Joy Dunlop April News!

Pan Celtic Festival
I have just returned from another fantastic week at the International Pan Celtic Festival, held this year in Derry/Londonderry. The Pan Celtic is a wonderful event that brings musicians, singers and dancers from the 6 Celtic nations (Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Brittany, Cornwall and the Isle of Man) together for a week of competitions, cèilidhs and informal singalong and it has long been a highlight of my work (and social) calendar.

This year, I was invited at the (very) last minute to compete in the prestigious Traditional Song competition, alongside 12 award winning singers from the Pan Celtic nations. It was the most fantastic night of Celtic music and I was truly thrilled (and more than a bit shocked) to have been crowned theTraditional Singer of the Year 2015. The prize was the most beautiful City of Derry crystal trophy which you can see in the picture below - nach e a tha brèagha?!


In another unexpected twist, I was also asked to compete in the solo Traditional Dance competition, which commenced 5 minutes before my taxi home arrived. After falling asleep en route to the airport (it had been a very long week!) I awoke to hear that I'd also won this competition, making me the first person ever to win both the solo Traditional Song and Dance categories. Sadly, I missed the official presentation ceremony but I'm assured that the 1st prize silver quaich was just beautiful!

Congratulations must also go to all the other winners, including Scottish folk group Ceòl Bho Thuath who finished 2nd in the folk group competition and Taynuilt Gaelic Choir, who also placed 2nd in the Rural Choirs section.

The Pan Celtic is not just about competitions though, the impromptue massed singalongs and evening cèilidhs were, as always, just amazing and it was so lovely to see so many familiar faces and to make new friends. I spent a cracking afternoon at the Culmore Manor Care Home with some of my lovely Scottish and Welsh musician friends entertaining the residents as part of the wonderful Care for a Cèilidh initiative. If you haven't heard about the sterling work that they do, please click on the link above to find out more.

All in all, it was a fantastic week and thank you to all at Cultùrlann Uì Chanàin in particular, for making us feel so welcome. Roll on next year in Carlow... I'm booked already, are you?!

George Campbell Hay Centenary Celebration
This winter, it will be a hundred years since the birth of one of Scotland’s most prolific poets: George Campbell Hay, born on the 8th December 1915. This is being celebrated in Tarbert (Loch Fyne), Argyll with a series of music, art and language workshops throughout 2015, culminating in a concert of new music and an art/photography exhibition on 5 December 2015. A book and CD of selected Hay poetry will also be published containing new music, art and photography that is created throughout the year.

I am lucky to be part of this inspirational project and in addition to performing in the December concert and recording songs for the upcoming CD, I'll be teaching six Gaelic language workshop weekends in Tarbert, Argyll. The first of these takes place on the 2nd/3rd May, full details can be found on the link below or by visiting the official George Campbell Hay website or facebook page.

USA Bound
Grandfather Mountain Song Week & Highland Games / Mòd Ohio
I can't wait to make my first journey over the pond to teach at the Grandfather Mountain Gaelic Language and Song week this summer. Both language and song classes will be on offer, from absolute beginner to advanced level, with extra special additional activities also on offer. You can can find out more about this week over at their official website. I'll also be adjudicating at the North Carolina Regional Mòd, which is part of the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games - see their website for details of how to take part. There might even be a Gaelic song workshop or two there too to boot!

Additionally, I'm looking forward to adjudicating at the Great Lakes Mòd, Ohio for the first time, from the 26th-28th June. This looks to be a lovely event, designed to encourage singers new to performing and also, to encourage those interested in poetry, readings and prose. Anyone looking for more information about this event should contact Mike Mackay or Anne Alexander. I will also be holding my first ever Gaelic language and song workshop in Washington DC around that time - full details about this to follow soon.

Some of you made have heard in the news about Soisgeul - the first ever Gaelic Gospel Choir. Soisgeul began as an idea from Demus Productions, Glasgow to create a Gaelic gospel choir in order to compete in the BBC's Gospel Choir of the Year competition. After a public call for interest, Jackie Cotter (president of the Association of Gaelic Choirs) and Mary Ann Kennedy (the Soisgeul project MD) had the terrible task of picking a small choir out of the nearly 130 fabulous singers who put their names forward.

At this point, a 34-strong choir (and strong it is!) has been selected for the initial part of the gospel challenge - entering the BBC Songs of Praise Gospel Choir of the Year competition - and I'm very excited to be a part of it.

You can keep track of all progress over on our facebook page - wish us luck!

Keep an eye out for my next newsletter when I'll finally be able to tell you about a brand spanking new project that I'm super excited about... It's going to be a lot of fun!
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