As autumn turns to winter, the hillsides and glens of Highland Perthshire in central Scotland come ablaze with color. They also come ablaze with music, centered in the town of Dunkeld, which is headquarters for the festival known as Perthshire Amber.
Singer and songwriter Dougie MacLean, for whom this is home territory, is the founder of Perthshire Amber. “I traveled all over the world playing festivals, so I thought it would be nice to have one here at home,” he says. What was in its first years just a few concerts with MacLean and a fewfriends has become a festival stretching over a run of days in late October and early November (this year it takes place from 26 October until 4 November).
Update: in 2018, plans are to distill the festival back to a weekend event, taking place in early November.
The festival draws artists and audiences from distant lands as well as those close by in Scotland.
In addition to evening concerts featuring headlining artists, there are workshops, open mics, talks and walks, and other activities, including a song bus in which participants travel to iconic sites in Perthshire while being treated to and joining in a good bit of song. There are also the Big Knit, a collaboration of knitters around the world who create blankets and other fabric times which are auctioned off to support the charity Shelter Scotland, and Amber Harvest, through which festival attendees may bring food that is gathered to help those in need.
This year, headliners at the festival include Blazin’ Fiddles, whose individually talented players join up for a powerhouse presentation of Scottish fiddle styles and Findlay Napier and Gillian Frame, who sometimes blend Americana influences into their heart of Scotland style. Emily Smith from Robert Burns country in southwestern Scotland will bring her understanding of traditional Scots song as well as her own original work. Scottish tradition bearer Sheena Wellington will be on hand, as well Buddy MacDonald from Cape Breton. Julie Fowlis, whose voice you may know from the animated film Brave, will be retuning to Perthshire, and Highland fiddle player Duncan Chisholm will bring tunes from his newly launched album Affric into the mix. MacLean will be on hand, giving his own concerts and stepping as the occasional guest with featured artists
Across Highland Perthshire, concerts will be held in venues ranging from concert halls to clubs to a cathedral, a distillery, and an ancient crannog. Won’t be making it to Perthshire? In past years, several of the events have been made available live on the internet, both by subscription and as presentations freely available to all. Keep an eye on the Perthshire Amber web site to see what broadcast plans are for this year.
Here’s a taste of what Perthshire Amber is like — in an update in 2018, a song you may know even though Julie Fowlis sings it in Scottish Gaelic
photo of Gaelic singer Julie Fowlis by Michelle Fowlis
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