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  • Writer's pictureLiza Mulholland

Bringing in the bells with Dorec-a-belle!

Keeping exciting news to yourself is so hard! When you’re bursting to share it but can’t! It certainly was for Dorec-a-belle recently when the band was booked to play Red Hot Highland Fling, Inverness’s Hogmanay show in the Northern Meeting Park.

Itching to tell friends, families and followers of our music, we had to wait patiently until official announcements of the New Year extravaganza were made. Festival and show news releases are timed very carefully across the calendar, so it was after Skipinnish’s last chord had rung out in their recent ‘big top’ concert, that Highland Council’s Events Manager, Gerry Reynolds, announced news of the 2019 Hogmanay line-up. ‘Titans of trad’ Skipinnish are the headliners, with supergroup Torridon playing us into 2020, and ourselves opening the show. Regular host, Craig Hill, will bind it all together with his unique style and panache. So, the news is out and let me say we are utterly thrilled!

There’s nothing quite like playing on a big stage to your home crowd. Dorec-a-belle played Red Hot Highland Fling in 2013, two years after we formed, and believe me, stepping out in front of 10,000 people is an experience to savour and cherish. I’ll never forget the fun of playing and singing our Sneckie version of In the Mood, with a sea of faces out front and folk of all ages dancing to the infectious rhythms of Glenn Miller’s classic tune.

To be invited to play again this year is wonderful. Hogmanay is of course a celebration – of times to come, of home and family, looking forward to what a new year might hold, of hope – but with a strong emotional element. Auld Lang Syne embodies this, reflecting why it’s been adopted around the world, reminding us of departed loved ones, loss and regret, of friendship, kindness and our essential humanity. It feels like an honour to us to be asked to share our music with locals and visitors on what is undoubtably the most important community night of the year.

However, no matter the size of the crowd or dimensions of the stage, every gig is important to musicians because the point of it all is to connect with your audience. To make them want to sing, dance, laugh, cry, think - to touch them emotionally - is what we all want to achieve, and this can be done in any space from intimate to epic. Gigs in a small room, where the audience sit very close, can be incredibly satisfying, other times you like to whip up a dance frenzy in a thronging bar or feed off the energy of a festival crowd. Playing live is different on every occasion and in every space, and that’s part of the fun.

Giving people a good time feels great and our first gig in a new-ish space last week was another fun experience. Eden Court’s Under Canvas, held over summer months on the theatre’s front lawn and curated by Fèis Rois, is a fantastic rolling programme of music and arts; a real community space where anyone can wander up, sit and enjoy free music, have a drink, order food and simply relax in the warm ambience of this stretch-tent-come-venue.

We loved playing in the down-home surroundings of wooden bench tables and bales of hay, and stayed on to hear the band after us, accordion wizard Sandy Brechin’s fabulous line-up Bròg. I dropped in again with friends a couple of days later for the stunning Highland Voices choir, took part in Joe Gibbs’ Belladrum Quiz, watched a dance troupe and heard more music.

Eden Court have kindly given mornings over to Artsplay Highland for fun music sessions with children from several Inverness schools, so there is loads going on round the clock Under Canvas throughout summer. What an inspired initiative!

Intermittent bursts of glorious sunshine make Hogmanay seem a long way off but Dorec-a-belle will soon be rehearsing new songs and thinking about our set list. What might we be playing for you this year? That, I’m afraid, must remain a secret - for now!

(First published by Scottish Provincial Press 26th July 2019)

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