National Theatre of Scotland, Blas Festival and National Trust for Scotland celebrate Gaelic song

13 Jun 2013 in Argyll & the Islands, Dance & Drama, Gaelic, Highland, Music, Outer Hebrides

The National Theatre of Scotland and Blas Festival in partnership with the National Trust for Scotland present


A Little Bird Blown off Course


Created and performed by Fiona J MacKenzie


Musical Director, Donald Shaw; Dramaturg, Bart Capelle; Video Designer, Colin Bell and Colin O’Hara, Design Associate.


Celebrating the life and Gaelic song collection of Margaret Fay Shaw, A Little Bird Blown off Course is a new piece of music–theatre by Fiona J Mackenzie, presented by the National Theatre of Scotland and Blas Festival in partnership with the National Trust for Scotland.


The production will open at the Culloden Battlefield Centre on 06 September and then tour the Highlands of Scotland. There will be a special final performance at Camus Arts Centre on the island of Canna on 14 September.


Margaret Fay Shaw was one of the most notable and important collectors of authentic Scottish Gaelic song in the 20th century, even though her name may not be well-known outside of traditional music circles.


Born in Glenshaw, Pennsylvania USA, Margaret came to Scotland as a teenager and spent a year at school in Helensburgh. She went on to study music in Paris and New York, but returned to Scotland and eventually settled on South Uist. Whilst living there, she met the Gaelic scholar John Lorne Campbell and they married in 1935. For the rest of their lives, the couple were to dedicate themselves to the collecting and preserving of Gaelic songs and folklore for future generations.


Lifting extracts from Margaret’s autobiography, letters, personal photography and previously unseen film footage of island life, A Little Bird Blown off Course will cast fresh light on the importance of this collection to Gaelic culture past and present, and examine the role new Gaelic speakers play in reinvigorating the language. The production will feature live music and song, including extracts from the Gaelic song collection that Margaret and John created and preserved and that form the rich legacy they have bequeathed to Scotland.


The production promises to be an intimate but ambitious new piece of contemporary theatre that melds music, text and video with installation, to highlight the importance of new Gaelic speakers to the survival of Gaelic language and culture, for generations to come.


The creation of A Little Bird Blown Off Course has been led by Fiona J Mackenzie, the BBC Scotland Traditional Music Personality of the Year (2004) and winner of the Burnsong International Songwriting Competition (2009).


This production marks the end of Fiona’s year long attachment to the Company as an Associate Artist (Gaelic), and is the Company’s second Gaelic drama production, following the commission and presentation of bi-lingual play Somersaults by Iain Finlay Macleod in 2011.


Fiona J McKenzie says


“Margaret’s book “Folksongs and Folklore of South Uist” was my first contact with Gaelic song many years ago and has remained my ‘bible’ ever since and having the privilege to work on the original material with Magda Sagarzazzu, the Canna archivist, has been one of the most enlightening and exciting experiences of my life. It is very heartening to see major national bodies such as the National Theatre of Scotland and the National Trust for Scotland working together with the Blas Festival, to produce a piece of work which will hopefully increase awareness and develop new audiences for Gaelic cultural events. I’m very much looking forward to touring the show throughout my own home, in the Highlands.”


Caroline Newall, Director of Artistic Development says


“The National Theatre of Scotland is delighted to be working together with the Blas Festival, in partnership with the National Trust for Scotland, to present Fiona J MacKenzie’s new music theatre production. As a national performing arts company, the National Theatre of Scotland is committed to developing and presenting Gaelic work of the highest quality, to provide for, and build, audiences for Gaelic performance. We are thrilled by the possibilities for incorporating traditional Gaelic arts into contemporary theatre performance, and A Little Bird Blown Off Course, is our first foray into this type of cross artform collaboration”




Wednesday 4 September – St Peters Hall, Daliburgh – South Uist at 7.30pm


Friday 6 September – Culloden Battlefield Centre at 7.30pm


Saturday 7 September – Arainn Shuaineirt/Sunart (strontian) at 7.30pm


Monday 9 September – Ardgay Village Hall at 7.30pm


Wednesday 11 September – Torridan Village Hall at 7.30pm


Thursday 12 September – McPhail Centre, Ullapool at 7.30pm


Friday 13 September – Strathpeffer Pavilion at 7pm


Saturday 14 September – Camus Arts Centre, Canna (NTS) at 4.15pm


Booking: all performances (aside from the South Uist performance on 4 September) can be booked via Eden Court Theatre.

Ticket Prices: £12 – £15 (performances from 6 Sept)

Box Office: 01463 234234 Online:

Full info on Blas Festival programme:

Please check the National Theatre of Scotland website for further information and booking info for the South Uist performance

Source: NTS