Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

A musical first…….   2 comments

Regular readers of the Eilean Donan Facebook page will know that I’m a vocal supporter of the National Centre of Excellence in Traditional Music (NCETM) based in nearby Plockton. What is less well known, perhaps because of their quiet modesty, is how strongly the Trustees of Eilean Donan feel about the castle’s position in the local community, and actively supporting a whole host of initiatives. Well last night we had the perfect opportunity to combine the two.

For the majority of the year, our operation revolves around providing an important facility for Scotland’s tourists as a Visitor Attraction, but outside of the main season, we try to utilise the castle for community events. So when Dougie Pincock, Director of NCETM recently approached us about a somewhat unique event, we were more than happy to help.

Every year, as the 6th year leavers come to the end of their schooldays, one of their final tasks, is a formal Recital under Examination conditions. Normally, this would take place in the school itself, but Dougie was keen to make it a bit more of a special event, and as such, asked about the possibility of the performance taking place in Eilean Donan. So last night, a select audience of the musicians closest family and friends gathered in our Banqueting Hall with a real sense of eager anticipation.

Many of you will be aware of the threat of closure that the school has faced in recent months after Highland Regional Council decided, in its wisdom, to remove future funding for the facility. Fortunately, following a huge public outcry, the Scottish Government stepped in to ensure the monies were found to safeguard this national treasure. Well, all I can say is that if last nights performances were anything to go by, then it was money well spent!

Myself and my wife love traditional music, and in our opinion, nothing beats live performances! We like to think we’ve heard and experienced enough to have a reasonably good ear, and I can honestly say that last night definitely exceeded our expectations. These young adults ably and confidently demonstrated that the future of traditional music is in very safe hands, and that young talent, when carefully nurtured by the tutors at NCETM can become truly inspirational.

Whether captivating their audience with a quiet ancient lament, or stirring them up with a foot-stomping modern jig, this talented bunch of young musicians held the entire room in the palm of their very capable hands for two breath-taking hours. Despite the foul weather outside, the castle walls reverberated to the sound of their instruments and rang with the pureness of well-manicured voices. If any of them were at all nervous about the Assessor who sat quietly in the corner observing and grading their efforts, it really didn’t show.

For the musical officiandos amongst you, we were treated to wonderful renditions of such classics as “The Corrievreckan Lullaby” , “Skye Glen Waltz”, “Calum’s Road”, “Zeeto the Bubbleman”, “£50 Cashback”, “The Skylark Ascending”, “Caledonia” and many others. One of the other many highlights was “Hostel Rules” written by one of the performers, Alastair Forsyth, about life in the residential hostel at NECTM.

I think it’s also worth observing that not only does the NCETM produce some simply stunning musicians, but just as importantly, individuals who are confident, assured, well-mannered, polite and a real credit to their families and their heritage.

So on behalf of everyone present, I’d like to take this opportunity to both congratulate as well as thank

Alexander Levack – Pipes & Whistle

Alastair Forsyth – Piano

Caitlin McNeil – Vocals, guitar and piano

Cameron Ross – Fiddle

Iain Macfarlane – Fiddle & mandolin

Michael Ferrie – Guitar

Lee Mackintosh – Guitar, bouzouki and djembe

You gave us all a truly memorable night, and I wish you all fabulously successful futures, wherever your talent leads you.
For blog readers who love traditional music, take note of these names, because these young musicians certainly have the potential to become household names of the future!

FOOTNOTE : Last nights event was recorded, and Dougie has promised to send me a wee sample of it to share with you in due course.

Posted April 2, 2011 by eileandonan in Music

Big in Japan……..   4 comments

Eilean Donan has a truly international appeal with visitors coming to us from every corner of the planet. We were approached by Sony Music Corporation to provide the venue for a music video for one of Japans biggest popstars, Yuna Ito, who was recording the soundtrack for a huge Japanese movie NANA 2.

Now we’ve done music videos here before and are always happy to accomodate them whenever its possible, but only if it doesn’t interfere with our visitors. We were somewhat taken aback however when Sony turned up with a crew of about 100 personnel to shoot this event, and realised that this had to be something a bit special.

Yuna herself was absolutely delightful and I have to say that the whole SONY crew treated the site with great respect while they were here and we look forward to welcoming them back.

Anyway, here’s the video for you to have a look at which contains some great footage of the castle.

Posted August 5, 2010 by eileandonan in Music

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Video, a bright idea……not!   8 comments

Sometimes a very simple idea can turn into an absolute nightmare………

I woke up this morning to an absolute peach of a day! After days and days of rain, I opened the bedroom curtains with limited optimism, but was delighted to discover a radiant blue sky and the promise of a beautiful day in Lochalsh.

On the way out the door I suddenly remembered that “Ceilear”, our young traditional musicians were going to be arriving today for the 2nd of their four summer sessions. Last weeks fabulous event had had to be held in the Coffee Shop due to the inclement weather, but it looked like today’s event could proceed outside in the warm sun. I suddenly had one of those “Lightbulb above the head” ideas. I’d record the group on my wife’s camcorder and post it on the blog so you could all get a wee taste of it.

So I hurried back indoors, grabbed the camcorder bag and set off to work.

At this juncture, I should probably confess  that I have rarely used a camcorder, as I’m the member of the family that normally has a digital SLR camera in hand, leaving the camcorder to my wife and kids.

“There’s a full box of blank discs in there” was the parting shout from my wife as I left the house. Hmmmmmmm.

So predictably, the first problem of the day was actually locating a blank disk! Suffice to say, the kids had been into the new box, and every single one of them had been used to some degree or other. No problem thinks I, I’ll just delete some files and free up some space. Sounds easy, but it actually turned out to be quite impossible. I eventually find a disk that has about 8 minutes recording space at the very end of it, so that will have to suffice.

So, at 11.00am the musicians arrive, set up their gear and start their first tune of the day in front of a very appreciative and truly international audience. I record a great little track thinking that I’ll have it on here for you in no time.

With one thing or another, modern technology plays quite an important part in my life, and I naively like to consider myself as being reasonably competent when dealing with most things that are PC based. BIG MISTAKE, HUGE MISTAKE, MASSIVE MISTAKE!

I had no idea about converting Camcorder IFO files into MPEGs for use on here, or that specialised software was required. At home we’d always just plugged the camcorder direct into the TV and away we go. So the next issue was finding a decent programme to convert the files. Not too straightforward a task as I was to discover after five or six attempts!

The conversion itself took some time, but eventually I managed it. Eureka I thought……..

Next problem! I then realise that the converter has done its work on the whole disk, and seems to have merged everything on it into one huge file. So now I need a video editing programme to extract the piece of video I want. In between dealing with todays 2500 visitors to the Castle and Visitor centre it takes another two hours to source, download, learn how to use and eventually process the clip.

So here I am, several hours later, irrate and fed up with technology, but with a certain amount of satisfaction that I’ve learned several wonderous new things today, although I do now fully appreciate the phrase “Ignorance is bliss!”

Anyway, here’s the video clip. If it works, then I’ll maybe take the camera into areas of the castle that aren’t currently open to the public. Be patient and give the piper a minute to get his pipes tuned,and while you’re waiting click the HD button in the top right hand corner to get the best picture. I also suspect that like all videos we watch on PCs it might depend on how strong your internet connection/broadband is, but if it  doesn’t work for any reason, don’t call me, I’ll call you!  (;-)

Posted July 22, 2010 by eileandonan in Music

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Coffee, Cake & a Ceilidh……   Leave a comment

It’s a wet and miserable start to the weekend here in Lochalsh, but there’s a bright and sunny outlook in our Coffee Shop today! We’re hosting the first of 4 traditional music events with “CEILAIR”, a group of very talented young musicians from the area.

The western highlands has a great reputation as a stronghold for traditional music, and we always try to support this whenever we can. For the last 5 years CEILAIR have performed at the castle during the summer and have always been really well received. This year we have three day-time sessions booked along with an evening concert inside the castle itself.

Normally the day time sessions are located outdoors underneath the trees outside the visitor centre, but the weather is so horrible today we’ve got them inside in the Coffee Shop which is proving immensely entertaining. I’ve got Spanish ladies doing jigs in the middle of the floor, Frenchmen clapping and stomping their feet, Italians desperately trying to get into the rythm, and Scots looking on bemused. Any minute now I’m expecting the whole place to erupt into a full blown Ceilidh! The place is jumping, and the sound of live music is filling the entire Visitor Centre. Anyone for a “Strip the Willow”?

The line up for CEILAIR changes every year, giving talented young musicians valuable experience of performing in front of a live audience, in a wide variety of different venues. The next two dates for the day-time sessions are the 22nd & 28th of July, followed by an evening concert in the Banqueting Hall on Thursday 29th of July at 7.30pm as a fund-raiser for the Dornie Kids Christmas party. So if you’re in the area on any of these dates, pop in, it’s great fun.

Ceilair 2010

Posted July 16, 2010 by eileandonan in Music

The Flemish Caledonian Pipes & Drums   Leave a comment

There is little doubt that for such a small country, Scotland really has a huge international appeal for millions of people. One country where this is definitely true is Belgium. Every year we have the great pleasure to welcome the Flemish Caledonian Pipes and Drums who visit us on their annual pilgrimage to our shores.

Led by the irrepressible Bob Minnekaar, this fabulous group of people visit Eilean Donan every summer, normally just after the World Piping Championships in Glasgow, and always with a box of the finest Belgian Chocolates in hand for the staff. They then entertain visitors with some of the highest quality piping and music that you could ever hope to enjoy.

Always immaculately turned out, they add a huge splash of colour and laughter to the days proceedings, and we look forward to welcoming them back for many years to come.

Posted July 10, 2010 by eileandonan in Music

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