This year’s Ceòlas summer school in South Uist was a huge success say organisers.
Tutors comprised of some of the best traditional musicians, singers and dancers from
Scotland and Canada.
Dancers Mats Melin, Frank McConnell and Sophie Stephenson held classes ranging in
skill from complete beginners to experts soon to be teaching themselves.
Fin Moore and Seonaidh MacIntyre led the Piping for Dancing classes. Griogair Labhruidh,
of North Bail’ a’ Chaolais, is becoming a great exponent of pìobaireachd. Ashley
MacDonald led the youth pipers and their own compositions, performed at Friday’s
concert, were at very high standards and their contributions to the cèilidhs were
Shelly Campbell and Kenneth MacKenzie, from Cape Breton, were joined by Allan Henderson
and Eilidh Shaw, teaching youth and adult fiddle classes. Their own skill was ably
demonstrated to full-houses at the evening cèilidhs and concerts throughout the week.
Ingrid Henderson, whose clàrsach class was highly appreciated, was indispensable
during the week’s numerous cèilidhs. Mary Ann Kennedy, who MC’d the Cèilidh Mhòr,
described her not only as a highly talented musician but that ‘rare’ type of person
who is also an adept accompanist.
Gaelic class numbers are steadily growing each year and have become a great draw
to many students looking to experience the authentic Gaelic-speaking communities
in Uist. Ably handled by Catrìona MacIntyre, Catrìona Black and Ailig ‘Bhaltos’ MacDonald,
the Gaelic drama showcased at the Friday crossover concert is one of the highlights
In particular, the 2017 summer school will be remembered for the song. New to the
week was Mary Jane Lamond, from Cape Breton, who was joined by Rachel Walker and
Christine Primrose. Their contributions, along with a number of local talent, on
Wednesday night’s song cèilidh was considered by many in attendance as the best singers’
concert ever held by Ceòlas.
The theme, centred around Bho Ghinealach gu Ginealach, a book of song-poetry from
the Campbell family of Taobh a Deas Loch Baghasdail in South Uist, saw a mixture
of local and Highland songs for two and a half hours of spellbound unaccompanied
The Campbell family themselves were represented by Ruairidh MacKay, Dòmhnall Ruairidh
and Dòmhnall Anthony Campbell, who sang their personal favourites.
Walks centred around two books: the recently relaunched Eriskay Where I Was Born
went out to Roisinis to hear readings by Màiri MacKenzie, and Bho Ghinealach gu Ginealach
saw the Campbells giving a tour of their own township in Taobh a Deas Loch Baghasdail.
Rona Hyslop, a Gaelic learner from Fife, exhibited her fine oil paintings all week
The proposed music centre development at Cnoc Soilleir in Daliburgh was discussed
on Thursday by John Renshaw who consulted on four possible building options for the
Canadian fiddler Kenneth MacKenzie was one of the tutors
The youth pipers
The evening ended with a rendition of ‘A Pheigi a Ghràidh’ performed by 18 singers
on stage. Worthy of a mention was a surprise appearance by Michelle MacNeil Walker
(pictured left) from Barra who left the audience wanting more of her singing.
All events were to full houses, with the community coming out in droves to hear the
talented tutors. The cèilidh mòr featured the usual huge programme which enabled
the tutors to share their talent with the wider community. Griogair Labhruidh sang
two songs off his debut album ‘Dail Riata’, which marked 10 years since its launch.