An Aifreann Gàidhlig (The Gaelic Mass), composed by Blair Douglas, was performed in St Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral, Glasgow, on Saturday 21 January. Candlelight, augmented by coloured lighting, made an atmospheric and restful setting. Blair introduced the work, and spoke briefly, but movingly, on what it meant to him. He hoped that it would not only be enjoyed, but would give comfort and strength, no matter what the listeners’ beliefs might be.
Instruments for this performance were clarsach, violins, viola, cello and flute. Inverness Gaelic Choir were in fine voice, as were the soloists, Maggie Macdonald and Paul McCallum.
The music was beautiful, meditative – not particularly Gaelic except for the odd flattened seventh, and well-balanced between vocal parts and instrumental interludes. There was not much variation in pace and mood, but this was inevitable, given the material. The Gloria was splendid – a stately processional march. Particularly effective was the Creed, delivered in chant-like style by the male voices, unaccompanied except for a sustained drone from the strings.
The hymn sections gave scope for more rousing treatment, particularly the final Glòir do ‘n Athair (Glory to the Father).
The sustained applause testified to the audience’s enjoyment, and there were many favourable comments – “uplifting”, “spiritual”. The work is an old-style “performance” Mass rather than for use in the modern Liturgy, but is superb as a meditation on the Mass. Experiencing it on a Saturday night was a beautiful preparation for Mass the next day! Perhaps Blair will now go on to write a Gaelic congregationalMass.