A poignant family tribute to an inspirational Gaelic song enthusiast, singer and teacher will be staged as part of the Hebridean Celtic Festival this summer

Rod Mackenzie, who passed away two years ago, was the founder and leader of three Gaelic choirs from Back, in Lewis, who frequently enjoyed success at the Royal National Mod and other competitions. His extensive work and commitment to his community earned him a place in the Scottish Traditional Music Hall of Fame.

A concert by Clann 'ic Choinnich (Mackenzie Clan) will feature three of Rod’s four daughters Eilidh, Gillie and Fiona, known collectively as the group Mackenzie, along with some of his 13 grandchildren, in-laws and members of his beloved Còisir Sgìr a Bhac (Back Choir), now conducted by his good friend Avril Allen. The concert will be prepared under the musical direction of Rod’s grandson, the award-winning musician, Innes White.   

The event will be held on Wednesday, 17 July, opening a musical programme at An Lanntair arts centre in Stornoway during HebCelt.

The title, Clann ‘ic Choinnich, Musical Memories #201, stems from the time when Rod, coming to terms with his terminal diagnosis in August 2016, took to sharing his musical memories on social media and the positive response he received brought much comfort during the next six months.

The following evening, Hebridean Women will feature traditional Gaelic singers Cathy Ann Macphee, from Barra; Kathleen Macinnes, from South Uist; and Ceitlin Lilidh and Josie Duncan, from Lewis, with accompaniment from Andy Yearly on keyboard.

The focus will be on songs for and about women and the project has been designed to encourage collaboration, promote the music and songs from the area, but also to provide a ‘master and apprentice’ style of working, with singers chosen from all generations.

On Friday night, celebrated fiddler player Duncan Chisholm will be on stage. One of Scotland’s most recognised and accomplished fiddle players and composers, Duncan picked up the MG Alba Scots Trad Music Awards titles for Composer of the Year and Album of the Year in 2018.

Duncan, who was invited into HebCelt’s Hall of Fame in 2014, will appear at the festival following a tour of Denmark in April and a performance at the National Celtic Festival in Australia in May.

An Lanntair’s programme culminates on Saturday evening with a special Between Islands concert, when the pioneers of this musical collaboration between Orkney, Shetland and the Outer Hebrides return for a unique concert featuring specially-commissioned work.

Willie Campbell, from Lewis; Arthur Nicolson, from Shetland; and Kris Drever, from Orkney, will also showcase their solo songwriting skills in what promises to be one of the many highlights of festival week.

This project is being part financed by the Scottish Government and the European Community Leader 2014-2020 Programme.

Alex Macdonald, An Lanntair’s Head of Performing Arts and Cultural Projects, said: “As ever, we are delighted to work in partnership with HebCelt, and this year we are looking forward to what is a particularly strong line-up in An Lanntair.

“The concerts will place a particular emphasis on Gaelic, collaboration and supporting local artists and include the ever-popular, self-produced shows ‘Hebridean Women’ and ‘Between Islands’.

“We are grateful to Leader for supporting the ‘Between Islands’ initiative, bringing together musicians from the Northern and Western Isles, and playing a part in what promises to be a week of excellent music.”

HebCelt Director Caroline Maclennan said: “This concert series is such a fundamental part of HebCelt programming, demonstrating the commitment of the festival to supporting local and visiting traditional artists.

“We are deeply grateful to An Lanntair for their continued support of the festival.”