Virtual Adult Fèis has treats in store.
This weekend, twenty-five years ago, I attended my first adult Fèis (tuition festival), and little did I know it would change my life! For several months I had been trying to teach myself the fiddle and having just moved home to Inverness after studying and working in Glasgow, decided I needed to get some proper tuition before slipping into too many bad habits.
I had tutored keyboard at children’s fèisean before this so had an idea of what to expect and with Fèis Rois having launched their event for grown-ups a few years previously, I reckoned this was just what was required and tootled along to Tulloch Castle in Dingwall to register for beginners’ fiddle.
It was an excellent weekend; my class tutor, Iain Fraser - inspiring and very patient - was superb, it was wonderful to be learning alongside so many like-minded people and was such a lot of fun. I like to think my fiddle playing improved a little too.
Since then, this adult event - Fèis Rois Inbhich - has expanded and developed enormously. Moving soon after to Ullapool, its attendance has grown from around eighty to several hundred and this year’s 30th anniversary was set to be another fantastic celebration of traditional music, Gaelic and Scots song and the arts. That was, until Covid-19.
Having had to cancel the event, Fèis Rois’s team have come up with an inspired solution and from 1st to 3rd of May are putting all the planned workshops and concerts online. With tutors from among traditional music’s leading artistes, the virtual festival will be an excellent opportunity to connect, play, learn and come together to enjoy music.
Sessions are open to all ages and even offer the chance to take a peek in on other classes you might not normally see - for instance fiddlers can join the piping workshop etc. All concerts and workshops can be accessed on the Fèis Rois Facebook page - a personal Facebook account is not necessary - and all are free, with donations welcome if manageable.
Tutors include Duncan Chisolm, Lauren MacColl and Iain Fraser on fiddle, Corrina Hewat on harp and harmony singing, Ali Levack teaching whistle, John Somerville doing accordion, Eilidh Mackenzie and Siobhan Miller tutoring Gaelic and Scots song respectively, Mairearad Green on small pipes - to name but a few – with additional artistes performing for the nightly concerts. I suggest this will be way too good to miss!
So how did going to the adult Fèis Rois all those years ago change my life? Well, one of the fiddle tutors was Bruce MacGregor and, after meeting that weekend, four years later we married. Not the only wedding that Fèis Rois has been responsible for – several other musician friends also tied the knot after meeting there.
We went to Ullapool for many years until the birth of our son meant I could no longer attend for the whole weekend, though I still managed an occasional visit with our wee boy for the final afternoon concert. The sun invariably seemed to shine on the adult Fèis and the west coast village always looked and sounded glorious
Hopefully life will be back to some kind of normality this time next year and we can once again take a trip out west to savour the beauty of the landscape and sea and enjoy the great craic of the Fèis.
Meanwhile, if you’ve never attended a Fèis before but are interested, why not check out the timetable and take a dip into some of the events? My fiddle playing has got very rusty over the years so I am definitely going to join in! Who knows, it could also whet your appetite for 2021 and maybe even change your life too!
(First published by Scottish provincial Press 25th April 2020)