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  • Writer's pictureLiza Mulholland

Small musical steps and a flavour to savour.

Well, what an incredible week! The first concert around these parts in over eight months, with Inverness’s Ironworks Music Venue hosting the fabulous Torridon, and it has caused great excitement! Funny how something previously so normal as a gig has, in Covid, become a huge deal, feeling almost outlandish and strange. The Ironworks of course wasn’t rocking to capacity as it usually would with Torridon onstage, and how financially viable concerts can be with a much reduced audience in socially distanced, cabaret-style seating remains to be seen, but it feels like a major breakthrough.

Most musicians have felt bereft for much of this year, deprived as we have been of performing live. There has been plenty music happening online but the experience of playing and singing with bandmates and fellow musicians in front of a live audience is the most special thing.

It’s what gives us the biggest kicks, the most satisfaction, the greatest fun; interaction with, and the energy of, an audience is what musicians feed off and thrive on. Spontaneous fun and craic is not quite the same in a virtual experience, much appreciated though those opportunities are.

So, while I did not manage to see Torridon, I’ll be skipping down Academy Street, ticket in hand, for the next concert on Saturday 28th when friend Davy Cowan and his son, Sam, take to the stage. These small steps forward for live music are so welcome and I cannot wait!

Meanwhile, lots of great music continues online, including an excellent new initiative by the University of the Highlands and Islands of a live stream tour for its music graduates. #UHIMusicLive will host two concert spots every Wednesday and Friday night through to 11th December, featuring 45-minute sets which can be viewed free on the university’s Facebook page. Offering these paid professional spots to new graduates is a terrific show of support by the university to its music alumni community and I look forward to logging on to hear these talented players and singers.

Talking of talent, the brilliant Blas Festival is underway, with nightly performances on offer until 30th November. And not just music – there’s drama, comedy, talks, and workshops where you too can learn and brush up musical skills.

Blas is Gaelic for taste or flavour, and many of traditional music’s finest feature in the line-up, including top Gaelic singers Kathleen MacInnes, James Graham, Christine Primrose, Margaret Stewart, Kirsteen MacDonald, and superb young vocal group, Sian. There’s also Iain MacFarlane and friends, Trail West, the Seall Festival of Small Halls, a musical celebration of shinty and lots more.

One show sounds particularly special and timely; Eliza tells the true story of a young black girl from Guyana, taken by her plantation-owning father to the Black Isle, near Inverness, in 1816. This original drama, free to view, features superb young local actors and new Gaelic songs composed by Eilidh MacKenzie. Definitely one to catch.

(First published by Highland News & Media 27th November 2020)

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