Fèis Rois

Fhuair mi DVD air leth an-dè ris an robh mi a’ feitheamh airson greis mhath agus tha mi dìreach  air a choimhead: Fichead ’s a h-aon – Fèis Rois, 21 years and counting.. ‘S e prògram aithiriseach ann an Gàidhlig agus Beurla a th’ann cho math ri cuirm chiùil a tha taisbeanadh tàlant na h-òigridh. Ged a tha Fèis Rois nan Inbheach ann a-nis, tha e gu sònraichte drùidhteach is brosnachail a bhith a’ faicinn na h-òigridh, a’ seinn, a’ cluich, a’ dannsa is a’ bruidhinn mun toileachas a tha e a’ toirt dhaibh dìreach a bhith ann. Fad seachdain na Fèise ann an Ulapul, tha iad a’ measgachadh le clann o air feadh Shiorrachd Rois leis an toil an aon seòrsa ciùil  ‘s iad cuideachd a’ faighinn oideachadh o luchd-ciùil ainmeil  a-leithid Fred Mhoireasdain, Phil Choineagain, Alison Kinnaird no Iain Bayne. Chaidh mòran phàrantan, luchd-ciùil agus ainmean ainmeil an ceasnachadh air an DVD‘s iad a’ toirt seachad am beachdan  air an Fhèis.

Thuirt Calum Dòmhnallach à Runrig (e fhèin a’ fuireach ann an Ros an Ear, agus  na bhall air Bòrd Fèis Rois), is e a’ bruidhinn mun chlann aige fhèin: ‘‘Nuair a thig iad air ais às- dèidh cuairt sgoile no bho spòrs, bi iad ag innse dhut mu dheidhinn sa chàr uair a thìde no dhà. Ach nuair a bha iad aig an Fhèis, bi iad ag innse nan sgeulachdan dhut airson seachdain co-dhiù.’’ Thèid ceanglaichean càirdeis a chruthachadh agus   a dh’ùrachadh a mhaireas fad bhliadhnaichean, aig Fèis an t-earraich, air na Cuairtean Cèilidh as t-samhradh agus fad n Fèis ‘Blas’ as t-fhoghar. 

Ach ged a tha spòrs gu leòr ann, agus cothroman ionnsachaidh mìorbhaileach, chan e sin a-mhàin a tha a’ dèanamh Fèis Rois, no Fèisean nan Gàidheal gu lèir, cho uabhasach cudromach  don  Ghàidhealtachd agus  do dh’Alba air fad. Ann a bhith a’ gabhail pàirt anns na Fèisean, mar luchd-ionnsachaidh no mar luchd-teagaisg, tha iad uile a’ cumail beò an t-seann dòigh ar cultar a thoirt seachad – ceòl, òrain, sgeulachdan, dannsa agus a’ Ghàidhlig fhèin – dhan ath ghinealach, mar a thugadh a-riamh ann am beul-aithris thraidiseanta na Gàidhealtachd. Rud nàdarrach, ma-tha. Ach cha mhòr nach deach an t-slabhraidh seo a bhriseadh – o chionn fichead bliadhna cha robh e mar sin idir. Mar a thuirt iomadh compàirtiche, cha robh e  idir ‘cool’ a bhith a’ cluich ceòl traidiseanta aig an àm sin. Chruthaich na Fèisean rùm sàbhailte airson seo agus mar sin b’ urrainn dhan òigridh fàs sa cheòl  cho math ri eòlas fhaighinn air an cuid dualchais; dh’fhàs iad misneachail agus làidir fo bhrosnachadh Rita Hunter, ceannard lèirsinneach Fèis Rois fad fichead bliadhna. San latha an-diugh tha Fèisean nan Gàidheal nam pàirt cudromach, soirbheachail de bheatha  air Gàidhealtachd agus air Galltachd– rud nàdarrach a-rithist. 

Agus dè  a’ phàirt a bhios Gàidhlig fhèin a’ cluich anns na Fèisean? Bhon toiseach bha poileasaidh Gàidhlig ann; b’ fheudar dha na sgoilearan clasaichean Gàidhlig a dhèanamh còmhla ri feadhainn ciùil. Mar sin bi Gàidhlig ceangailte ris an dualchas Gàidhealach, Albannach gu lèir, pàirt nàdarrach agus spòrsail den Fhèis agus den bheatha cheòlmhor aca, ged nach bi iad uile ga h-ionnsachadh gu fileantachd. A-nis tha am poileasaidh seo ga ùrachadh, gus tuilleadh bhrosnachaidh is àrdachaidh a thoirt air cleachdadh na Gàidhlig aig na Fèisean.  Tha fear de na h-òrain Ghàidhlig air an CD mu dheireadh le Runrig (Everything You See) dìreach mun chuspair seo:

Sona.
 
Taobh cùl an dorais cha robh grian
Cha robh biadh is cha robh fìon
Tha là an t-saoraidh neist air tighinn
Mar tuil, mar eun air sgiath

Cum a-mach do shùil is èisd
Tha tobar shaibhreas aig an Fhèis
Ar clann an-diugh, le guth an dè
Gaisgich òg, le mire, le spèis

Sona ‘n-dràsd’ tha mi
‘S mi gun uallach bhon a’ ghrèin
Linn ùr a tighinn gu bi
‘Mach a fàsach lom is tioram

Tha i àlainn, tha i bòidheach
Tha i làidir, tha i òrach

Aon rud a tha gu h-àraidh brosnachail ‘s e an t-àite a tha aig Ros an Ear ann an soirbheachas na Fèise leis na tha ann de thachartasan air feadh na sgìre (is anns an Seaboard Hall, am bliadhna 14 Lùnasdal), agus leis na tha ann de luchd-teagaisg  agus luchd-ionnsachaidh às an sgìre againne a’ gabhail pàirt. Bidh mòran sgoilearan ionadail a thèid air adhart gu bhith nan cluicheadairean proifeaiseanta is iad fhèin nan luchd-teagaisg aig an Fhèis, mar Olivia Ross à Bail’ a’ Chnuic, no Fiona Dalgetty à Nigg (i fhèin na ceannard ùr den Fhèis a-nis), no Anna Massie is Lauren NicColla às an Eilean Dubh.

Tha mòran iomraidhean  air an DVD air ‘dorsan is uinneagan a’ fosgladh’ dha na sgoilearan. Calum Dòmhnallach a-rithist: ‘‘Tha an Fhèis a’ toirt sealladh beag dè tha e a’ ciallachadh a bhith Gàidhealach’’, agus tha toileachas agus moit aig  an òigridh a bhith a’ buntainn do ‘‘ar dualchas, agus ’s e rud prìseil a th’ ann. Cha robh sin aig a’ ghinealach againne, agus sin agad rud a tha an Fhèis a’ toirt air ais.’’

***

I’ve just been watching a long-awaited DVD, Fèis Rois – fichead ’s a h-aon: 21 years and counting , and it’s excellent. A 60-minute documentary (Gaelic and English) and a 45-minute concert, it shows why this Fèis, ‘the jewel in the Fèisean crown’ (BBC), is so successful and so important. There are adult as well as junior Fèisean, but it’s particularly impressive to see all the young people enjoying the experience so much, singing , playing, dancing with like-minded pupils, and being taught by famous names like Phil Cunningham etc. One of the parents, Calum Macdonald from Runrig (himself living in Easter Ross and on the Fèis Rois Board)  said that after a school or sports trip, the children would tell you about it for an hour in the car on the way home, but they would be telling Fèis stories for a week at least. Real friendships are forged during the Fèis week in Ullapool in the spring, the Ceilidh Trails in the summer, and the Blàs Festival in the autumn.

But it’s not just the fun and the learning that’s important. The participants – learners and tutors – are keeping alive the Highland tradition of passing on music and stories from person to person and from generation to generation, a chain that was close to breaking when the Fèisean started. Many participants stressed how uncool it was 20 years ago to be involved in traditional music (with tales of hiding fiddles in the bushes or only taking your accordian somewhere under cover of darkness!), and how the Fèis Rois, under the visionary leadership of Rita Hunter, changed all this by providing a ‘safe zone’ for young people to grow in their musical heritage. It has now become far more natural again to play traditional instruments, and there is an abundance of self-confident young talent on the performing circuit. As Donald Shaw says, ‘‘the Fèis is like an electricity supply to traditional music.’’

Gaelic plays a large part too – all participants take Gaelic classes as well as music ones, and join in the singing, and further encouragement is planned to give easier access to this aspect of the common Highland heritage. One of the Gaelic songs on Runrig’s last album, Everything You See, is actually about their joy in sense of renewal the Fèisean have brought to Gaelic and our Highland culture:

Sona (Joyful)

“On the other side of the (prison) door there was no sun
There was no food and there was no wine”
But the day of release has now arrived
Like a flood, like a bird on the wing

“Keep your eyes open and listen”
There is a well of riches at the Fèis
Our children today, with the voices of yesterday
Champions of youth, with joy, with respect

Joyful
I have no worries now
A new era has risen up
From a bleak and an arid wilderness

She is lovely, she is beautiful
She is strong, she is golden

A very encouraging aspect is the strong role played in the Fèis by Easter Ross, with events across the area (including in the Seaboard Hall, this year on 14 August) and large numbers of local participants and tutors. Some of the original pupils have gone on to become professional performers and are now respected Fèis tutors  themselves, such as Olivia Ross from Hilton, Fiona Dalgetty from Nigg (now the new head of Fèis Rois herself) and Anna Massie and Lauren MacColl from the Black Isle.

Many of those interviewed used images like ‘‘doors opening for the young people’’. Calum Macdonald again: ‘‘The Fèis gives them an insight into what it is to be a Gael, a Highlander. They discover joy and pride in belonging to our culture, which is a precious thing indeed. Our generation didn’t have this, and now the Fèis has given it back.’’

‘Sona’ lyrics reproduced by kind permission of Calum Macdonald. Copyright C Macdonald/R Macdonald, Ridge Records, Sony BMG Music Entertainment.

Fèis Rois DVD available from record stores or online from Footstompin’, Music Scotland, etc, or from the Fèis office: 01349 862600 or [email protected].