“Highland Blast” kicks off in Germany once a year with Scottish music – always in November. Ellen Werner talks to festival director Carla Feuerstein (30) ahead of the start of this year’s tour.
The sun is shining here. Where are you in Scotland and what is the weather like?
Here in Glasgow, of course, it is raining and freezing. Overall, the cliché about Scottish weather is true: it is very humid in both summer and winter.
What brought you to Scotland and its music?
I have lived here for eight years. Originally it was only supposed to be a semester abroad in Stirling, I studied English Literature. I liked it very much in the country, but not in the university. So I stayed, but went to Glasgow and studied sound engineering for two years. Since then I’ve been freelance, working at various venues, going on tour with bands, and at some point started organizing tours.
How did the Highland Blast happen?
Yes, we had this idea — my partner Sean, who was then part of the Paul McKenna band, me, and my parents, with whom I make music myself — at the kitchen table. We were on tour with the band in Germany and sat with the boys until after midnight, there was already a whiskey or two. The Celtic scene is relatively associated with Irish shows. We knew the people here also love Scottish music and culture and thought it would be cool if we could create a festival right away. The next morning we immediately wrote down a business plan.
When listening to Scottish music, the first thing that comes to mind is the bagpipes. Do you have to like it to access the show?
I think we can use it very efficiently. Our piper — by the way, our kid, Robin Ada McKay is only in her early twenties — opens the evening of the concert with our dancer. There are also bagpipes in between, but those who don’t like it will enjoy it too. Of course we have the Great Highland bagpipes. They are actually very loud, after all, they were developed for outdoor use – to intimidate the enemy in battle. But you can play it well too.
With all the overlap with Irish music, what is Scottish in general?
Bagpipes certainly make a big difference – there are different bagpipes in Ireland. Tap dance is also different, with the Scottish style being a bit more relaxed and here it is a solo dance, a rhythmic background to the music, more or less an instrument. Then of course there is Gaelic chant. Gaelic, the third national language, is a very old language mainly sung in the highlands and islands. This is the language in which Kim Carney sings – our newcomer with his band. The second national language, the Scots dialect, is also often sung.
Viewers should be able to discover traditional and modern Scottish music. A big job for just two bands…
We’ve always had a band that, as in the case of Kim Carney, follows a relatively traditional line. And then this time we have Dalhan, which is anyway a mix of traditional folk and current pop music. The band is deeply rooted in the Glasgow scene. The city is a melting pot with many influences. For example, Fiddler comes from Italy. You can hear that this is very cosmopolitan music.
Do you find bands in smaller clubs or are the musicians already better known?
We may already be going on a journey of discovery or seeing bands for years, like Kim Carney, who have been doing a lot lately. Dallahan, on the other hand, has been quite popular in Germany and has now released his third album “Smallworld” here as well. We wanted him on tour for a long time. This year he finally had time.
What does Brexit really bring to you and your tour?
Well… that’s the big secret. We don’t know it. Some time ago we thought that we would do this November tour in post-Brexit Germany. At the first referendum, of course, we were amazed and asked ourselves if it was worth running at all. There have been several visits since then – we just keep going. I personally received my “settled status” in April, the promise that my rights would remain the same after Brexit.
This is now the sixth round of the Highland Blast. So the whole thing seems to be quite successful. How big is the audience?
There will certainly be two to three thousand people, with a total of ten appointments throughout the tour. The smaller houses have 150 seats, the Schwarztal House, one of the larger halls, can accommodate about 300 people. We came here for the first time last year. It was a very nice evening, which probably people also enjoyed. We were invited again.
Whiskey also plays a part…
… probably because it’s cold and wet here in Scotland and the whiskey is heating up. There are an incredible number of distilleries and Scots are very proud of this drink, which is too complex to produce. It was necessary for us to show this in the show as well. Each visitor is greeted with a sip.
What if someone wants to dance?
Willingly! Some did this last year. There are rows of chairs, but there is room for dancing on either side of the stage.
free concert tickets
Highland Blast with Kim Carney, Dallahan, Megan Henderson and Robin Ada McKay, Haus Schwarzetal, Sunday, 7 p.m. (Registration and tickets for separate whiskey tasting from 6 p.m.: www.highlandblast.com)
MOZ is offering two free tickets twice a day until 12 noon today by calling 0137 8801446 (Telemedia Interactive GmbH; 50 cents per call from landlines, mobile phones more expensive). The names of the winners will be published in tomorrow’s edition. To answer the question: What language does Kim Carney sing in?
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