Gloir, Usher Hall Saturday 4th May 2019

The aim of our project was to stage a Memorial Concert for the late John Macleod in the Usher Hall, Edinburgh.

This was to be a Massed Choir concert incorporating as many choristers from the membership choirs of Comunn nan Coisirean as possible. We also wished to involve family members in the programme of music as well as a performance from Soisgeul, the Gospel Gaelic Choir.

We wanted to produce a high quality Souvenir Programme and sought advertisers to fund this.

We knew we would require additional Sound as some of the pieces in the programme required amplification. The costs for this exceeded our original estimate. This would certainly be something to bear in mind for the future.

Our intention was to be able to give some profit to a charity chosen by the Macleod family. The preferred Charity was to be MND Scotland, as John had been instrumental in setting up the Edinburgh Branch in the early 1980's when little was known about the disease. Volunteers from the charity came along to the concert and managed a Bucket Shake at the end of the night, collecting a Grand Total of £800.03, which is an incredible amount from one evening. An additional £1000 was donated to the charity.

We enlisted the expertise of Cathy Macdonald to be our Beann an Taighe for the night. She refused a fee which was really good of her. There is no question that her input on the night greatly enhanced the calibre of our concert.

Part of the Bord na Gaidhlig funding was to fund a Stage Manager. I am so glad we did this. He worked so hard on the day and night and took responsibility for a huge number of things which would have been very challenging for the rest of us. Also, to save us £350 to hire the lighting desk at the venue, he preset the desk and brought along two lads to man this on the night. They ended up being blown away by the whole experience and were most effusive about the quality of the music on the night - another success in spreading how wonderful Gaelic music is to the sceptics!

We knew we would have to spend some money on advertising the event. Lothian Gaelic Choir helped out here to help offset the costs of the printing for posters and fliers. In the end the £200 we should have paid the Usher Hall for large posters for outside the venue, were taken off as they went up late - bonus!

The concert was a resounding success. The night itself exceeded all expectations and proved to be a very special and memorable event for everyone involved.

The whole project had taken over a year in planning. It had been 27 years since the last Massed Choir event took place in the Usher Hall , so it was quite a challenge. Costs have risen during that time. We had to make sure we attracted an audience - all very well recruiting 180 plus singers from all over the country, but are they bringing audience supporters with them?

Who was our audience going to be ? Would the Edinburgh Gaelic Community be enough? How would we attract/sell tickets to non Gaelic Speakers? These were all challenges, but we seemed to overcome these and attracted a wide audience of Gaelic and non Gaelic speakers. We knew we would require additional Sound as some of the pieces in the programme required amplification. This proved a big challenge. We ended up using A&R systems who know the venue. The quote was more than we had budgeted for however. As we got nearer the concert, the company hinted that there would likely be additional charges as we required more than they first thought. The good news was, that in the end, they settled with the original quote, saying that they had evened it off as no sound was required for the Upper Circle where we were not selling tickets.

We had originally put in a bid through Demus Productions, to film a Documentary/Music programme to go on BBC Alba. This was declined. However, BBC Radio nan Gaidheal took on the project by recording the entire concert on the night. An hour and a half programme went out at 9pm on Sunday 26th May. The pieces that were not used, due to lack of time, will be broadcast at other times.

The audience feedback was extraordinary. Social Media means you have almost instant feedback.

Even the rehearsal created genuine excitement among the performers and we soon knew and understood that we were about to be part of something very special.

I had roped in several of my non Gaelic Choir friends to sell programmes, man the lighting desk etc.

Their reaction was incredible. They were very effusive with their praise and I definitely felt we had made a success of 'bringing Gaelic music to the masses'.

We are indebited to Bord na Gaidhlig for supporting this project. We put an advert from the Bord on the front inside cover of our Souvenir Programme, Bord na Gaidhlig was named in our Acknowledgement section as well as being mentioned on the night of the concert.

It would not have been possible to carry out the project without the support of the main organisations.

It is hard to believe that it has taken 27years to get the Massed Choirs back to the Usher Hall. We are now seeking opportunities to repeat the concert. I have approached Celtic Connections so we shall have to wait and see.

Jackie Cotter
Comunn nan Coisirean
July 2019