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Festival 2018

Arthur's long-awaited solo work to be aired at Hebcelt

Arthur Cormack’s solo recording career recently emerged from a 30-year hiatus, during which time he was nevertheless responsible for the release 55 albums.

The renowned singer remains ubiquitous in Gaelic circles due to his many other commitments supporting Gaelic music and language teaching - so much so that his last solo records have been three decades apart.

‘Buanas’ (endurance) was released last year and Arthur gets the first chance to take the songs ‘on tour’ in the summer when he appears at the award-winning Hebridean Celtic Festival.

Arthur Cormack and Friends will be on stage at An Lanntair arts centre in Stornoway on Saturday, 21 July and in Tarbert in Harris the previous evening as part of the festival’s community programme.

HebCelt is a very friendly festival and promotes Gaelic music and, therefore, the language which is always a good thing in my reckoning, he said.

I always look forward to performing at the festival and have been a couple of times as a punter too. I’m very much looking forward to appearing at An Lanntair again, which is such a great venue, and in Tarbert. My paternal grandmother was from Taransay, so I have a great affinity with Harris.

Arthur, who was born and brought up in Skye where he still lives and works, began singing aged eight and won the National Mòd Gold Medal - the premier award for Gaelic singing - at 18.

He has recorded with the bands Mac-talla and Cliar and makes regular appearances on television and radio, singing live as often as work commitments allow. This year that has included the BBC Alba Hogmanay Show and Celtic Connections, where he performed with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra.

His day job is chief executive of Fèisean nan Gàidheal, the umbrella association of the Fèis (Gaelic arts tuition festival) movement which supports 47 events that offer tuition in traditional Gaelic arts to young people across Scotland. In addition, he is one of four founders of the Gaelic music production company Macmeanmna.

The 30-year gap in solo recordings can therefore be summed up with one word – ‘time’:

Because I run a record label, other projects always seemed to jump ahead of the queue and during the past 30 years we have released around 55 albums.

But I did record an album with Mac-talla and four albums with Cliar during that period and guested on a few albums with Blair Douglas and others.

The solo recording took some time from start to finish as I had to do recordings as and when I was available and studios and musicians were available. If there’s a next time, I’ll lock myself away and record the album in a week!

Arthur will appear at HebCelt with his former Cliar bandmate, Ingrid Henderson (piano and harp), his daughter Eilidh Cormack (vocals) and Iain MacFarlane (fiddle, box, whistle), when he will perform a mixture of older songs and some tracks from ‘Buanas’.

Fèisean nan Gàidheal is also working with the festival on a special programme as part of the Year of Young People which is bringing together 20 musicians aged between 12 and 16 from Barra, North and South Uist and Lewis and Harris to perform a suite of traditional music and Gaelic songs, including a new one commissioned from Eilidh Mackenzie.

It is another example of the synergy between the fèisean movement and HebCelt, which is renowned for promoting and supporting Gaelic and young artists.

Lots of young people who have come through the fèisean at some point have performed at HebCelt and the festival has always been good at promoting young/new talent, says Arthur.

And there’s no let-up in his workload after the festival: Work is going to be busier than usual with plans for an event at the end of this year’s Blas Festival celebrating the Year of Young People and all the normal Blas events to organise on top of all the usual stuff in which Fèisean nan Gàidheal is involved.

In addition to some gigs late on in the year, mostly one-off things, I’m sure the year will fly by with the usual mix of work, selling albums, some cèilidhs and concerts, the odd appearance on BBC Radio nan Gàidheal’s Dùrachdan programme and running up and down the country to various events.

Never a dull moment.