Choir mourns loss of new member
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.’