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Sounds of hope among the quiet

By Liza Mulholland

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ArtyNess by Liza Mulholland

High Life Highland is offering guitar lessons.
High Life Highland is offering guitar lessons.

In my first column of 2022 I had hoped to deliver an article full of great new happenings in the world of folk music and sharing lots of exciting projects with you. Sadly, Covid has once again knocked some of those on the head.

Celtic Connections, which is always such a beacon of light in winter darkness for musicians and audiences alike, has, as I write, announced that elements of the 2022 programme will not now be going ahead.

It was hoped the 29th festival would take place as planned but, in the current Omicron situation, this has been judged not feasible. Organisers are committed to presenting the festival in some form though and are considering options, but it looks like it will be much scaled down, with online delivery of certain events also a possibility.

Cancelled gigs are once again the name of the game, with musicians and other artistes (and presumably freelance stage and tech crew) who have lost work being directed to Creative Scotland’s Cancellation Fund for Creative Freelancers. Welcome funding, of course, but small consolation for lost performances and precious connection with audiences.

Meanwhile, I’m keeping fingers crossed that one particular upcoming local concert is not cancelled. Heal and Harrow is a tribute to thousands of Scottish women executed in 16th and 17th century witch trials, devised and performed by acclaimed musicians and composers, harpist Rachel Newton and Highland fiddler Lauren MacColl.

The project sounds fascinating and, while rooted in history, perhaps also has resonance today in parallels with contemporary superstition and even social media’s mob persecution, all too evident in 21st century ‘cancel culture’.

On at Eden Court’s One Touch Theatre on Wednesday, February 9, Heal and Harrow is one event not to be missed.

Now, I might be plucking at straws to point out that the days are already noticeably lengthening but there are other reasons to be cheerful too – if learning or improving musical skills is one of your resolutions, or simply a long-held wish, then High Life Highland might have what you need.

Evening classes start this month, as part of their 2022 music tuition programme, with both online Zoom and in-person options available in guitar, drumming and singing. HLH’s head of music development Norman Bolton rightly points out that geography need not restrict access to opportunities for learning.

The feeling of accomplishment in learning new skills, or revitalising and honing old ones, is something that can bring great personal satisfaction and improve mental wellbeing. Music is such a social artform and making new friends while you learn together is very rewarding, as well as good fun.

So why not dust off that old guitar, limber up the vocal cords, and give it a go? Details are on the High Life Highland website.

I’m glad to say that I too have some exciting new music projects to look forward to this year, which I’ll share in coming weeks. Suddenly 2022 seems a lot brighter!

Liza Mulholland
Liza Mulholland
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