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Blas Festival 2008 Launches Cultural Programme

7th July 2008

Photograph of Blas Festival 2008 Launches Cultural Programme

The fastest growing Gaelic and traditional music festival in the UK is about to take to the skies as part of its new programme for 2008. Now a notable fixture on Scotland's cultural calendar, the Blas Festival has announced it will be staging 45 events across the Highlands, including its 'highest ever show' in its smallest 'venue' - a Cessna plane flying at 3000 feet over the region.

The Blas festival will host an array of home grown and internationally-renowned musicians from 5th- 13th September. One of its most unusual events will be a one man show in a Cessna supplied and piloted by the Highland Flying School. The festival is running a competition for one person to fly over the Highlands whilst enjoying a potted history of music in the area from renowned fiddler, Bruce MacGregor. He will even play a few Highland tunes in this highest ever Blas show.

There are a number of even more important attractions throughout the 2008 programme which bolsters the festival's commitment to Gaelic and the links with Cape Breton. They include a concert by Ireland's kings of traditional music, The Chieftains. The six time Grammy Award winners will be led by legendary frontman Paddy Moloney. They will be joined by several guests on stage, including the Canadian acrobatic dancing team of brothers, Jon and Nathan Pilatzke.

Others performing at Blas include Phil Cunningham, widely regarded as one of the most innovative accordion players ever to play, and Aly Bain, known as a supreme traditional style fiddler. Also appearing is multi-instrumentalist and stunning singer/songwriter JP Cormier from Cape Breton, who will be accompanied on piano by his wife Hilda Chiasson-Cormier.

Further highlights include top Irish-American group Cherish the Ladies and Scottish talent The Peatbog Faeries, Julie Fowlis, Alyth and Shooglenifty.

Festival Director Donna MacRae said: "Blas is Gaelic for 'taste' or 'savour' and this year's festival really is quite mouthwatering. It's only our fourth year but we will be delivering a programme of music, Gaelic, food and workshop events that really strengthen our contribution to the region's cultural identity.

"Blas celebrates the Highlands, giving communities the chance to enjoy live music. It also provides young musicians, primarily from the Fis movement, with the opportunity to learn from stars in traditional music. To really get the festival off to a great start we will be offering a really unique competition. We will be giving away 45 pairs of tickets, a pair for each and every one of our shows and one of those winners will ultimately win the Cessna trip. We want to show just how different and authentic Highland culture is. With this programme and our competitions we're doing just that."

Minister for Culture Linda Fabiani welcomed the Blas 2008 programme: "This Government supports a strong, diverse and confident cultural life in Scotland - and the Gaelic language and culture is right at the very heart of this. The Blas festival, building on the success of the Fisean, will strengthen both traditional music and the Gaelic language throughout Scotland and indeed to wider international audiences. I welcome the launch of the Blas programme for 2008 which will ensure our rich cultural heritage remains an important part of Highland life."

The Blas festival was devised by The Highland Council in partnership with Fisean nan Gidheal and the Promoters Arts Network. Convener of The Highland Council, Sandy Park said: "In just a few short years, Blas has grown into one of the Highlands' premiere events, presenting superb programmes, firmly rooted in Highland Communities. Highland Council very much values the contribution Blas makes to the region's cultural identity in terms of economic and social impacts, its investment in young people, and its sharing and promotion of the Gaelic language. We are committed to supporting Blas to continue celebrating the Highlands."

One of the festival's key funders is EventScotland. Paul Bush, Chief Operating Officer, said: "The Regional Events Programme is a great opportunity for events such as Blas to achieve their growth ambitions. The level of applicants to this latest round of funding was very high and the process of selecting those successful events, harder than ever. We're excited by the appetite being shown by Scotland's events industry to continue the growth and success that has been witnessed in the industry over the last few years and we're delighted to be able to support the Blas Festival this year."

Blas Festival Web Site

Caithness Events
Friday 5th September 2008
Fred Morrison and Friends
Leading the line up is phenomenal piper and whistle player, Fred Morrison who has carved himself an international reputation with a powerfully exuberant, highly improvisational style which combines the Gaelic piping tradition of the Uists with contemporary and eclectic influences. The evening is being promoted by the local branch of An Comunn Gidhealach in the run up to the 2010 Royal National Mod and will also feature a number of local artists.
MacKay's Hotel, Wick

Wednesday 10th September 2008
Chasing the Sun by James Ross
James Ross | Mr MacFall's Chamber | Fraser Fifield
The Blas Festival is proud to present the world premiere of this new commission by Wick born musician and composer, James Ross. This follows on from a successful "New Voices" commission at Celtic Connections and debut CD in 2006. The commission will feature new music, reflecting the Highland landscape throughout the course of a year, supported by stunning photography by Catriona Murray. James will be joined by the superb string quartet, Mr McFall's Chamber and highly talented and sought after musician and composer, Fraser Fifield.
This event is supported by the Scottish Arts Council.
Assembly Rooms, Wick

Saturday 13th September 2008
This stunning show is a journey through the story of North West Sutherland, using music, song, poetry and visuals. Featuring the talents of Mod gold medallist, James Graham, fiddler Rhona Sutherland, pianist James Ross, multi-instrumentalist and singer Catriona MacLeod and piper / accordionist Carol-Anne MacKay from Dchas, this promises to be an unforgettable show.
Mill Theatre, Thurso

For events in other parts of Highland see Blas Festival Web Site