Tag Archives: music

Gordon Connell Enters Traditional Music Hall of Fame

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FOR only a small island with a population of not much more than 700, Tiree has produced an inordinate number of accordionists, not least those playing in such well-known west coast bands as Skipinnish, Skerryvore and Gunna Sound, as well as in up-and-coming young outfits such as Trail West and Dùn Mòr.

Much of the credit for this must go to local resident Gordon Connell, a self-taught piano-accordionist whose enthusiasm for the music and dedication as a teacher has inspired some 100 accordionists on the island which has been his home since 1962.

Voted Music Tutor of the Year in the 2010 Scots Trad Music Awards, Gordon first arrived on the island to take up a post as history and later modern studies teacher at Cornaigmore School – now Tiree High School – and by 1970 he was teaching accordion there. Described as “a natural teacher”, he taught initially by ear, although the arrival of a music teacher on the school’s staff in the mid-1970s enabled his pupils to read music, making it easier for Gordon to teach them – although he describes his own music-reading skills as “still pretty basic”. His teaching may have been on a voluntary basis, but his impact on the island’s young musicians has been huge. On a BBC Alba documentary about the accordion, Beò air a’ Bhogsa – “Outside the Box”, a few years ago, one of his students, Ian Smith, the accordionist of Trail West and a finalist in the 2014 Radio Scotland Young Traditional Musician of the Year competition, commented: “I don’t think anyone could match what Gordon did – an immense amount of work as a tutor.” “Gordon is quite different to any other music tutor I’ve ever had,” says Daniel Gillespie, accordionist with the now internationally renowned west-coast folk-rockers Skerryvore. “It’s unbelievable how natural teaching is to him and how much patience he has. Gordon would be first to say that he’s not a world-class accordion player but he is a world-class teacher. And he’s never taken a penny for his teaching.”

Yet Gordon didn’t actually take up the accordion until he arrived on the island. Born in 1940, he grew up in the village of Blairmore, nine miles outside Dunoon. He attended Strone Primary School & Dunoon Grammar school, then went on to gain a degree at Glasgow University before doing his teacher-training year at Jordanhill Collage. Rather than music, his main interests while growing up were golf and football, and he still maintains an enthusiastic interest in the latter sport. He recalls, however, listening to the Saturday evening Scottish country dance music programme on the radio. It wasn’t until he arrived in Tiree, however, that he took up the box, and in hindsight describes his initial efforts as “rather painful to listen to”. With perseverance, however, his playing improved and by 1970 was teaching the instrument as a leisure activity at the school. Gordon was also a regular at local dances and functions, taking to the stage with band members Murray Omand and the late Stewart Langley. The band entertained Tiree for many years and earlier this year Gordon and Murray took to the stage once again to play at The Tiree Associations very succesful event – Tiree Memories. Many people commented that the music on the night took them right back to the ‘good ole days’ of dancing to Gordon and Murray’s music in the old hall in Crossapol and other venues throughout the island.

The island’s accordion scene started to really take off around 1990, says Gordon, who credits the fact that students were starting to compete at the National Mòd and also that Tiree started its own annual Fèis.He retired from his teaching job at the school in 1996, but was persuaded to carry on teaching accordion by the enthusiasm of his pupils. “What still motivates me is the great response I get from my students,” he says. “At present I have a really keen group at various stages; they’re all fantastic people and are a pleasure to teach.”

Tiree, he adds, is “a small and friendly community. Most of my former students still keep in touch – many of them I count as friends.” So far as his own playing is concerned, he declares simply that “teaching youngsters who are about to overtake you is motivation enough for me to keep practising and trying to learn new tunes – I wouldn’t really class myself as a player. “I guess the most satisfying thing for me is seeing my students progress – some to form their own bands – at least four of them are making a living from their music and a couple of others are bandleaders with day jobs, but extremely competent just the same.”

Fèis Thiriodh 2015 – The 25th Anniversary Special

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The Fèis Thiriodh committee are pleased to report that dates have been set and preparations are going well for this year’s event. The weeklong event of workshops, ceilidhs, talks and much more will be taking place from Sunday 5th to Friday 10th of July and we are excited to welcome back Tiree favourites ‘Trail West’ as our main tutors for the special 25th Anniversary event. Joining Trail West regulars; Ian, Alain and Andrew will be a host of other talented tutors who are all well-known to Tiree, including; Jamie MacDonald, Artair Donald, Iona Brown, John Angus MacKinnon, Eilidh MacFadyen, Eleanor Sinclair, John Holliday, Tara Rankin, Scott Wood, Linda MacLeod.

The 5 day tutoring event offers children aged 8 and over and adults, the opportunity to try their hand at a variety of different workshops including; accordion, guitar, pipes, drums, fiddle, flute/whistle, highland dancing, Gaelic conversation and film making. For the under 8 year olds, Fèis Bheag will run throughout the week along with Fèis Bheag Bheag running on four days for the under 5s.

As well as the day time workshops and activities we will also be running various evening and fringe events, which have proven to be very popular over the years. To celebrate our 25th Anniversary we are organising a ‘Ceilidh Ceann-bliadhna’ – Anniversary Concert – for the Monday evening. This will showcase a host of extremely talented and now famous past tutors and students returning to Fèis Thiriodh to entertain us with music, singing and dancing, which we hope will put everyone in the mood for a weeklong celebration of events. Other events will include; the popular children’s dance, a talk by Ian Smith on the history of whisky on Tiree and of course, the closing dance on the Friday evening, which will be led by Trail West.

After taking a year off last year we have also decided to bring back the very popular ‘Muse Cruise’ on the Thursday afternoon. This will see Fèis Thiriodh being transported on a six hour floating session with the tutors on the MV Clansman for a round trip to Barra and back. Come along to sing, play or just listen.

We only have to look at the numerous successful bands and musicians that hail from Tiree to realise that Fèis Thiriodh has had a very influential and successful 25 years, providing music and culture workshops and events to locals and visitors alike. We hope that you are all looking forward to Fèis 2015 and will join us to celebrate and ensure the 25th Annual Fèis is as popular and successful as previous Fèisean. Booking forms are now available and can be found, along with more information at www.feis-thiriodh.com

A dinner, A dram, and a drama

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The Tiree Association’s 2nd Dinner, Dram and Drama evening at Ralston Halls, on Saturday 28th February, proved to be a highly entertaining evening!

Following an exquisite two course buffet prepared by Alasdair – how does he manage to maintain this standard of catering excellence? – with an accompanying dram, those attending – around 65 in number – were treated to some first class singing, musical entertainment and storytelling:

many thanks to the singers – Linda, Mairi, Donald Iain and Gordon and to Billy for playing the box. An extra special thanks to Shona for her beautifully delivered story which delighted the audience and brought back many happy childhood memories!

The West End Players then took to the stage and delighted the audience with their fantastic bilingual comedy: ‘An Coigreach / The Stranger‘.

Again this year both fluent Gaelic speakers and learners could follow the exploits of those colourful characters as the hilarious plot unfolded! Many thanks to Mabel for penning this gem and to Lachie, John, Billy, Jessie, Donald Archie, Murdina and Gordon for taking to the stage and entertaining us all!

After some further delightful musical items Jessie, very bravely, took on the task of tutoring eight eager volunteers to dance an Eightsome Reel (properly!) The fact that all eight managed to complete the dance was totally down to her teaching skills – even the judges were generous with their ‘strictly ceilidh dancing’ scores!

A rousing chorus of ‘Auld Lang Syne’ drew the evening to a close. The evening was held in memory of Joan MacKechnie who worked tirelessly for The Tiree Association and profits will go towards fundraising for A Bhuain in May 2016.

The Committee would like to thank BORD NA GAIDHLIG for their generous sponsorship as this allowed us to keep ticket prices down. Also, many thanks to all those who ventured out on a very wet and windy evening to enjoy the buffet and the entertainment………and remember, if you’re on Tiree at Easter time, our SULA, SOUP and SANDWICH evening is on at An Talla on Saturday 11th April – hope to see you there!

 

Anne Ronald

Skipinnish victorious at MG Alba Scots Trad Awards

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Ceilidh band Skipinnish was the worthy winner of the 12th annual Scots Trad Awards held in December 2014.

A record breaking 100,000 public votes went towards deciding the award recipients. The best live act prize was awarded as Skipinnish’s newly released single December reached number one in the world music charts, their second number one in 2014, the first being Walking on the Waves.

Angus MacPhail, a founding member of the band said: “This is by far the best year of the band and the progress we have made in that time is amazing. For a band, winning live act of the year is the most important prize at the trad awards. Our line-up and the standard of our own material has improved, we are playing more gigs to more fans and the success of our releases has really surprised us”.

Skippinish have had a hectic year, promoting their album and playing for Team Scotland at its Commonwealth Games party but Angus picks out a performance at 2014 Tiree Music Festival as not just his highlight of the year but the best moment of his musical career. “We have had incredibly good fun this year but Tiree Music Festival was amazing. The crowd was singing along with our songs and it was my favourite musical experience in 15 years of playing.”

From a spectator perspective I can honestly say Skipinnish thoroughly deserve this accolade, they provided a stand out performance at the festival, it was completely compelling and they whipped the crowd up to a frenzy of fun and tomfoolery. Let’s hope they return to thrill us at TMF 2015!

TMSA Young Trad Tour visits Tiree

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On Wednesday 8th October some of brightest stars of Scotland’s young folk talent travelled to Tiree for a night of musical entertainment in An Talla.

Featuring the finalists of the BBC Radio Scotland Young Traditional Musician of the Year 2014, as well as the winner of the 2013 competition, the Young Trad Tour 2014 consisted of six dates at each of the finalists’ hometowns as well as a performance at Glasgow’s Celtic Connections festival, scheduled to take place on the 17th January 2015.

This year’s band – made up of Paddy Callaghan, Alistair Iain Paterson, Mhairi Marwick, Neil Ewart, Jack Badcock and Ian Smith – brought a cross-section of the country’s regional folk scenes to the table. Whilst most of the musicians are now based in Glasgow and Edinburgh’s thriving folk scenes, they were all brought up surrounded by diverse traditions- from Irish, West coast and East coast styles.

As well as the Tour, the group also recorded an album at one of Scotland’s most prestigious recording studios, Castlesound Studio in Pencaitland.

The Young Trad Tour – including both the CD and tour itself – was organised by the Traditional Music and Song Association of Scotland (TMSA) and was made possible through funding support from The Robertson Trust, the National Lottery through Creative Scotland, as well as assistance with the Tiree leg from Loganair and other private sources. The concert in Tiree was well-attended and the audience, of around seventy, were treated to a fantastic mix of traditional songs, reels, slow airs and more. As well as the concert, the musicians also visited Tiree High School, where they carried out short workshops with the pupils.

For more info on the tour visit http://www.tmsa.org.uk or if you’d like to purchase the album contact Ian Smith (by email: ian.tiree{@}hotmail.co.uk or by phone: 07591 005871).

Award treble For Tiree Music Festival

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Sarah Cruickshank, Daniel Gillespie, Stewart MacLennan, Julie MacLennan

Tiree Music Festival picked up its third award of the year at the recent prestigious Thistle Awards.

At a stunning awards’ ceremony held in Stirling Castle, TMF collected the award for ‘Best Cultural Event’, beating off stiff competition from major events such as the Glasgow Film Festival. This award follows on from the regional award at the Highlands & Islands Tourism Awards in October while TMF also retained the award of ‘Best Small Festival’ in Scotland at the Scottish Event Awards in September. TMF has rapidly grown in the space of a few years to become Scotland’s best kept secret on the summer festival scene, however that secret could now be out due to the trio of awards collected in 2013.

“We are just stunned to collect this award”, said TMF Director Daniel Gillespie. “Winning the regional award was a big enough shock to us, so to win the National award is just something we would have never dreamed of when starting the festival in 2010. We have a very special team that commits so much of their time and energy to the festival – this award is testament to all their hard work over the past 4 years.”

TMF has created a huge economic boost to the island of Tiree. An independent report by MKA Economics estimated that the festival had generated £493,197 for the local region with 76% of the 1500 attendees travelling from outwith the region to enjoy the festival held on the island dubbed the ‘Hawaii of the North’.

It is this stunning location and island atmosphere that fellow TMF Director Stewart MacLennan feels makes the event so special. “TMF isn’t just a festival, it is an island adventure. So many people feed back to us that they have never seen such stunning beaches or landscape. This combined with the friendly island atmosphere and great music are the key reasons people tell us they want to return Tiree and TMF.”

Planning is already under way for TMF2014 – the first three day event in the festival’s history and will be held from the 18th–20th July.

Before that, there is the possibility of a fourth award of 2013 for TMF as the festival is shortlisted for ‘Event of the Year’ at the Scots Trad Music Awards, held on the 7th December in Aberdeen.

Tiree Music Festival Retains Crown As ‘Best Small Festival’ In Scotland

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Stewart MacLennan (l) & Daniel Gillespie (r) receiving the award

Fresh from a 4th successive sell-out event, the Tiree Music Festival (TMF) has once again been crowned the Best Small Festival in Scotland at the prestigious Scottish Event Awards.

It is the second consecutive year that the festival has been awarded the accolade, highlighting an incredible achievement for a festival that was only formed four years ago.

Since that first festival back in July 2010, TMF has continued to develop both in size and success to become a landmark event of the Scottish festival scene. This year saw 1500 festival-goers make the journey with 76% of them travelling from outwith the event region. It was this growth and tourism boost to the local region that was highlighted by the judges on announcement of the award.

An ecstatic TMF Community Director Stewart MacLennan said:

“The development of TMF over the past 4 years has been an incredible journey and when planning for the first festival in 2010 we could have only dreamed of being awarded the Best Small Festival in Scotland once never mind in consecutive years. We are very proud of Tiree and are delighted that the festival is a platform for introducing new visitors to our magical island.”

Co-founder and Artistic Director Daniel Gillespie paid tribute to the festival team, sponsors and Tiree’s locals:

“This award is testament to the phenomenal efforts of a team that have shown a commitment and drive to improve year on year. Many have no family connection to the island yet have embraced the culture, community and atmosphere – we are very proud to have them as part of our team. Thanks to all our sponsors and funders, without whose support TMF would not be possible. A special mention to Tiree’s local community who are the heart and soul of the festival’s atmosphere. We are delighted to be bringing this award back home to Tiree for a second year.”

Planning is already under way for TMF2014 which will be the first 3 day event in the festival’s history and will be held from the 18th – 20th July.

 

SUNSHINE AND MUSIC FÈIS 2013

feis_dancingThe Tiree ‘season’ got off to a great start with a successful Fèis that continued the growth of the last few years.

Blessed (or possibly cursed) with terrific weather, attendances at the classes grew while audiences at some of the evening events were disappointingly down. 2013 marked the 23rd Fèis with a return to the school after a number of years based in An Talla. The extra tutors from the two bands – Trail West and The Scott Wood Trio – meant that the festival simply ran out of rooms at the community hall. Numbers in the classes rose for the third year running, although there were only two Wanting to study the fiddle.

A particular success was the new expanded Fèis Bheag which ran for the full day and included for the first time non-Gaelic speaking children. Another winner was the Gaelic conversation class which was large and enthusiastic. However, the lecture on the Middleton kelp factory and the tutors’ concert were only thinly attended, possibly partly due to the glorious sunshine.

76 people boarded the ferry to Barra for the ‘Muse Cruise’ and were rewarded with a really great day of music and happiness. At Castlebay dancers and musicians from Fèis Thiriodh went ashore and did an Orcadian Strip the Willow down the pier with children from Fèis Bharraigh. And as the boat left the quay, the Barra dancing class lined up and did a Highland dance to a Tiree piper playing from the departing boat. As the dancers made a deep final bow, the Vessel’s master – a Barra man – blew the ship’s horn in salute. There was hardly a dry eye on board!

The final dance, with the two bands Combining, was generally reckoned to have been the best on the island for years. The shape of the Tiree ‘season’ is changing, with the rise and rise of TMF. All the summer events are having to get used to the new world, and Fèis Thiriodh is no exception. But we are looking forward to 2014 with a few new plans up our sleeve!

Dr Iohn Holliday, Chair.

Defenders Back with A Vengeance

defendersThe Defenders, Tiree’s incredible / awesome / amazing (delete as appropriate) rock band, are back with a Vengeance.

Featuring three members of the original line-up –  Gordon Scott on vocals and rhythm guitar, Bruce Kemp on lead guitar and Iain MacDonald on bass they are joined by Bernie Smith Jnr on drums, while the inexhaustible Frances Woodhead on backing Vocals provides some (much needed!!!) glamour.

The Editor didn’t manage to see their first full performance at the Rags to Riches event, but caught up with them on the Community Village Stage at TMF where they played a blinding set including several classics by Primal Scream,The Undertones and Buzzcocks, before finishing the set with the Bo Diddley classic “Who do you love?”. The Editor loves his classic punk and rock, so in his humble opinion The Defenders were the highlight of TMF 2013.

Unfortunately, due to illness, The Defenders were not able to perform on the Sunday, and having seen the set-list it would undoubtedly have been another cracking show. Gordon is on the road to recovery now, and I for one can’t wait for their next performance.

Congratulations to Eilidh Macfadyen

Mod Winner

Photo © Graham Hood http://grahamhoodphotography.com

At this year’s National Mòd in Dunoon, the U-19 Accordion Competition was won by Eilidh MacFadyen of Caolis, with Ruaridh Morrison, who has strong Tiree connections, a close second.

Eilidh was a student at Tiree High School and is presently in her second year of studying Music and Gaelic at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig in Skye. She now has a Gold to add to the Silver she won in Stornoway last year. She has also shown her ability to teach accordion – at Feis Thiriodh 2011 and 2012.

She would like to return to her roots some time in the future and maybe replace the ‘old codger’ who teaches accordion here at present.

Ruaridh is in 6th year at Oban High School and a really promising player. Both Eilidh and Ruaridh were praised by adjudicator Ian Mair for their ‘pipey’ interpretation of their respective March, Strathspey and Reel sets. We wish them every success in their musical careers.

Gordon Connell

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