed on Spotify alone over 120 million times, and has been heard in space on an official NASA astronaut playlist. She even has a lily flower named after her. She was vocal coach for the Eric Whitacre Singers on the Dreamworks Animation ‘How To Train Your Dragon 3: The New World’ (Cressida Cowell, score by John Powell) in Abbey Road Studios, London in 2018. She is also an artist with a genuine curiosity and ability for cross-over, and regularly sings and records in other languages. She currently performs and records with the folk ‘supergroup’ Spell Songs and is a regular face in the acclaimed ‘Transatlantic Sessions’ live show. A natural collaborator, she has performed with artists such as James Taylor, KT Tunstall, Chris Thile, Graham Coxon (Blur), Nicola Benedetti and Mary Chapin Carpenter. A regular TV and radio presenter, she is also a sought after voice artist, most recently involved with the Penguin Audiobook release for The Lost Spells, the hypnotic film upstream (Robert Macfarlane, Rob Petit and oscar-nominated composer Hauska) and she worked on the best-selling video game Assassins Creed Valhalla, with renowned Norwegian composer Einar Selvik. She was Scotland’s inaugural ‘Tosgaire na Gàidhlig’ (National Gaelic Ambassador), an honour bestowed on her by the Scottish Government, and in addition to her BA and Masters degrees she holds an honorary Doctorate of Music from Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen. Julie is the voice of Scottish Gaelic for the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights Project, which aims to record the declaration in every language in the world. From Abkhaz to Zulu, the declaration has been recorded in 529 languages to date.


Artist Video Rura @ FROG


A richly celebrated Scottish folk singer and songwriter, Siobhan Miller’s soulful and stirring renewal of traditional song has won her the BBC Radio 2 Folk Award for Best Traditional Track, and the BBC Alba Scots Trad Music Awards’ Scots Singer of the Year an unprecedented four times. Alongside her extensive solo ventures, Siobhan’s unique vocal style has been honed through collaborations with many of Scotland’s top musicians – including Eddi Reader, with whom she has toured widely and formed a close musical bond, supporting and singing alongside, and making guest appearances on each other’s albums. She has also made guest appearances with the National Theatre of Scotland, spent a season on Broadway, returned to the US for a monthlong residency in Boston’s Majestic Theatre for Brian O’Donovan’s Celtic Christmas Sojourn, and can be spotted on US/UK TV drama Outlander.


Trail West are a band leading the thriving scene of Gaels in the city of Glasgow. Having started out as a four-piece line-up with strong links to the Hebridean Isles of Tiree and South Uist, Trail West now perform as a six-piece outfit with the addition of Jonathan Gillespie from Glasgow on keyboard and vocals along with Allan J Nairn from Ardnamurchan on electric guitar. To date they have released four albums, showing the band’s progression with a wide selection of songs becoming an integral part of their repertoire alongside the recognisable accordion and whistle combination of Seonaidh MacIntyre and Ian Smith. 2020 was supposed to be a very special milestone, celebrating Ten Years of Trail West. As with the majority of events over the course of the year, the celebrations were put on hold, including the main event which was a first ever headline show in the famous Barrowland Ballroom in Glasgow. Despite the restrictions, the 10th year could not pass without some form of celebration and in November, Trail West announced their fourth album, 'Countless Isles and Endless Miles', most of which was recorded in February before the restrictions came in but which was subsequently delayed due to Covid-19.



Artist Video Skipinnish @ FROG

Ross Wilson aka Blue Rose Code addresses universal themes of love, loss, travel, home and hard times in a deeply personal way. His songs are variously painted with the vibrant colours of folk, Americana, jazz, country, soul, pop and, increasingly, Celtic traditions. This eclecticism has become a hallmark of his work and has seen him compared to John Martyn, Van Morrison and Tom Waits amongst others. "One of the greatest live acts around right now so if you get a chance to see them in any of their many guises do yourself a favour and go." Americana UK


RURA are a multi award-winning act, and one of Scotland’s most popular folk-based bands. The quartet’s compellingly fiery, rugged yet refined and progressive instrumentals on fiddle, Highland pipes, flute, guitar, keyboards and bodhran has placed them firmly at the forefront of 21st century Scottish folk. In their decade together, Jack Smedley, Steven Blake, David Foley and Adam Brown’s entrancing, euphoric live shows have been a main stage highlight of many of the world’s leading folk festivals – including Cambridge (England), Tønder (Denmark), Woodford and (Australia), WOMAD New Zealand, Edmonton (Canada) and of course here at HebCelt, amongst countless others across more than 20 countries. Television audiences alongside have been in their millions, including BBC1’s Hogmanay Live, broadcast live to the world over New Year 2016/2017 from Glasgow’s iconic Old Fruitmarket - where they returned to record their five-star live album.


Trad music legends, Skipinnish will return to Hebcelt 2022 as part of their Summer Tour. This will be the band’s first appearance on lead singer, Norrie MacIver’s home island ground for nearly three years. If past festival appearances are anything to go by it will be a very special gig! Until Covid 19 put a stop to all live music, Skipinnish were riding a huge and growing wave of popularity with sell-out show after sell-out show across the country. The pent-up force of the long absence from doing what they love will see the band re-emerge with the power of the Great Atlantic swell of music and song. Hearing their songs of the seas and the Hebrides in the setting that inspires their music is the very best place to experience Skipinnish.

Photo Credits: (1) HebCelt, (2) Heisk, (3) Ho-ro, (4) Trail West, (5) Rura, (6) (unknown/website).

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