Còisir Ghàidhlig Uibhist

If you happen to be passing Clachan Church Hall on a Monday evening, a beautiful musical sound may greet your ears, as the members of Còisir Ghàidhlig Uibhist practice their songs and their Gaelic pronunciation. About twenty people, native speakers and others, those who can sight read and those who can’t, gather once a fortnight for a couple of hours of  enjoyable singing under the baton of their conductor and choir leader, Joanna Peteranna.
Recent performances, which you may have seen or heard about, took place as a part of the St Kilda Challenge, when the choir joined Julie Fowlis in a concert focussing on the island of Heisgeir, and before that, as a part of a concert raising funds for ‘1 Million Miles for Ellie’, where a wonderful collection of musicians and singers performed in Carinish Hall.


It had been many years since there had been a community Gaelic choir in Uist, when, in the Spring of 2012, Cathy Laing asked Gus MacAulay, the chair of Comann na Mara, the Society of the Sea, about the possibility of forming one. After a time of putting out feelers into the community and discovering that there would be an interest in a Gaelic choir, Gus, believing that Comann na Mara could branch out from marine-related activities, asked Paul MacCallum to set up the Comann na Mara Gaelic Choir. Gus asked Runrig if they would be willing to help with the funding needed for setting up a choir and they generously offered a grant for the purpose. Consequently a group of singers began meeting in Lochmaddy Hall where Paul undertook to give initial shape and form to the choir, teaching them traditional songs. Paul was impressed with the innate musicianship of the singers although they were untrained at the time. He also believed the choir had ‘a family feel’ to it. He earmarked Joanna as a person who was well qualified to take the choir on to the singing of four part harmony and Clachan Church Hall was thought to be a more central venue for easier access by folk from further south. After discussion, it was decided  to broaden out and become the Uist Gaelic Choir or more accurately, Còisir Ghàidhlig Uibhist.


Each year in May, since its formation, the choir has taken part in a charity concert in different parts of Uist and further afield. They have also made a custom of singing Christmas music in Trianaid Care Home during early December. From time to time different singers and musicians have led musical workshops for the choir, for example, their last workshop was led by the singer Christine Kydd who had them singing in rounds in an amazingly short space of time. The choir hope to continue with regular workshops in liaison with the music course at Benbecula College, which promises to be a very fruitful partnership. They have not yet entered the National Mod, but hope to enter one of the local Mods in the coming year as a step in that direction.


Their accompanist, Peter Cooper, helps them greatly by arranging and composing original pieces for their repertoire and by circulating sound files of the four different parts for each piece, a great boon, especially for choir members who do not read music. As for the Gaelic language, their Gaelic tutor, Isa MacKillop, records the words and drills them in the correct pronunciation, especially useful for members who do not have Gaelic themselves. Pieces worked on recently include two of Peter’s compositions which go with the Gaelic poems: Domhnall Ruadh Choruna and Birlinn mo Shuain. They also sang Rutter’s Gaelic Blessing in English as well as the traditional song, Fraoch a Rònaigh.


  • We rehearse every fortnight in Clachan Church Hall, Locheport, North Uist, HS6 5HD - at 7.30 pm. Rehearsals in 2017 begin on 9th January.

New Members

  • The choir would be happy to welcome new members to their ranks. If anyone would like further information or to speak to a choir member, please contact the Secretary, Margaret Keltie, tel: 01870 610 320, email: keltiemargaret@gmail.com, or approach any choir member known to you. If you have watched any of Gareth Malone’s choir competitions, you will know what a dynamic force singing together can be and what an impact it can have on the lives of individuals and on their communities. Singing is both fun and therapeutic!