Call it a freak of nature: Snowy weather forced the cancellation Saturday of Scottish singer and multi-instrumentalist Julie Fowlis concert in Bethlehem, Pa. But here in the sunny Rocky Mountains, all systems are a go for Wednesday nights show at the Community Concert Hall at Fort Lewis College.
Thats a great forecast for local music aficionados, who will be treated to a one-of-a-kind experience when Fowlis (pronounced FOE-liss, if youre chatting up the show) takes the stage. Durango is one of only 12 stops on her current U.S. tour, Music of the Scottish Isles. Keeping in theme, local Celtic band Giants Dance will open the show.
Her touring group includes: husband Eamon Doorley, Dublins Tony Byrne, Highlander Duncan Chisholm and bodhrán champion Martin ONeill.
Giants Dance consists of locals: Kevin Dawson (vocals, fiddle), Karen Cunningham (vocals, flutes and penny whistles), Steve Cunningham (guitar, vocals) and Eric Morningstar (bodhrán, percussion).
Its hardly surprising that Fowlis and the music she sings arent household names. The songs come from the windswept islands of the Outer Hebrides, west of the Isle of Skye in Scotland, and she sings them in Scots Gaelic. Its a language understood by fewer than 1 percent of the Scottish population, so shes not offended when the audience doesnt sing along.
And while the lyrics sound beautiful in the native tongue when she sings them, its just as well that no English versions are available; Brògan ùr agam a-nochd simply sounds more exotic than I have new shoes tonight, an excerpt from one of the tracks on Fowlis most recent album Uam (in English, From Me).
The native of North Uist began young, learning the traditional Gaelic songs at an early age and starting on the Highland bagpipes in primary school. Other instruments soon followed. Among them are the oboe, cor anglais, whistles and many others that have likely never been seen by Colorado audiences. Her goal is to learn 500 Gaelic songs before she turns 50.
Though she hasnt achieved stardom on this side of the pond, Fowlis is much lauded in the U.K. She was named Gaelic Singer of the Year at the Scots Trad Music Awards in 2005 and 2007 and earned the BBC Radio 2 Folk Singer of the Year in 2008. She was also honored as the first recipient of the Scottish governments new Gaelic Ambassador of the Year award (Tosgaire Gàidhlig na Bliadhna). The award honors the person who has done the most to raise the status and profile of Gaelic at home and abroad.
Currently, in addition to having one of the busiest touring schedules in Scotland, Fowlis hosts Fowlis and Folk on the BBC Radio Scotland, and she also can be seen on television on Scotlands new Gaelic digital channel, BBC ALBA.