‘Their psalms brought healing to these waters,
mending cracks each vessel’s wake had made
through narrow bays and inlets.’
(Psalm-Boat, Donald S. Murray)
The poetry of Donald S Murray will be combined with stories and the magnificent sound of Gaelic Psalms at a special bilingual event on Friday 5 May, which sees members of the Loch Erisort Psalmboat community come together with artist Déirdre Ní Mhathúna and other key Gaelic figures to share their stories and shed light on the fascinating world of Psalmboat singing, which formed the inspiration behind the Pròiseact Bàta nan Salm arts and community heritage project.
Pròiseact Bàta nan Salm/The Psalmboat Project is an artist-led, bilingual creative exploration into the long-gone, but vividly-remembered sailing journeys of the psalmboats of Loch Erisort. Tapping into the Gaelic language, supporting people’s complex sense of identity (multiple identities in most cases) and creating stunning visual, aural and written work from that wellspring were the founding blocks of the project, and Friday’s event will be a culmination of sorts.
In September 2015, the organisers filmed a short re-enactment sequence of psalmsingers both ashore and under sail, illustrating how generations of Lochs people sang the Gaelic psalms while sailing to and from worship in a documentary film, being developed over the long-term life of the project. They also launched the beautiful hand-made Psalm-Boat poetry publication to an audience of psalmsingers and sailors at the Woodlands Centre in Stornoway.
This is a project which has involved artists, writers and community members who have been given the chance to tell their own stories of the Psalmboats. Friday’s performance features Edinburgh-based artist and project leader Déirdre Ní Mhathúna, storyteller Donalasdair Smith of Ceòs village, psalm precentor and storytellers Calum Macdonald of Ceòs Glebe and Kenneth Macinnes of North Lochs, singer and storyteller Marybel Kennedy of Crosbost, and Jann Skelly of Stornoway who shares her family story with her mother, son and grandson all involved in the project as skipper, storyteller and sailor.
They will be joined by Maggie Smith – actor, arts animateur and Gaelic activisit and Muriel Ann Macleod – creative director of Rural Nations, who will be performing and reading poetry. They are passionately keen to tell their stories, their family stories and their faith journeys across the loch through the generations. Five are native Gaelic speakers from Lochs, and will share their stories with bilingual support, interspersed with the poetry, artwork and film footage from the project.
Déirdre Ní Mhathúna states: ‘The Psalmboat Project/Pròiseact Bàta nan Salm is the focus of my work at the moment. A gathering of activists, artists, sailors and psalmsingers has come together to join me as we build a multi-faceted, creative exploration into the Psalmboats of Loch Erisort. I am so excited to have at least seven members of the project travel to Edinburgh to participate in Lorgan Bàta nan Salm – Traces of the Psalmboats at TradFest 2017 on Friday 5th May.’
Lorgan Bàta nan Salm – Traces of the Psalmboats is on Fri 5 May, 7pm