Happy New Year, and to quote John Lennon “let’s hope it’s a good one!”
Hogmanay 2021 was a quiet celebration for most of us, bringing in the New Year with members of our own households. However, shortly after The Bells, a few local people made their debut on BBC Alba as members of a (virtual) choir made up from 300 singers from 32 Gaelic choirs from around the world, singing Thoir Dhomh do Lamh (trans: Give Me Your Hand) and conducted by Mary Ann Kennedy. According to the BBC presenter, this was a Gathering of Gaelic Choirs on a scale never before seen or heard.
And why are we mentioning this? Because among the singers was Fearnan’s own Fran Donovan!
Fran tells us:
It was a serious joint undertaking between the singers and the BBC – ‘though l suspect for those clever techies at the BBC that it was all in a day’s work. For us, however, it was difficult, not least because we to learn it in only 3 weeks, and 3 x 40-minute Zoom music and Gaelic sessions. Then we each had to submit separate audio and video files to May Brown (Aberfeldy Gaelic Choir’s Music Director) for vetting before they were sent to the BBC.
For me this was a serious learning curve! We had a very small window of good weather for outdoor filming and we had 2 trips to the loch shore, just managing to catch the setting sun. It was absolutely freezing, and Elaine had to hold the music stand (on which was perched the iPad) to stop it from blowing away! She said that motorists were slowing down to watch, but l was completely oblivious to this audience.
The audio recording was more straightforward (but l am not prepared to admit how many l recorded before deciding it was ok!). Then came the difficult bit – both recordings had to be converted into an appropriate file format and compressed so that they could be sent by email. I think l spent a whole afternoon watching YouTube trying to learn how to achieve that.”
The Blog thinks the result was undoubtedly worth getting frozen singing beside the Loch and struggling with the technology!
Those who missed it first time round can watch the performance here (and see how many other local people you can spot. Your starter for 10 is: Cllr John Duff): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2gFSrksDyR0
Mary Ann Kennedy arranged this version of the traditional song and wrote 2 additional verses for this strange, socially distanced year. The chorus translates as:
“Give me your hand, give me your hand, / Although the world is so off course / What is missing is more love. / Give me your hand, give me your hand.”
The final verse, especially written, seems particularly appropriate for the start of 2021:
“Though uncertain when we’ll meet again / A new dawn will surely rise. / Love fixes everything. / Give me your hand, give me your hand.”
Book Club Review and Book of the Year
The book reviewed in December was Pine by Francine Toon.
The author portrayed the setting of the Scottish rural countryside beautifully and described childhood and life in a small, insular community very accurately. We felt the remoteness and haunting atmosphere in the evocative images of the spooky oppressive forest surrounding the village.
Many of the group could relate to the experiences of Lauren’s everyday life reminding them of their own childhood such as ‘guising’, building dens in the woods and the snap, crack and pop of Rice Crispies.
There were varied reactions to the book as a whole. Some considered it a good read and liked the author’s style, while others found the pace too slow until the end where much of the action took place.
Some didn’t engage with the complex characters, but all agreed that Lauren, the 10-year-old protagonist, was extremely resilient as she had so much to deal with in her young life with little support and lack of proper parenting, which meant she missed out on her childhood. Her interest in Tarot, folklore, and elements of witchcraft and the supernatural gave a sense of unease and was variously considered either unsettling or fascinating.
As always, at the end of the year, we vote on our favourite book.
For 2020, eight out of nine of us chose Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens as the first choice, with Conclave by Robert Harris and The Salt Path by Raynor Winn more or less in joint second place.
Our light-hearted festive read which will be reviewed in January is T’was the Night Shift before Christmas by Adam Kay. This was released in October 2019. Kay’s first book This is Going to Hurt, based on diaries from his former career as a doctor, was published by Picador in September 2017 and became an instant Sunday Times best seller.
It’s good to see Alistair getting out and about again, seen here with Linda on her birthday.
Only exercise bikes allowed for the foreseeable future!
(Please note there is absolutely no truth in the rumour that Linda surreptitiously put Alistair’s bike(s) on eBay while he was out of action!)