The music courses have been in existence now for 16 years at the Benbecula campus of Lews Castle College UHI.
As programme leaders for the University of the Highlands and Islands BA (Hons) Applied Music degree Lews Castle College UHI had their first cohort of graduates in 2016. They also offer a masters degree - MA Music and the Environment.
They are educational leaders in the use of blended learning to teach – allowing students flexibility to build their music studies around their lives – enabling them to study from home or indeed to move to a beautiful and culturally rich location such as Uist to study. The degree is multi-genre and develops skills in a range of areas relative to music and the creative industries. Uist attracts students with an interest in traditional and Gaelic music.
The 16 years of music courses have been celebrated in a new composition ‘Suite Uist’ by Anna-Wendy Stevenson, recorded by the Far Flung Collective and released at Celtic Connections Festival in Glasgow in January this year.
“We have fostered many partnerships over the years in order to maximise on opportunities for new research and performance experience: for example, Òrain na Cloinne Bige, Far Flung Corners, Feisean nan Gaidheal, Celtic Connections, Celtic Colours in Canada and the South Uist Folk Club.
“Our partnership with Feisean nan Gaidheal’s Fuaran Project saw students travel to Cape Breton in Canada to showcase their skills.
“Our students – current and former – are forging many exciting paths as musicians, researchers, performers, tutors and recording artists. Bands Eabhal and Hecla – named after hills in North and South Uist – both have very busy touring schedules in the UK and Europe.
Lews Castle College is sponsoring the acoustic music tent at the Hebridean Celtic Festival 2017 in Stornoway, and Hecla will be one of the bands performing.
The South Uist Folk Club has been running since January 2016 as the initiative of LCC Student of the Year 2016, Cameron Grant. Cameron, who is in his 3rd year BA applied Music, set up the club in order to put South Uist on the map for potential visiting and touring artists. Based at the Lochboisdale Hotel, the club also provides a platform for students studying in Uist to showcase their talent, whilst welcoming back several successful alumni including award winning fiddler Robbie Greig, and pipers James MacKenzie and Angus Nicolson. The club has hosted many well-known names including Mary Ann Kennedy, Eabhal, Griogair Lawrie, Alex Roberts, Charlie McKerron from Capercaillie and Benbecula.
Far Flung Collective – Bournemouth
Far Flung Corners was first conceived by SoundStorm Music Education Agency as an education project highlighting longstanding cultural diversity in the different corners of the British Isles. In 2014, musicians Alex Roberts and Dan Somogyi launched the project with a highly successful tour of schools in the Uists and Benbecula, taking with them songs from South West England and pieces composed by English school students especially for their Outer Hebridean counterparts. Shadowed by university students enrolled on the world-renowned traditional music courses at Lews Castle College in Benbecula, the musicians, young and older, then worked with Scottish primary school children delivering further workshops in creative songwriting, inspired by landscape, culture and language, and writing new songs to send back to England. A second visit by Dan and Alex took place in 2016, taking in Barra and South Uist Folk Club as well as North Uist and Benbecula. Two return visits to Dorset by Anna-Wendy Stevenson, Simon Bradley and eight students, reached 4000 English children, and led to two sold out showcase performances at Lighthouse, Poole’s Centre for the Arts.
In January the Far Flung Collective released their first album, Far Flung Corners, at the Celtic Connections Festival in Glasgow. This album includes a 20 minute piece composed by Anna-Wendy Stevenson. The piece ‘Suite Uist’ was written to celebrate 15 years of music courses in Benbecula.
Jamie and Anna MacDonald -The Fuaran Project
Fuaran is a heritage initiative established by Fèisean nan Gàidheal to encourage a new generation of Gaelic speakers and singers to actively engage in the research and collection of Gaelic songs in their local area. Fuaran is a project developed and run by Lews Castle College Benbecula Music course alumni, and flautist Rachel Harris. The partnership between Fuaran and Lews Castle College facilitated a variety of collaborations, including the recording and arrangement of newly collected songs, and two showcase projects with performances at the Celtic Colours Festival in Cape Breton in Canada in October 2016 and Celtic Connections January 2017. Several students on the BA applied Music degree, including Jamie and Anna Macdonald, are featured collectors. http://www.feisean.org/fuaran/en/welcome-to-fuaran/
Grogarry Lodge St. Patrick’s Night Concert
For the past five years, HNC course leader and fiddler, Simon Bradley has directed an annual St. Patrick’s Night Concert at Grogarry Lodge in South Uist. This is much enjoyed and anticipated by the community and students alike. This photograph includes music staff: Iain MacDonald, Simon Bradley, Anna-Wendy Stevenson and Roisin King and alumni who returned especially for the event!
Hecla group photo
HECLA is a traditional music trio featuring Ailis Sutherland (pipes/whistle), Ilona Kennedy (fiddle) and Kaitlin Ross (guitar/vocals). The trio has performed in showcases at Celtic Connections, Piping Live, on Celtic Music Radio and are set to perform at the award-winning HebCelt Festival in July 2017. The band takes its name from Hecla – the beautiful and enigmatic hill in South Uist, which can be seen from Lews Castle College where the trio are currently completing the BA (Hons) in Applied Music with the University of the Highlands and Islands. https://www.facebook.com/heclatrio/
Òrain na Cloinne Bige
Uist Gaelic singer Linda MacLeod, and student assistant and guitarist Jordan Neil, working with young children on learning Gaelic songs from Uist. The songs were recorded by alumni student and producer Matheu Watson along with current students and local children. This is a rich project activity developing a new product which will be utilised as an early years Gaelic learning resource, accessible by all. Òrain na Cloinne Bige received funding from Bòrd na Gàidhlig, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and Stòras Uibhist. It is hoped that the resource will be complete by summer 2017.