On Saint Andrew's Day (30th November 2009) at the Town House in Inverness the Highland Branch of the Saltire Society presented its award for an outstanding contribution to Highland culture to musician Blair Douglas for his composition the Gaelic Mass, An Aifreann Ghàidhlig.
The Gaelic Mass was premiered as part of the Blas Festival in St Andrew's Cathedral, Inverness on 4 September. This was followed by performances on the following two days in FortWilliam and Portree. St Columba's Cathedral in Oban hosted another performance, as a closing event to the Year of Homecoming celebrations, on 30 October 2009.
The work features the six traditional elements of the Mass, preceded and followed by four hymns and three instrumental pieces. The whole piece lasts around 45 minutes.
The performance of the Mass featured Paul MacCallum and Maggie MacDonald, with the Inverness Gaelic Choir and traditional and classical musicians. The Mass has been described as firmly rooted in the Celtic tradition, fusing indigenous and classical musical genres, more akin to folk masses than to the classical European forms.
Born and raised on Skye, Blair Douglas has an outstanding international reputation among traditional musicians. As an accordionist and keyboard player, he was a founder member of the bands Runrig, Mactalla and Cliar as well as being a recording artist in his own right.
Celtology, his first solo album, was issued in 1984. It has been followed by Beneath the Beret (1990), A Summer in Skye (1996), Angels from the Ashes (2004) and Stay Strong (2008). His compositions range widely over the musical spectrum and include the popular "Kate Martin's Waltz".
In December 2008 Blair Douglas was voted Composer of the Year in the MG Alba Trad Music Awards. The first printed collection of his music was published this year under the title Manran.
The Highland Branch of the Saltire Society is delighted and proud to recognise the achievements of Blair Douglas.
Previous recipients of the Award have been Mary Ann Kennedy (1999), Bridget Mackenzie (2000), Eric Allan (2002), Katherine Stewart
(2005) and Professor Norman N. Gillies OBE (2007).