“Salute to Rona Lightfoot” – 2020
The project aim was to create a tribute to Rona – a fabulous world-class piper, storyteller and teacher. Rona has been teaching waulking songs at Ceòlas and Fèis Rois for over 20 years. She is a wonderful story-teller – entertaining us with many stories of her upbringing in South Uist, her mother’s singing of the Òrain Luaidh, and how she learnt to play the pipes, all through the oral tradition. At Fèis Rois, Rona has talked to me and our group of long-time fellow learners about the value of our own role in carrying forward the tradition of her songs. I was also a participant in her Fèis Rois classes for pipers to learn the songs’ canntaireachd, words and piobaireachd, and learnt her repertoire of piping songs, which Rona had sourced partly from her mother and largely with the help of Margaret Stewart http://www.margaretstewart.com and Allan MacDonald https://allanmacdonald.com.
I collaborated with Rona to create a CD (which turned into a 2-CD set …) on which the piping songs which Rona taught us were recorded – sung by myself and others – followed by Pipers such as Iain Speirs playing the related piping tune or part thereof. Along with booklets on the songs and pibrochs, and Rona’s extraordinary life especially as a piper, this will create a living resource to add to Rona’s rich heritage.
Our Lothian Gaelic Choir’s Luadh Group, “Luadh le Mire”, has learnt and performed many of Rona’s waulking songs. In 2020, we had great fun performing at the launch of a restored Hattersley loom at Crossbost, the Bayhead Cèilidh, and the Ui Church Cèilidh (at Ionad Stoodie, in aid of the St Columba’s Church, https://uichurch.co.uk) in Point, all in the Isle of Lewis, as well as virtually for the Seachdain na Gàidhlig and the Royal National Mòd. Please see videos!
2020-2022 – Virtual Song Projects
2020 was an extraordinary year for us all. The Pandemic required huge adjustments from us all, and introduced an unexpected mixture of threats and opportunities. For me, starting with a long-desired visit to incredible Antarctica, but returning to a locked-down country. The Pandemic period has engendered much creativity and ingenuity. For myself, it has been a time to embrace music on Zoom – being a part of over 1000 Zoom sings around the world! – and to connect with many wonderful musicians in the UK, Ireland, Brittany, North America and Australia as well as to progress musical collaborations and generally to enjoy fellowship in music. I had fun joining dozens of other singers whose individual recordings were combined for a BBC Alba production and for an Australian collaboration (“Déjà vue”), and sung at a Virtual St Andrew’s Nights etc. I developed collaborations with singers and musicians in the USA, Ireland, Scotland, England, Brittany, and Australia… and am still working on many projects.
Zoom sessions and rehearsals with Còisir Lunnainn, Newport Australia Folk & Fiddle Club and Srùbag.
As well as continuing zoom rehearsals with my Gaelic choirs (see screen shots above), I’ve zoom-hosted our choir Luadh (waulking song) group. The whole group weren’t able to participate contributing to the start of a new Knitting the Herring project. However the project asked to play my singing of Abu chuibhl’ (which was my lead song for the luadh group in previous years) to accompany their spinning video on the Go Industrial Day 19 September 2020 for the Scottish Fisheries Museum section https://www.facebook.com/scotfishmuseum/ (12:15).
As part of the Edinburgh University Seachdain na Gàidhlig 2020 and 2021, our luadh group creatively performed a live luadh on zoom, with a set of five songs, information about the waulking song tradition, and our Caiilleach pre-recorded with photographs of past events – with everyone contributing from a different place. In 2020 and at very short notice, I gave an interview for MA Journalism students at Edinburgh Napier University,on the three Seachdain na Gàidhlig events I was hosting/ co-hosting, and how we were using Zoom to make this possible.
In 2020, An Comunn Gàidhealach hosted the annual Royal National Mòd as a Virtual Mòd, https://www.ancomunn.co.uk/images/uploads/Program_Virtual_Mod_2020.pdf. My Traditional solo song “Fil o ro” – the Seisader version as taught to me by Calum Alex Macmillan – received a Commendation (3rdplace) at the Virtual Mod Thursday 15.10.20 and featured on the ACG Youtube/Facebook livestreams, which can be seen here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vupVDxMDrMQ&t=3104s, (audio will be loaded to my Music page), followed by an excerpt from a video of our luadh group rehearsing in lockdown. An excerpt from my Traditional Song solo also featured in the BBC Alba’s Mòd 2020 programme at the Virtual An Comunn GàidhealachMòd 9pm on Thursday 15.10.20, and is currently available on i-player. A further except of our luadh group was also included in the ACG programme on Friday 16.10.20 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gJE_oleN2vk&t=3208s
As the very first of many Virtual Folk Festivals, I was delighted to co-host at the weekend Getaway 2020 2-5 October 2020 of the Folklore Society of Great Washington, a feast of participative singing with around 30 live Zoom singing events, https://fsgw.org. As part of one of our Transatlantic Ballad Zooms I’ve organised a Transatlantic Zoom luadh and Zoom rowing song which you can find on the Music and Videos pages. I hope you too will enjoy some of these songs and musical collaborations on my website. There’s music for listening to and downloading if you wish and information on my CDs so far, and how to get in contact if you’d like to.
Subsequently, it’s been enormous fun participating in all sorts of online music, from online massed choirs like the BBC Alba Hogmanay Ceilidh (“Thoir dhomh do làmh” – one of the many virtual projects of Mary Ann Kennedy – and “Alba”), the Australian “Deja vue” led by Bruce Watson, and the Longest Johns’ The Wellerman, and collaborating with friends on live zoom-sings as far away as Colorado and Melbourne.
And continuing in 2021 and 2022, I’ve been able to participate in zoom folk festivals in the USA and elsewhere. 2021 started with Camp Harmony, hosted by the San Francisco Folk Music Club, which ran as an online New Year festival, and we all discovered that it’s very do-able to join in from across The Pond in the UK. I enjoyed sharing a Gaelic Luadh (walking song) and Christmas carol, as well as hosting a singaround, and doing a shift as Host (frontdesk) for the whole camp, https://www.sffmc.org/camp-harmony-online-this-year/. Which became a pattern for the subsequent two years .. I have contributed several Gaelic Song workshops – now moving to in-person, including at:
- Camp Harmony, hosted by the San Francisco Folk Music Club, New Year 2020-21
- Rainy Camp (near Seattle) in late January 2021 – puirt a beul (dance tunes), as well as a singaround on whaling songs
- Portland Oregon Singtime, March 2021
- Spring Harmony 2021, sponsored by the San Francisco Folk Music Club
- Alaska Celtic Spring Festival 1 May 2021
- San Francisco Free Folk Festival 12 June 2021
- Virtual Old Songs Festival, New York on 25 June 2021
- Irish Club of Alaska, Galway Days Irish Festival, Saturday 7 August 2021
- Tumbleweed Virtual Music Festival Saturday 4 September 2021
- fAll Song Festival, Portland Oregon 24-26 September 2021, where I also led two Song Circles including one for Conversation Songs with my co-sing partner across 5000 miles; and shared with my co-sing partner our approach to joint live-singing of conversation songs – across 5000 miles
- Camp Harmony over New Year 2021/2: Taladh Chrìosda BigSing 30 December 2021
- Rainy Camp January 2022
- Spring Harmony 2022
- NEFFA April 2022
No prior knowledge of Gaelic required. Some of my resources for Gaelic Song workshops are on this website at the Resources and Links section …
.. and more coming up in 2022!