Blas Commission 2021: Opportunity for musicians


The Blas Festival is delivered by Fèisean nan Gàidheal in partnership with The Highland Council with funding from various bodies including the council, Creative Scotland, HIE and Bòrd na Gàidhlig.


We are inviting proposals for a musician, or collective of musicians, to compose and/or arrange suitable traditional music and Gaelic song for a performance, or performances, to be premiered at this year’s Blas Festival, due to take place between 19 and 27 November 2021. 


The main aim of Blas is to celebrate Highland music, Gaelic language and culture and the festival is held each year throughout the administrative area of The Highland Council with additional events occasionally held in the Western Isles.


Blas is focused on and informed and influenced by the music and culture of the Gàidhealtachd and aims to innovate, collaborate and experiment with exponents of complementary cultures, with the overall aims being to:

  • Celebrate and strengthen traditional Highland Music and promote Gaelic

  • Involve communities as proactive participants, and grow new audiences

  • Innovate & excite

  • Involve young people 

  • Be an international event, seeking to build new audiences, and have visiting international artists in particular, but not exclusively, from Ireland and Nova Scotia.


While regulations in place to deal with the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic will dictate the final format, at this time it is our hope the majority of concert events will be live with an audience, in addition to a series of online workshops, lectures and more.


The Blas Festival programming group is seeking proposals for the creation of a performance lasting up to 40 minutes to include traditional music and Gaelic song or new music and songs in traditional style.  It is hoped the new commission will be performed as the second half of a longer performance evening.


It is 200 years since the birth of Màiri Mhòr nan Òran (Mary MacPherson, Màiri Nighean Iain Bhàin).  We would be particularly interested in proposals which celebrate her work, or new music inspired by the values she demonstrated through her songs - fighting injustice, land ownership, crofters’ rights, shinty, wool working, spinning, nursing and the active involvement of women in political activities.

While not wishing to be prescriptive and though not essential, the inclusion of young singers and/or musicians from local Fèisean would strengthen any proposal. 


There will be a budget of up to £3,000 available to the successful proposer/s who will be expected, as appropriate, to:

  • Compose new material or select and/or arrange existing material to be included in the performance

  • Record guide tracks and prepare sheet music/song words for the participants

  • Lead rehearsals, perhaps online in the first instance

  • Be available, along with the selected participants, for a performance or series of performances during the Blas Festival.


Details you should consider in your proposal:

  • Your initial proposal should be presented on one A4 page

  • The work to be created should have relevance to the aims of Blas including Gaelic language

  • The final performance should be around 40 minutes long

  • Provide detail of past experience you think relevant to this opportunity

  • Ensure you list any personnel you intend to collaborate with to deliver this commission.


Please submit proposals by e-mail to Chrissie Macrae on by 5:00pm on Friday 30 July 2021.  All submissions will be treated confidentially.  We may need to discuss a budget for the performances before reaching a decision, but we would hope to offer a contract to the successful proposer/s by Monday 16 August.


For the avoidance of doubt, the commission fee is for the creation of a 40-minute performance piece.  All costs for the performance/s, including musicians’ fees, accommodation, travel and technical needs, will be negotiated and covered separately by the festival.  If young people from Fèisean are to be involved, Fèisean nan Gàidheal would be very happy to collaborate with the successful bidder to ensure this happens.