A (Bhana)-Chàirdean/ Friends

Seo agaibh beagan naidheachd dh’en na rudan air a robh mi ag obair am bliadhna seo. Here is a bit of news of the things I have been up to in the last year.

First of all I’m very excited that the new CD is finished and about to be released. Wendy and I are pretty pleased with it and are enjoying playing the music live along with Seph Peters on guitar and Cathy Porter on keys, percussion and accordion. We had a great time at the Montana Folk Festival in July and at the Lunenberg Folk Harbour Festival and we are heading off to Maine tomorrow for the American Folk Festival in Bangor. All are really fun festivals jammed packed with all kinds of traditional music played in North America and we feel honoured to have been asked.

We are, of course, really looking forward to The Celtic Colours International Festival, October 5th to the 13th, 2012, we will be performing the new CD at the Island Women concert and are very happy as well to be part of the final concert which will feature The Chieftains. You’ll find us at the festival club as well I’m sure. We will also be at the Rejigged Festival in Halifax October the 20th and look forward to doing more touring in 2013.

Outside of the performing front I’ve been at Highland Village Museum, Iona, NS, on and off working with the staff on Gaelic and last week at the museum we ran Stòras a’ Bhaile, a Gaelic Folklife School, an immersion event that focuses on developing skills in the Gaelic arts of storytelling and song. We had a great time this year and lots of participation. You can see more information about it here: museum.gov.ns.ca/hv/en/home/whattoseedo/storasabhaile.aspx

I have also been over to an t-seann dùthaich (the old country), a few times in the past year on the first trip last July I first went to sing with T with the Maggies at the Letterkenney Arts Festival in Ireland as their invited guest. What a great time I had singing with that powerhouse group of Irish women singers and we were very fortunate that they agreed to go into the Manus Lunny’s studio the next day (after a late night) to record some lovely harmonies on Tàladh na Beinne Guirme for the new CD. I’m very grateful to them.

From there I went on to meet the team from Cape Farewell in North Uist. Simply put, Cape Farewell is involved in putting artists and scientists together on expeditions to look at the effect climate change is having on culture. Last year they made four one week sailings in the Hebrides. I was out on week three along with Gaelic singers Mairi Smith and Julie Fowlis. What a treat is was to wander islands like the Monach Islands and St.Kilda listening to Mairi’s great store of knowledge and sharing songs with her and Julie. We are looking forward to collaborating on some song projects in the future.

There have been many interesting projects arising out of those journeys and they fall under the umbrella of Sea Change – Tionndadh na Mara which is a four year project of making and research across Scotland’s western and northern islands.

So far I have been involved in two of the projects. I was so happy to play a small part in Deirdre Nelson’s innovative textile project on Mull called Bird Yarns. Deirdre had knitters from all over the UK and beyond knitting Arctic Terns, I brought five with me made by Cape Breton artisans, which she then hung on the pier in Tobermoray. The terns, along with a listening post drew attention to the plight that the warming of the waters off of Mull poses for them on their long journey from pole to pole.

I had a lovely time visiting two schools on Mull and singing with poet Rody Gorman at the launch of the project.

I’m off to Scotland at the end of September to visit the birds at The Dovecote Gallery in Edinburgh then off to North Uist to start work on a film about our journey to St. Kilda with Mairi Smith and Ruth Little from Cape Farewell and Scottish filmmaker Andy MacKinnon. Just today recieved some recordings that Ruth made of Mairi singing St. Kildan songs during a recent visit they had on Lewis. I’m very excited about starting work on this project.

Between now and then I will be collaborating with jazz musician Jerry Granelli for a concert at the Inverness Arts Centre in Cape Breton, continuing my work at Highland Village and trying to spend time with kith and kin.

Le gach deagh dhùrachd (With every best wish)

Mary Jane