Hebridean women will open HebCelt 21st

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HebCelt’s opening concert on 13 July, featuring leading traditional Gaelic singers from different Hebridean islands, will also herald the regular programme of events hosted by An Lanntair arts centre in Stornoway during festival week.

‘Hebridean Women’ will focus specifically on songs for and about women, and feature some of the very best female vocalists from the Outer Hebrides.

The project has been designed to encourage collaboration and promote the music and songs from the area, but also provide a ‘master and apprentice’ style of working, with singers chosen from all generations.

This variation of the ongoing and ever-evolving show will feature Julie Fowlis (pictured) from North Uist - who is also appearing with her band in the main festival arena on Friday 15 July - alongside Mary Smith and Isobel Ann Martin (Lewis), Cathy Ann MacPhee (Barra) and Kathleen Macinnes (South Uist).

‘Hebridean Women’ is part of ‘Bealach’, a wide-ranging creative partnership project, hosted by An Lanntair, to represent Lewis and Harris as the ‘gateway’ and ‘passage’ into the Gaelic culture and which won the Creative Place Award from Creative Scotland in 2015.

Alex Macdonald, head of performing arts and cinema at An Lanntair, said: “We felt HebCelt’s 21st birthday merited an extra special event. So, what better time to assemble this wonderful selection of island singers to perform together, particularly in the year that we are focusing on the Hebrides as a creative place”.

On Thursday, 14 July, An Lanntair’s programme will also include a reprise of Atlantic Blast, first devised by HebCelt for its 15th anniversary in 2010 which went on to feature at Celtic Connections the following year.

Featuring the considerable talents of Calum Alex MacMillan (pipes, whistles/vocals), Norrie Maciver (guitar/vocals) and DC Macmillan (drums), the cast will also include local talent such as Stephen Drummond (accordion) and showcase some of the area’s most famous piping tunes whilst exploring the links between pipe music and song.

Friday will see Skipinnish take to the stage fresh from their Celtic Connections headline appearance, performing to nearly 3,000 fans at a sold-out Glasgow Royal Concert Hall.

Since their last HebCelt appearance in 2012, the band have won the MG Alba Scots Trad Live Act of the Year award in 2014 and have seen three singles hit number 1 in the iTunes World Music Charts.

An Lanntair will host three-time BRIT award winner Eddi Reader, known for fronting the Scots band Fairground Attraction as well as her solo work, on Saturday, 16 July.

Eddi, who has released ten solo albums and was made a MBE for outstanding contributions to the arts, will be performing with her band - husband John Douglas, Boo Hewerdine, Alan Kelly and Kevin McGuire - in her first visit to HebCelt since 2011.

HebCelt is also known for community concerts outside the main centre of Stornoway and a series of events in rural areas are being announced as part of its outreach programme.

Award-winning singer and musician Allison Lupton and her band, from Ontario, will play at Breasclete in Lewis on Wednesday. They will also play the following night at The Old School Centre, Shawbost, Lewis, a new venue for HebCelt this year.

Orkney four-piece Fara - already announced for the main festival arena - are at Seallam! Visitor Centre in Harris on Thursday.

Angela Macleod, development manager at Horshader Community Development, said: “We are excited to support HebCelt’s outreach programme to help the Old School Centre in Shawbost host a festival show for the first time.

“Bringing HebCelt to areas outside Stornoway is very important to smaller communities and we are delighted to be part of this international event.”

Tickets for these concerts and community shows, together with the popular late night dances and festival clubs in An Lanntair and ‘lates’ in the Caladh Inn, go on sale on 9am on 28 March exclusively through the festival website www.hebceltfest.com or through phoneline 01851 621234.