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Private Label SCGCD014D

There’s a stooshie going on just now about the NHS, but there’s another sort of “health check” that should give people nothing but good news, and that’s the annual release of the students at the Sgoil Chiùil na Gàidhealtachd, the centre for excellence in traditional music at Plockton. As well as being an outlet for promoting the work of the students, this double CD release gives a valuable insight into the future of the tradition. Most, if not all, of the performers here will be taking advanced studies before becoming better-known to a wider audience, so there are a few markers being laid down for the future – event organisers take note!

There are a total of 23 performers on this release, so please excuse the lack of individual credits. The first CD of the pair is by various combinations of the S6 students and the second features a blend of S4 – S6 students, again in multiple permutations. The sets are traditional or traditionally-based and there are great examples of composition by the students themselves. The poignant Whisky Sea for example, penned by Ella Munro whilst in S5 gives an insightful picture of the effects caused by the death of an alcoholic young man, which is all the more powerful when one considers the writer’s age.

Speaking of age, there are inevitably a few (very few!) rough edges here and there, which simply reflect the stage at which these singers and musician find themselves, but if I was one of them, their relatives or tutors, I would be bursting with pride at what’s been achieved here. They are not afraid to think innovatively, try musical fusions and crossovers, and experiment with instrumentation – which was the last traditional CD on which you heard a four-hand piano piece, for example?

A further splendid example of what can be done if a country chooses to invest properly in its musical heritage.

Gordon Potter

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This album was reviewed in Issue 107 of The Living Tradition magazine.