Item Posted: Wednesday 15th March, 2006
MUSIC IN THE COMMUNITY
SUPPORTED BY SCOTTISHPOWER RENEWABLES
Cẹl Bẹ - Inverness
Cẹl Bẹ in Inverness is an outstanding example of what can be done in a community by a shrewd mixture of drive and common sense. Although the area is, and has been, a hotbed of traditional music, there is now far more co-ordination and co-operation between groups, mainly due to the preparedness to talk to each other (management speak - networking).
When at the end of the year 2000, Balnain House, Inverness closed as the “Home of Highland Music”, a number of users of Balnain House facilities got together to see if something could be done to ensure the continuation of activities for which Balnain House had become the focal point, particularly in the fields of education and the dissemination of information about and between various groups. By April 2001, the charitable company Cẹl Bẹ (Living Music) had been formed, and it started work on forming relationships with other music organisations, and became an active member of the Inverness Traditional Music Classes Partnership, which, through Highland Council, has been organising a wide range of traditional music, song and dance classes for the past 5 years.
Cẹl Bẹ produces an impressive monthly magazine (Traditional Roots) that anyone living in the Inverness area, or anyone considering visiting, should get their hands on. Listing about 50 events a month, it covers concerts, pub sessions, ceilidhs, as well as non-music local events. The magazine is not simply a listing facility, it also covers previews and reviews, publishes songs and tunes, publicises the activities of various music organisations throughout the Highlands and Islands and includes CD and music book reviews, articles, appeals, events diary, new tunes. It is altogether an interesting read. Communities in the central belt can get some coverage through commercial ‘What’s On’ publications such as ‘The List’, but rural areas and Highland towns have to rely on the hard work of such groups as Cẹl Bẹ to communicate with the local population and tourists.
In a recent report for the Highland Council it was sensibly, if impliedly, recognised that one of the best ways to strengthen the growing impact of the Gaelic language is through music. Inverness has over 7% of the population with some understanding of Gaelic, the highest in any Scottish city.
A number of Inverness organisations were said to have an impact on the growth of interest in Gaelic, including Hootannany, the Inverness Gaelic Forum and Cẹl Bẹ. The commitment of Cẹl Bẹ to Gaelic is reflected in their recently adopted Gaelic Policy. Adult language courses will attract those who, from a sense of tradition or a strong interest, take the step to learn the language – but many will come through the medium of music. Playing Gaelic tunes, or listening to the lyrics of songs will, slowly but surely attract more people into the ‘net’. Hopefully this point is not missed by the funders. There is a risk that, with the passing of the Gaelic Act, funding that might previously have come the way of music groups will be ear marked for ‘pure’, language organisations.
One of the mainstay activities of the organisation is its weekly and monthly traditional music and song sessions; the weekly one is at the Clachnaharry Inn on Thursday nights from 9pm onwards, and the monthly sessions are at the Maple Court Hotel, Dores Inn and the Whitebridge Hotel on the 1st, 3rd and 4th Sundays of each month respectively, between 3 and 6pm. These afternoon sessions are accessible to younger musicians eager to seek practice in a group situation, and several young musicians who have participated in these sessions have gone on to form their own bands and become respected musicians in their own right.
In 2004, Cẹl Bẹ (Living Music) organised its first Inverness Beltane Festival over 2 days of the May Day holiday weekend. The following year saw the festival extend over 5 days, and the 2006 festival will also run over 5 days. Having a patron as well known, and well connected, as Bruce MacGregor no doubt helps with the group as a whole and in arranging the festival!
Other activities have included participation in the Traditional Music Tent at the annual Inverness Highland Games, the staging of concerts throughout the year, including Gaelic concerts presented entirely through Gaelic, joint fund raising with local charities and the organising of traditional music at Dores Gala.
Plans for this year’s Beltane Festival have been particularly hard work, as funding has been tricky to access, but they have been fortunate to access instead a lot of goodwill amongst Cẹl Bẹ members who have come to the rescue. Local businesses have rallied around and ‘donated’ venues. The festival has some great gigs and a worthwhile line up of concerts including musicians from Canada, Ireland, USA, Sweden and Scotland and a wide range of events including an open stage, storytelling, a cheese and real ale night, and of course sessions and concerts. It shows what can be done with commitment, drive, and the desire of a local community to continue such festivals even when the funders lack input!
The 3rd Cẹl Bẹ Beltane Festival will be in various venues in Inverness from 26th to 30th April 2006. More details of the programme, the magazine, and the work of the group from Keith Scammell, Cẹl Bẹ, 01463 225469. Email firstname.lastname@example.org
We would like to hear from groups, however large or small, who would like to publicise their project through this column.
Mark Morpurgo can be contacted at email@example.com
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supporting music in communities