The power of song

The Oban Times - - Letters - AN­GUS MACPHAIL an­gus­macphail@ya­hoo.co.uk

THE dou­ble- edged sword of be­ing born into an eth­nic group whose fu­ture ex­is­tence hangs in the bal­ance gives emo­tional pen­du­lum swings pe­cu­liar to that po­si­tion.

Along with the dark mo­ments of anger, frus­tra­tion, guilt, sad­ness, bit­ter­ness and help­less­ness are equally af­fect­ing flashes of pride, con­nec­tion, hope, har­mony and a pow­er­ful sense of priv­i­lege in be­long­ing to some­thing rich and unique.

Last Sun­day night’s con­cert in the Strath­clyde Suite of the Glas­gow Royal Con­cert Hall pro­vided the foun­da­tion for a pro­nounced swing of the pen­du­lum to the pos­i­tive end of that vast scale.

Tiree Song Book was the ti­tle of this Celtic Con­nec­tions con­cert, which was sup­ported by the Tiree As­so­ci­a­tion and di­rected by Mary Ann Kennedy. First per­formed in May last year at the Tiree Home­com­ing, it fea­tured songs and tunes linked to Tiree and per­formed by singers and mu­si­cians from the is­land as well as more widely-known artists from across the coun­try.

The re­spon­sive joy and good­will em­a­nat­ing from the crowd brought the room alive and the com­ments af­ter­wards were those of an au­di­ence awed by the depth of mu­si­cal tra­di­tion.

The con­cert was a well- crafted show­case of the is­land’s rich Bardic cul­ture brought to­gether seam­lessly with con­tem­po­rary tunes and songs. There were many fig­ures of the past whose pres­ence could be felt and the strength of the pride we know they would feel was as much part of the at­mos­phere as the cheer­ing and clap­ping of the au­di­ence.

Mary Ann Kennedy’s fa­ther, Alas­dair, had his hand on her shoul­der by the piano. As John Camp­bell led the pipers, his fa­ther, Lachie Beag, was tun­ing his drones. As com­mu­ni­ca­tions master and au­thor Alastair Camp­bell sounded his pipes, his brother, Don­ald, was giv­ing him a mouth­ful for a late strike in.

Mur­dina MacLean’s clear, beau­ti­ful voice lit the hearts of her par­ents, Rose and Mur­doch MacDon­ald. As Don­ald Iain Brown in­tro­duced the per­form­ers his par­ents, An­nie and Lachie, were beam­ing at hav­ing three of their sons on the stage.

As Gor­don Rowan set the pipe chanters, his un­cle, Kenny MacDon­ald, was telling him to watch the high Gs. As Anne and Fin­lay John­stone played Am Falbh Thu Leam, their fa­ther and grand­fa­ther re­spec­tively, Alas­dair Sin­clair, was singing along with a wide grin and a glint in his eye.

As Daniel from Sk­er­ryvore took to the stage his fa­ther, Danny Gille­spie, gave his shoul­der a strong and warm squeeze.

And, dur­ing the high­light of the night for my­self and for many, when Bernard Smith, backed on ac­cor­dion by his son, Ian, sang Lag Nan Cru

achan, I could feel my fa­ther, Eachann Mòr, stand­ing be­side me filled with pride lis­ten­ing to Bernie singing that song which he had sung for him so many times be­fore.

As he al­ways did, Bernie nailed it, and all the per­form­ers and the en­tire au­di­ence – in imag­i­na­tion, in spirit and in per­son – filled the hall with as col­lec­tively pos­i­tive an en­ergy as I have ever felt in one room.

There is power in song.

Mary Ann Kennedy di­rected the very mov­ing Tiree Song Book con­cert.

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