A HISTORIC set of bagpipes which survived World War I to be played on the Brazilian beaches at Copacabana and the Grand Canyon, will be centre-stage as the 10th Blas Festival celebrates the sport of shinty.
In the week of the Camanachd Cup Final, which sees both the Blas 2014 grand finale concert and shinty’s showpiece game take place in Inverness, three shows highlighting the importance of shinty to Highland communities and Gaels world-wide, as well as the impact of the First World War on Highland communities, will be performed in shinty-playing areas.
The first of the Home and Away/Glir nan Caman shows will be in Tighabruaich, home of Kyles Athletic, on Wednesday 10th September. This is followed the next evening in Inverinate in Wester Ross and finally on Friday, the evening before the Camanachd Cup Final, at Eden Court Theatre in Inverness.
The shows, which build on the success of previous versions of Blas’s Shinty’s Heroes concerts will be presented by Hugh Dan MacLennan and this year’s musical director will be Fort William’s Megan Henderson from the band Breabach.
Joining the cast will be the piping MacGillivrays of Calrossie, accordionist and shinty star Gary Innes, and Gaelic singers Linda Macleod and Calum Alex MacMillan.
"We know that Shinty’s Heroes was well received and that it was not possible for everyone who might have wanted to see the show to be there," Hugh Dan MacLennan said.
"We are delighted that this year we have an opportunity to take the shinty shows to Argyll and Wester Ross and we will be tailoring the events to the various locations, highlighting heroes from each, and bringing the connections between music, song, shinty and the First World War together."
Former Battlefield Band piper Duncan MacGillivray, who appears with his four sons, will perform on a set of pipes that came through the Battle of Festubert in 1915, in which two of MacGillivray’s own great-uncles died.
"I know that the piping story with Duncan and the Festubert pipes was a very moving experience which we will highlight once again," MacLennan said.
"It’s a remarkable story that a set of pipes can survive the rigours of the war and then end up being played on the beaches of Brazil during a Pope’s visit. All will be revealed in due course!"
Also featured in the show is the story of the MacGillivray Cup, one of shinty’s most prized trophies and originally donated in the 1920s by one of Duncan MacGillivray’s relations.
"The MacGillivray story gives us an ideal opportunity to link the importance of shinty to Highland communities during the First World war with some of our most famous songs and stories," MacLennan added.
"There is no doubt that shinty played a great part in sustaining communities’ spirits particularly after the war, but it also provided the soldiers with some sense of hope that they would have something to return to. We will also reflect on how important shinty appears to have been to the Highland diaspora world-wide as they retained their memories of home, particularly at the New Year and that is singularly important this year with the Commonwealth games and Glasgow and it being a Homecoming Year."
This year’s Blas Festival will feature events at 100 locations around the Highlands and Argyll from 5th to 13th September.