Glasgow Letter

A Night of Gaelic Song

Last Thursday night, I attended Binneas nam Ban – a concert in the stunning Kelvinside Hillhead Parish Church focused upon songs by female bards.

The evening began with the new trio, Sian, consisting of Eilidh Cormack, Ellen MacDonald, and Ceitlin LR Smith.

Each of those three girls have very unique voices and together they make a phenomenal sound. Their harmonies, particularly in the beautiful love song, Cùl do Chinn, were breathtaking. They performed one of their faster songs as a round and this exciting form of harmony created an effect whereby each individual voice became indistinguishable as they all sang different stages of the melody. Ceitlin joked afterwards that this had taken days of rehearsal to master! After the break (during which glasses of Pimms were served – an idea which I am fully in favour of seeing more often at such ceilidhs!) the audience were treated to the top-class vocals everyone expects of Kathleen MacInnes and Margaret Stewart.

The two ladies would sing a song or two each before allowing the other singer onto the stage in a lovely natural style – although, on one occasion, Margaret did have to walk onstage and shoo Kathleen off!

One highlight was Kathleen’s rendition of Maraiche nan Cuantan written by Flora MacPhail from Tiree. Kathleen told some humorous stories about having met Eachann MacPhail (Flora’s late husband about whom the song was written), and spoke of Flora’s lovely personality – something which anyone who has met Flora can attest to.

Another highlight was Margaret Stewart’s mastery of the epic Gaoir nam Bàn Mullach. Margaret’s pure voice in particular suited the acoustic of the Church and I could have listened to her in there all night.

The evening finished with a beautiful lament sung together by all the singers – joined, as they had been throughout the night, by Ingrid Henderson on Clarsach, Jenn Butterworth on guitar, and Shona Masson on fiddle. It was a beautiful ending to a superb concert.