Tain musician Chloe Bryce creates new piece The Summer Walkers for return of Blas Festival in September
This year’s Blas Festival returns in September with a commission from Tain musician, Chloe Bryce which highlights the central role Gaelic-speaking Highland travelling people played in the preservation and transmission of Highland traditions and stories.
The Summer Walkers – the name for the indigenous Gaelic-speaking travellers and horse-dealers of the North West Highlands – will be performed during Blas – from September 2-10 at Highland venues.
The full festival programme will be launched in a few weeks, but it is set to include performances of newly-composed Gaelic songs, collaborations between young people from Scotland and Wales, two birthday celebrations for treasured tradition bearers, an extensive education and communities programme as well as an online offering which will include workshops and livestreamed concerts.
The commission will showcase stories and songs from prominent voices from within the travelling community and will also incorporate archive recordings of some of the Highland travelling people.
The piece will also feature new music inspired by the Summer Walkers, whilst celebrating the culture of gathering together and sharing stories.
Chloe Bryce, originally from Tain, said: “I am delighted to have the opportunity to shed light on the lives and stories of the Summer Walkers.
"The old traditions and customs of these Highland travelling people are fast disappearing.
"It is the voices of prominent figures within this community who will feature at the heart of this commission; the stories they carried forming the basis for this new music.
"In a year that marks a significant birthday for Essie Stewart, one of the last remaining people to have taken part in the summer walks, this commission will celebrate the vital contribution the travelling community has made to Scottish traditional music and storytelling.”
Calum Alex Macmillan, Fèisean nan Gàidheal’s development manager, added: "This is the Year of Scotland’s Stories.
"In awarding this year’s Blas Festival commission, we wanted someone to create a new piece of music which would celebrate iconic stories, people and places across the Highlands and Islands.
"The region is home to a wealth of stories, legends and tales, some of which have become famous around the world, and Chloe’s commission will give a real insight into the crucial role the ‘Summer Walkers’ played in the preservation of so many songs, stories and traditions.”
“We are delighted to be returning to our traditional September dates for this year’s Blas Festival, visiting communities across the Highlands with a programme that will celebrate our rich Gaelic culture and heritage, including newly composed Gaelic songs, collaborations between young people from Scotland and Wales, two birthday celebrations for treasured tradition bearers, an extensive education and communities programme as well as our online offering which will include workshops and livestreamed concerts.”
Siobhan Anderson, music officer at Creative Scotland says: “It’s great to see a commission celebrating this important part of Highland culture and Blas will provide a wonderful platform to share this exciting new piece from a talented emerging musician.
"The festival has a long history of commissioning interesting and innovative new pieces of work and The Summer Walkers will be a fantastic addition to the festival’s programme.”
The festival, which is organised by Gaelic arts organisation Fèisean nan Gàidheal, in partnership with Highland Council, will launch its full programme soon and the concerts, cèilidhs and workshops will take place in a variety of performance venues across the Highlands.
For further information about this year’s festival: www.blas.scot/
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More by this authorMargaret Chrystall