08 Mar 2024

Scottish talent at the forefront of An Lanntair HebCelt 2024 programme

The cultural talent of the Hebrides and beyond will be in the spotlight in Stornoway this July, as the An Lanntair programme for HebCelt 2024 is revealed.

Each year the Stornoway arts centre, which is a hub of creativity and arts for the Outer Hebrides, showcases the strength and diversity of Scottish musical heritage, programming quality artists in the community in close partnership with the festival.

The programme will open on Wednesday 17th July with Alasdair White’s The Heart of Beyond, a special commissioned concert led by the celebrated local artist. The concert takes its name from a passage in The Stornoway Way, a novel by Hebridean author Kevin MacNeill, which reads: “We do not live in the back of beyond, we live in the very heart of beyond.”

Alasdair explains that one of the meanings he takes from this is that sometimes remote places can be mistaken as being of little importance to the wider cultural landscape, however those very places are the driving forces behind heritage and identity on a global scale. Growing up in Lewis gave him the benefit of perspective since the island is, by nature, outward-looking, and he also believes that Lewis and its music are of singular importance to Scotland’s musical heritage, a belief which has only been reinforced by a lifetime of travel.

This unmissable show will be a rare opportunity to enjoy Alasdair’s original compositions in his hometown venue. He will be joined by Aaron Jones on bouzouki, Ewan MacPherson on guitar and mandolin, and fellow Leòdhasach James Duncan MacKenzie on pipes and flute.

Across the island the same evening, Breasclete Hall will host the Breasclete Community Concert, featuring Canadian traditional fiddle and step dance group The Lumber Jills, and talented Gaelic group Sian, who will both also be performing in the arena during the festival weekend.

The Lumber Jills are New Brunswick, Canada's ambassadors for the province’s signature old time fiddle and step dance tradition. With contemporary arrangements, but firmly rooted in tradition, the group has toured four continents and produced 12 cast members since 2014. The current lineup of fiddlers – Julie Smith, Katie Macilvena, and Sara Nelson, with James Nelson on guitar and fiddle – are proud to carry on the traditions of their home.

Originally brought together in 2016 to celebrate the work of female bards, Sian comprises three of today’s most gifted young Gaelic singers – Ceitlin Lilidh, Eilidh Cormack and Ellen MacDonald – accompanied by in-demand multi-instrumentalist and fellow Gaelic speaker Innes White. With direct connections to Lewis, Skye and North Uist, their arrangements match a deep feeling for tradition with stunning, boldly imaginative harmony work.

On Thursday 18th July, An Lanntair will host a performance by Edinburgh band Wayward Jane, whose music is a modern, transatlantic interpretation of Americana folk and Old Time traditions. Blending roots music with fresh arrangements and original compositions, their live shows have a joyful energy, expressing the fine musicianship and playful chemistry of the band members.

Wayward Jane is made up of Dan Abrahams on guitar, double bass and vocals, Sam Gillespie on vocals, guitar and wooden flute, Rachel Petyt on fiddle and vocals, and Michael Starkey on five-string banjo, guitar and vocals.

The following night, legendary Scottish singer-songwriter Dougie MacLean will take to the stage for a rare, intimate performance. Internationally renowned for his song 'Caledonia' and music for 'Last of the Mohicans', Dougie’s inspired performances have taken him around the world, from London’s Festival Theatre and Glasgow’s Royal Concert Hall, to New York’s Carnegie Hall and Sydney Opera House.

With his songs having been covered by Paolo Nutini, Amy MacDonald, Ronan Keating and many other top performers, Dougie is celebrating his 50th year as a professional musician in 2024. Over the course of his career, he has received two prestigious Tartan Clef Awards, a place in the Scottish Music Hall of Fame, a Lifetime Achievement Award from BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards, an Honorary Doctorate and an OBE.

On the final night of the festival, Gaelic folk group Na h-Òganaichwill grace the An Lanntair stage. When they first formed the group in 1971, Margaret and Donnie Macleod and Noel Eadie never expected the extensive following of fans they garnered from all over Scotland, Europe, Canada and the United States. Their win at the Royal National Mòd in 1971 caused a stir with their use of harmonies and treatment of Gaelic songs, sung in a style which changed the format of traditional singing.

The following year they won the Pan Celtic Festival and their popularity spread, recording three albums and making many television and theatre appearances. They stopped performing as a group seven years later, each continuing in their professional fields, but 30 years later nostalgic fans persuaded them to reform, which allowed new generations to hear them live. They re-recorded their songs on the album Gun Stad, which is Gaelic for “without stopping”, and appeared on a documentary for BBC Alba, and at Celtic Connections and HebCelt in 2015.

HebCelt Artist Programmer, Michelle Shields, said: "The HebCelt team are so excited to be partnering with An Lanntair again this year to bring a brilliant series of performances to the heart of Stornoway for all the community to discover. We’ve got fantastic artists from the Hebrides, Scotland and beyond putting on shows during the festival week, and I would encourage locals and visitors alike to make the most of this opportunity to enjoy them, both at An Lanntair and through our Breasclete Community Concert.”

An Lanntair Head of Performing Arts and Cultural Projects, Alex MacDonald, said: “Our ongoing partnership with the festival always produces a great programme and this year is no different, with a lineup that places a focus on local artists, the Gaelic language and some old favourites. It’s also been a pleasure to collaborate with Michelle in her first year as Artist Programmer, and it looks like festival week is shaping up to be yet another busy one!”

The Breasclete Community Concert and An Lanntair programme complete the lineup for HebCelt 2024, which features Scottish and international talent including headliners James, Del Amitri and Skipinnish, for the beloved Outer Hebridean event in the grounds of Lews Castle in Stornoway.

The HebCelt An Lanntair programme can be viewed here, with tickets on sale now: https://lanntair.com. Tickets for the Breasclete Community Concert are available here: https://www.hebceltfest.com/rural.

Posted in News on Mar 08, 2024