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Fèis Rois goes virtual for weekend of musical treats from artistes including Duncan Chisholm and Corrina Hewat

By Liza Mulholland

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This weekend, 25 years ago, I attended my first adult fèis, and little did I know it would change my life.

For several months I had been trying to teach myself the fiddle and, having just moved home to Inverness after studying and working in Glasgow, decided I needed to get some proper tuition before slipping into too many bad habits.

I had tutored keyboard at children’s fèisean before this so had an idea of what to expect and with Fèis Rois having launched their fèis for grown-ups a few years previously, I reckoned this was just what was required and tootled along to Tulloch Castle in Dingwall to register.

It was an excellent weekend; my class tutor, Iain Fraser – inspiring and very patient – was superb, it was wonderful to be learning alongside so many like-minded folk and was such a lot of fun. I like to think my fiddle playing improved a little too.

Since then this adult event – Fèis Rois Inbhich – has expanded and developed enormously. Moving to Ullapool, its attendance has grown from around 80 to several hundred and this year’s 30th anniversary was set to be another fantastic celebration of traditional music, song and Gaelic arts. That was, until Covid-19.

Having had to cancel the event, Fèis Rois’s team has come up with an inspired solution and from May 1 to 3 is putting all the workshops and concerts online. With tutors among traditional music’s top artistes, the virtual festival will be an excellent opportunity to connect, play, learn and come together to enjoy music.

Virtual Feis takes place this weekend.
Virtual Feis takes place this weekend.

Sessions are open to all ages and even offer the chance to get a peek in on other classes you might not normally see – for instance, fiddlers can join the pipe workshop etc. All concerts and workshops can be viewed on the Fèis Facebook page – a personal Facebook account is not necessary – and all are free, with a donation suggested if manageable.

Tutors include Duncan Chisholm, Lauren MacColl and Iain Fraser on fiddle, Corrina Hewat on harp and harmony singing, Ali Levack teaching whistle, John Somerville doing accordion, Eilidh Mackenzie and Siobhan Miller tutoring Gaelic and Scots song respectively, Mairearad Green on small pipes – to name but a few – with additional artistes performing for the nightly concerts.

We went to Ullapool for many years until the birth of our son meant I could no longer attend for the weekend, though I still managed an occasional visit. The sun invariably seemed to shine on the fèis and the west coast village always looked and sounded glorious.

If you’ve never attended a fèis before but are interested, why not check out the timetable and take a dip into some of the events – who knows, it could whet your appetite for 2021 and maybe even change your life too!

For more details see www.feisrois.org/residential-feisean/adult-feis

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