We got in touch with Mary Ann Kennedy after hearing so much about her recent gig at Celtic Connections with with new group Na Seoid (The Heroes).

Mary Ann Kennedy

Na Seoid has an amazingly strong line up - Can you tell us a bit about how you all got together?

It was at the Dunoon Mod that I realised that there was a new movement in Gaelic music. I had always liked the Mod, despite its old-fashioned image and the debates and criticisms connected with it recently. But at this particular Mod there was something different - Gaelic was being heard on the streets among families and among young people and there were young able confident singers to be heard on stage -especially men.

Sitting listening to the Gold Medals, I began to make up a list on the back of the Mod programme - and it was on that very day that a new group emerged. Eventually I collected seven heroes -each one of them with a singing voice, with other talents-whether it was an ability to play, to write or to research -but at the heart of the matter there was a desire to see Gaelic as a part of the daily life of the group as well on stage only.

But it would be no easy task to bring such a large group - perhaps up to eight -together. After thinking about the matter for some time I went to talk to the management of the festival, Blas, which was established in the years before the Highland Year of Culture 2007, and fortunately as the executive Director of the group that managed Blas, Art Cormack from Fèisean nan Gàidheal said, they were all for it.

And who is in the band?

With us is James Graham from Lochinver - the first Highlander and the first boy ever to win BBC Radio Scotland's prize for Young Musician of the Year at Celtic Connections in 2004. And this year has been very successful for him too as he has recently won The Gold Medal at the National Mod.

There is Norrie Maciver from Lewis, a student at RSAMD who sings with the group, Bodega, who themselves won one of the major musical awards for young musicians, BBC Radio 2 's Young Folk in 2005. There is another one with a connection to Carloway and also to Skye, Norman MacArthur, a member of the group Meantime, and who won the Traditional Gold Medal at that famous Mod in Dunoon.

The Gold Medals are being scattered over the place also! Gillebrìde Mac a' Mhaoilein from Gearraidh Bhailteas in Uist , who now lives in Spain and another Lewis man, Calum Alex MacMillan both have two each. With them is one of Gaeldom's new voices, Gregor Lawrie, whose family, with famous piping connections, belongs to Argyll and who has Uist connections and lastly the captain himself, Angus Skippinish MacPhail who at long last reveals that he has a powerful singing voice.

What is amazing about these musicians, is not only that this is men to the fore - but that Gaelic is at the heart of their lives- it is not only a language that is kept for the stage, and I think this has a particular effect on the way in which they deliver their songs.

Na Seoid

And now you have an album out - can you tell us a bit about that too?

The album itself is a bit unusual, since most of it was recorded live, together in the studio - entirely without cutting or help from the computer's mouse as often happens with today's recordings. This is 'real music' - it worried us in the studio but it brought the music and the musicians alive -that is very important to us.

For those of us who haven't been lucky enough to see you play as yet, where and when will we be able to see you this year?

We are to play on the first night of Heb Fest this year and we are full of hope that we'll manage to return to sing at this year's Blas.

Any exciting solo projects happening this year?

I'm involved in many projects throughout the year, among them creating new music between Scots and the people of Catalunya, and a tour in May as part of the SAC scheme, Tune Up. I will be out with an old friend, Bruce Molsky, who plays American old country music, and another two friends, Gerry O Connor from Ireland and Gilles le Bigot from Brittany and Mike and Ali Vass from Nairn. The tour is called Fiddle Rendezvous - My husband and I are busy building a new house and studio - a lot of work!

We know you're involved in a GASD funded community project in Lochaber called Ceilear! How is that going?

Great! We meet every Monday night in Ballachulish and Acharacle to sing for fun. We even managed to get a choir together for the Lochaber Mod last year - it was good that we managed to represent the district. But it is not really a 'choir' -everyone who wants to sing with other people is welcome.

Mary Ann Kennedy and Ceilear!
  • They're not cool but I like them .... sheepskin slippers (It's cold here!)

  • I like thrillers, gumshoe and such like - I am in the middle of Philip Marlowe just now - marvellous!

  • When I was young I wanted to be - in a music group

  • You couldn't tell but I am....very shy - honestly!

  • Soundtrack to my life ... Snow Patrol Chasing Cars, The Stranglers Golden Brown, Archie Grant - When I Came to Glasgow First, Bothy Band - Fionnghala

  • The last time I cried ... watching a film