Led by the Massed Gaelic Choirs of Scotland
Reviewer: Dominic Corr
Over fifty thousand individuals reportedly speak Gaelic throughout Scotland. As an indigenous language, it’s official status is not recognised by either the UK nor European Union, though thanks to the Gaelic Language (Scotland) 2005 Act it is here, to an extent. Attempts to revitalise it’s use are ongoing, one such hero in doing so was the late Iain Macleòid (John Macleod).
Within seconds though, one cannot neglect to hear the earthly beauty from Comunn nan Còisirean Gàidhig, The Association of Gaelic Choir’s Glòir. Even for those of us who have a limited (often erroneous) understanding which extends to slàinte or the naughtier words cannot deny the importance of the status the language deserves.
Of the thirty choirs, 24 or so are gathering in Edinburgh to mark their respect for John Macleod – a champion of the language. A man who did his utmost to publicise and encourage the use, research and teaching of the Gaelic language as well as it’s scriptures and songs. In a celebration of Gaelic spiritual music, this evening is hosted by Jackie Cotter as we are treated to sublime renditions to create warm memories.
As a community, the choirs are often conducted by a variety of masters and musicians, including MacLeod’s own children Màiri and Calum. Both of whom are accomplished performers being talented vocally, instrumentally and in recitation. As one would expect from often competing performers, not one puts in a weak performance. A plethora of psalms, melodies and songs lace around each other, complimenting the previous whilst flowing into the next.
Concerning is the length in time it has taken for a revised performance from the choirs, nearly thirty years (in the same venue no less). As we wish the gathering had come together under happier circumstances, there is a sense that no finer tribute could be called upon for a man who served his language so remarkably than to unite them again.
The science of music is not found only in the voice, but through accompanying instrumentals. A three-piece movement The Quiet Man is performed by Na Clàrsirean, on the Celtic harp or Clarsach. The arrangement created by Isobel Mieras enables the musicians to produce assonance which, for some is haunting. It’s the nature of music to move us, shift feelings and stir emotion. What is accomplished is to not only offer praise to the former President of An Comunn Gàidhealach but to remind the nation of the beauty of this instrument
Recognition is at the heart of the choir, but so too do they look to the future. Which looks promising with the marvellous contributions from City of Edinburgh Music School Following the first act, the remainder of the performance provides a mix of classic with contemporary pieces, most notably Soisgeul – the Gaelic gospel choir with Gareth Fuller. Their energy is remarkable, dedication to the artistry of music as they project well into the hall. It’s a livelier, upbeat tempo serving to deliver their reverence of spirituality into the 21st century.
Perplexing is the fact that we find no confusion in attending an aria performed in a different language. Many will flock in droves to the sublime works of our neighbouring creators, but we find it less investing to look north, to the cultural splendour of the west coast of Scotland.
For those who are unable to attend, it is encouraged that you tune into BBC Nan Gàidheal in a couple of weeks to listen to the recordings of the choir. Rarely is such warmth communicated onstage, an inherently different kind of community and dedication is present. Glòir is a performance which no doubt would raise a smile for the upholder of Gaelic John Macleod; agus leig e leis gu bràth.
Reviewed on 4 May 2019