The soaring vocals and musicianship of Maggie MacInnes and Anna Massie captured and held the attention of an intimate audience at the An Lanntair arts centre, Stornoway on Saturday evening.
The performance was the finale in the series of concerts hosted at the venue as part of the Hebridean Celtic Festival’s Gaelic showcase, for native speakers and non-speakers alike to enjoy and appreciate.
The duo of Maggie and Anna had been set to be a trio courtesy of musician Brian McAlpine, but the bright lights of London and the chance to play with Deacon Blue had captured his attention. Our loss was Deacon Blue’s gain, but for all that, the talents of Maggie and Anna had the audience wholly satisfied.
For a non-Gaelic speaker attending such a performance could be intimidating - what is the point if you don’t understand the words of the song? But music, of course, is designed to communicate without the need for words and that is exactly what happened in this case.
Yet, I was also delighted that Maggie took the time between each song to describe the story.
And there was a myriad of tales from the gorgeous lament of a faerie to his lover over their child, the delight of a woman over the beautiful morning landscape of Mull, the work song where the girl laments that the boy she fancies doesn’t like her because she has no cows! The stories of the songs had everything from drama, sweetness, humour and lost loves.
Maggie and Anna’s banter about the stories - describing one girl as a ‘mug’ for mourning the loss of a man who had ditched her to marry someone else - also injected a slice of humour, and highlighted how live performances will always be superior to listening to a CD.
Maggie and Anna played together seamlessly and there were also solos, with Anna giving us a trio of tunes created for birthdays and weddings, and as she said: “It’s good to be a musician when birthdays come round and you have been a wee bit slack on the present buying.”
This concert really marks out what is best about the Hebridean Celtic Festival for me, it’s not about jumping around at the tent enjoying one of your all-time favourites - enjoyable though that is, it’s more about these kind of performances, about me discovering something new and different, that I have stumbled across, but never-the-less fully enjoying the experience.
I will certainly be back for more.