World première performance for Barra

The beautiful Isle of Barra is the setting for the world première of a specially commissioned musical work to celebrate the year of Scotland’s Islands.

The concert – on Tuesday, July 12 in Castlebay Community School – marks the first stop on the Pipes and Strings 2011 Islands Tour, and features as part of this year’s Feis Bharraigh week.

The tour follows on from the release of the CD ‘Pipes and Strings – Suit for Alan’, to be launched at the National Piping Centre in Glasgow tomorrow (Friday, July 8), and locally in Stornoway on Saturday, July 16.

An exciting musical project involving an 11-piece string orchestra, alongside soloists Iain and Allan MacDonald, Roddy MacLeod, James Ross, and Neil Johnstone, project manager Rhona Johnstone describes Pipes and Strings as: “A fusion between the traditional and classical music genres,” adding: “What we are aiming to do is bring both these very different styles of music together and introduce audiences to something new.”

She continues: “The tour programme will be formed mainly from the repertoire on the CD, including the title work – ‘Suite for Alan’ – along with a new work, ‘A Welcome Shore’ by Stephen Adam, which was specially commissioned for the year of Scotland’s Islands.”

Title work ‘Suite for Alan’ was written by Lewis based musician and teacher Neil Johnstone and features and celebrates the music of his father – the great piper, teacher and composer Duncan Johnstone.

And kicking off the tour in Barra is of great significance as Duncan’s roots were very firmly planted in the Western Isles – his mother hailing from Barra, his father from Benbecula, and his uncle was the late great Father John Macmillan of Barra.

When Feis Barraigh was founded in 1981, Duncan was one of the first piping tutors and it is particularly fitting that the first Western Isles performance of ‘Suite for Alan’ should be in Barra 30 years later, bringing Duncan’s spirit back to an island which he held so dearly in his heart and which provided so much of the inspiration for his piping compositions.

Duncan’s son Neil comments: “We are delighted to be given the opportunity to bring this project to audiences in the Western Isles which has been our home for the past six and a half years.

“Being asked to perform as part of the Hebridean Celtic Festival is a great honour and we are very grateful for the financial support that we have been given by Scotland’s Islands to enable the project to run.”

He adds: “We hope that by bringing my father’s music ‘home’, this will inspire a new generations of musicians.”

The soloists – two of whom (Roddy MacLeod and Iain MacDonald) were tutored by Duncan Johnstone – and orchestra will be visiting the Western Isles and Skye from July 12 to 16 for their six date tour, starting in Castlebay and finishing at the HebCelt Festival in Stornoway.

The CD, ‘Pipes and Strings – Suit for Alan’, will be available to buy at each of the concerts, as well as in the Hebridean Celtic Festival office during festival week.

It will also be available soon to purchase online and via digital download. For more information, visit