Marcas Mac an Tuairneir Releases Début Single, As Part Of National Theatre Of Scotland 1980s Commission Marcas Mac is set to blast onto the commerical scene as a solo artist, bringing the Gaelic language to the pop music landscape whilst challenging listeners to consider just what Gaelic music is, or could be, in the first place.
The song – Fichead ’s a h-Ochd – was commissioned by National Library of Scotland, for their Revisit the Gaelic 1980s series, placing the song firmly within current retro trends, with the synth-heavy sounds of the decade showcasing Marcas’ signature smokey vocal. With lyrics by Marcas the Gaelic banger was co-written and produced by Lochaber-based music supremo Nick Turner and recorded at Watercolour Music during lockdown, observing strict social distancing guidelines. The doyenne of Gaelic song Mary Ann Kennedy provides backing-vocals, rounding out the creative trio.
Situated within a larger multi-artform project, Fichead ‘s a h-Ochd is the flagship offering from Marcas’ groundbreaking COR project, which the commission spawned. The lyrics are inspired by never-before-heard testimony, gathered from sources including Kenna Campbell OBE, Mary Ann Kennedy, The Scottish Book Trust’s Rosemary Ward and Bòrd na Gàidhlig’s Jim Whannel, who related experiences of being part of Scotland’s then Civil Rights movements - one seeking to establish Gaelic-medium Education and the other to remove Section 28.
The numerical title of the track – fichead ’s a h-Ochd is twenty-eight in Gaelic – references the latter, but whilst the retro-yet-contemporary vibe of the track shirks the ‘trad’ moniker, it remains part of a wider-Gaelic song tradition.
“If one song ever summed up the fate of Gaelic within the education system it is, without doubt, Runrig’s ‘Fichead Bliadhna’, says Marcas, referencing the 1979 hit from their Highland Connection album. “Fichead ’s a h-Ochd picks up that narrative, but instead of recounting the experience of a curriculum devoid of Gaelic, here we find outselves a few years down the line as dawn breaks on the newly-established Gaelic-medium education in Glasgow and Inverness.”
So, the song fills a void in the folkore, with many young Gaelic singers now having benefitted from the opportunities those campaigners sought to endow them with. As the key-change shifts, the young man at the centre of the song’s story looks back on his first day at school, now aged twenty-eight, considering how far Scotland has come in terms of Gaelic and LGBTQ equality.
The song is housed on a brand-new digital platform, which includes testimony, literary references and film and television clips of the era, alongside brand new poetic works by Marcas, some of which he has brought to life through film. “Some of the filmpoems evoke the 1980s and use found footage to illustrate them,” he explains. “Others are more reflective of these contributions to Scottish public life in recognising their legacy, that which we benefit from in contemporary Scotland.”
“The COR project is of a very high calibre,” says Graeme Hawley of the NLS, who selected Marcas for the commission. “I love the look and feel – Marcas has absolutely nailed the aesthetics. I think it will be of huge interest to Gaelic speakers.” The song will receive its first play on BBC Radio nan Gàidheal’s Feasgar on its 28th October commerical release date and will be released to radio after that initial spin. The date linking to the title is auspicious, without doubt, with Marcas, like his father, born on the 28th of his birth-month and brought up in a house with that number.
Fichead ’s a h-Ochd is available here
Marcas Mac an Tuairneir (Mark Spencer Turner) writes poetry, prose, drama and journalism, in Gaelic and English, and splits his time between Edinburgh and his hometown of York
With two full collections in print, ('Deò', Grace Note Publications, 2013 and 'Lus na Tùise', Bradan Press, 2016) and three poetic manuscripts in development, Marcas is one of the most prolific Gaelic poets of the Twenty-first Century. He has been published in various journals and short-listed for several poetry prizes including ' Duais Flíochta Dhúbhglas de hÍde' 'Comórtas Filóchta an Chornéil Eoghain Uí Néill' and ' Off the Stanza'. In 2014, he was awarded the Highland Literary Salon prize for poetry and both second and first place in the ' The Baker Prize' for Gaelic Literature. In 2015, he placed second in the national William Blake Poetry Prize, for his poetry in English and was a runner up in the Wigtown competition for Gaelic poetry. In the same year he was the winner of the Scottish Association of Writers' ' Write Up North!' poetry competition. He was runner up in the same Wigtown competition, again in 2016, going on to win outright in 2017.
Marcas is a Royal National Mòd Gold Medal Finalist and a member of the award-winning Inverness Gaelic Choir, with whom he has performed throughout the UK, at Celtic Connections and as part of Mary Ann Kennedy's 'Aiseag' commission, performed at London's Southbank Centre, Glasgow's Royal Concert Hall and Sabhal Mòr Ostaig. A member of the Gaelic male-vocal ensemble Trosg, with whom he has performed throughout Scotland including performances at Belladrum Tartan Heart Festival, Celtic Connections - and even in a boat shed in Raasay. Trosg's début album is expected in 2019 and includes Marcas' Gaelic reworking of the Proclaimer's 'Sunshine on Leith' as well as a host of traditional Scottish and Irish Gaelic songs.
Marcas has written songs with some of the finest musical talent in Gaeldom, including Gillie MacKenzie and Malina MacDonald. Alongside Mary Ann Kennedy he co-wrote Ainneamhag, a brand new choral composition written for Inverness Gaelic Choir and the 2016 Royal National Mòd. Marcas and Mary Ann's song Grioglachan, a tribute to the late Maggie MacDonald, was included on Mary Ann's Blas Festival Commission Beul na h-Oidhche gu Camhanach and on her album An Dàn (Watercolour Music, 2016). The song was the Scottish entry in the Liet International Song Competition, which took place in Kautokeino, Norwegian Samiland, in the same year.
In 2016 Marcas was named New Gaelic Playwright of the year by Comhairle nan Leabhraichean and Playwrights' Studio Scotland. He made his theatrical début as a co-writer of 'Take Me if You Need Me' (Òran Mór, 2012). His two full length plays, 'Tilleadh' and 'Tioradh', are both in development, following his directorial début at Inverness' Eden Court with 'Diuchdadh', a cross art-form production, curated by Trosg. The evening featuring a brand new micro-play, a two-hander written in Gaelic verse, alongside musical performances from Trosg, Siaban, Mary Ann Kennedy and the late Maggie MacDonald, Eilidh MacKenzie and Donaidh and Peigi Barker, Saffron Handvidge and Marloch. Marcas holds an MA in Television Fiction Writing from Glasgow Caledonian University, for which he was awarded the full MG Alba scholarship in 2011. His work for television includes BBC Alba's 'Ceitidh Mòrag'.
Marcas reviews and criticism has graced the Arts and Books pages of Dàna Magazine, Cothrom Ùr Magazine, Bella Caledonia and Scots Whae Hae. He is currently a PhD Candidate at the University of Edinburgh's Department of Celtic and Scottish Studies, with research interests in the fields of Scottish and Irish Literature, feminism and post-colonial and queer theory. His doctoral thesis focusses on the Scottish Gaelic poetry of the Twenty-first Century - the first large-scale research to engage with this oeuvre. Marcas is the Gaelic Editor of one of the UK's most exciting poetry periodicals, 'The Poets' Republic', soon to launch its fifth issue. Alongside the magazine's editorial team, Marcas has hosted several critically acclaimed poetry events, including the magazine's Edinburgh début at the Scottish Poetry Library.
Marcas début novel, 'Cuairteagan' was recently commissioned by Acair for their popular 'Aiteal' series. Expected in 2019, Marcas has recently completed a residency at Cove Park, where he worked on the manuscript, supported by Comhairle nan Leabhraichean. .
Marcas' début collection, Deò, was published in 2013 by Grace Note Publications.Details
Words and singing from Marcas. Music and hitting things from Nick Turner Details