Choir mourns loss of new mem­ber

The Oban Times - - Births, Marriages & Deaths -

A LOCHALINE-BASED choir’s successful trip came to a sad end with the sud­den death of one of their new­est mem­bers.

Bùrach Gaelic Choir trav­elled to Car­low in Ire­land last month as part of the Scottish rep­re­sen­ta­tion at the In­ter­na­tional Pan Celtic Fes­ti­val.

Dur­ing the fes­ti­val, Bùrach, who had their de­but per­for­mance at the Barra Pro­vin­cial Mòd in 2012, re­ceived first place in the ru­ral choir sec­tion. De­spite their sil­ver­ware, it was a very som­bre choir that landed in Glas­gow to the news that Iain MacLean had passed away.

Mr MacLean, who would have been 61 this year, had been taken ill sud­denly while tran­sit­ing Dublin Air­port and, un­for­tu­nately, the best ef­forts of the at­ten­dant med­i­cal team could not save him.

Hec­tor MacKech­nie, on be­half of Bùrach, said: ‘ De­spite hav­ing joined Bùrach just a few months be­fore, Iain had quickly be­come a firm favourite among the choir for myr­iad rea­sons.

‘His strong, melodic tone was a huge as­set to the bass sec­tion, as was his en­cy­clopaedic knowl­edge of Gaelic song. Quick-wit­ted and funny, he had a hu­mor­ous anec­dote for ev­ery oc­ca­sion, and his com­pany and cràic were sought out, and en­joyed, by all choir mem­bers with­out ex­cep­tion.’

Iain was part of the bass sec­tion and was from Tober­mory.

Mr MacKech­nie con­tin­ued: ‘If any com­fort can be taken from such tragic cir­cum­stances then it is surely that Iain had spent the pre­vi­ous few days im­mersed in Gaelic song, friend­ship and fun among the fam­ily of Scottish Gaelic choirs who had as­sem­bled to rep­re­sent Alba in the In­ter­na­tional Pan Celtic Fes­ti­val com­pe­ti­tions.’

Pan Celtic took place from Wednesday April 19 un­til Satur­day April 22.

Mr MacKech­nie ex­plained: ‘Prior to the com­mence­ment of choir com­pe­ti­tions, Alba were rep­re­sented in the tra­di­tional song and new song com­pe­ti­tions, on Wednesday and Thurs­day evening re­spec­tively, by Whyte – com­pris­ing Alas­dair Whyte, Ross Whyte and Mur­ray Wil­lis, backed by Riona and Me­gan Whyte, Katy Crossan and Ron­nie Mur­ray. On both evenings they were placed third.

‘Satur­day morn­ing dawned mild and fair and in the first com­pe­ti­tion of the day, Na h-Al­ban­naich, un­der the ba­ton of Ron­nie Mur­ray, con­duc­tor of Còisir Gàidhlig nan Loch, sang Tha Bainne Chruidh aig Mòrag Bheag and the haunt­ingly beau­ti­ful Gleann Bhaile Chaoil.

‘Al­though un­placed in this com­pe­ti­tion, the pathos and emo­tion em­a­nat­ing from the choir in the ren­di­tion of Gleann Bhaile Chaoil re­duced some of the au­di­ence to tears.

‘Riona Whyte took up the ba­ton for the ru­ral choir com­pe­ti­tion and led Bùrach to first place with per­for­mances of Le Chèile and Cumha Alas­dair Dhuinn. These con­trast­ing pieces – one a con­tem­po­rary love song and the other a mourn­ful lament ob­vi­ously proved pop­u­lar with the judges and re­sulted in a tro­phy be­ing pre­sented at the prize-giv­ing cer­e­mony in the Seven Oaks Ho­tel on Satur­day evening.

‘This was quickly fol­lowed up with a sec­ond place in the folk group com­pe­ti­tion. Bùrach Beag per­formed Mo Gh­lean­nan Taobh Loch Liob­hann, fol­lowed by Nuair bha mi na mo mhaighdinn – a toetap­ping puirt a beul, de­liv­ered at a pace which left the au­di­ence speech­less and the choir breath­less.

‘The con­duc­tor’s ba­ton was then handed over to Ray­mond Brem­ner for the ac­com­pa­nied choir com­pe­ti­tion.

In true Pan Celtic spirit, ac­com­pa­nied by a Welsh harpist and pi­anist, Na h-Al­ban­naich per­formed two songs which Ray­mond had ar­ranged es­pe­cially for the Pan Celtic.

‘The first was a four-part ar­range­ment of the Leonard Co­hen clas­sic, Hal­lelu­jah. If this was given an en­thu­si­as­tic re­sponse from the as­sem­bled au­di­ence, what was to fol­low left them in rap­tures.

‘A four-part ar­range­ment (with solo per­for­mances), in Gaelic, of the Westlife an­them, You Raise Me Up, Gun Tog Thu Suas Mi, ar­ranged by Ray­mond and trans­lated into Gaelic by Janet MacDon­ald, from Mull, was, quite sim­ply, for au­di­ence and singers alike, a very spe­cial mo­ment.

The ap­plause from the au­di­ence be­gan be­fore Na h-Al­ban­naich had fin­ished singing and con­tin­ued as the cho­ris­ters, with goose­bumps and tin­gling spines, left the podium.

‘It was fit­ting, per­haps, that af­ter such a per­for­mance, Iain MacLean should be one of the last men to leave the stage.’

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