Award-winning singer Julie Fowlis showcased her Gaelic songs here at ETSU’s D.P. Culp Center Auditorium for an event hosted by the Mary B. Martin School of the Arts.
Born and raised in Scotland, Fowlis inherited the traditional Scottish culture and learned the nearly-lost Gaelic language from her family as well as the traditional songs that accompanied Scottish history.
Only one percent of Scottish people know the Gaelic language, but Fowlis speaks it fluently and passed on the tradition to her two young daughters.
Fowlis is currently on tour in the United States but will be returning home to her home in Northern Scotland shortly.
Though widely known for her debut in Disney Pixar’s “Brave,” the Gaelic songs she sang during the concert were mostly traditional. Some of her songs were learned during her childhood, one being a lullaby and others being from old Scottish legends.
“I always loved the music. I always loved the language of the songs,” Fowlis said. “They’re very, very powerful. They tell us a lot about who we are and who we come from…”
One of the songs she sang, however, was a Gaelic translation from one of her favorite songs, “Black Bird” by the Beatles.
The band she had with her, one of the players being her husband, were either from Ireland or Scotland and primarily used acoustic instruments.
Two played the guitar, one played the fiddle and every so often, Fowlis would switch between her voice and various other woodwind instruments, including the whistle and the Shruti box. At the very end, she even pulled out the bagpipes.
Fowlis and the band really connected with the crowd. Their occasional joking and poking fun had the audience laughing, clapping and there was even a sing-along in Gaelic.
Though the impact of her voice cannot accurately be described in words, imagine green, rolling hills and a bright blue sky, a castle rearing in the distance and a nostalgic feeling akin to “Lord of the Rings.”
Pure and riveting, Fowlis did an excellent job in representing the traditions and culture of Scotland. She has won many awards, including Scotland’s Gaelic Ambassador. She is the first to receive this title.
Fowlis said she would love to sing in other languages, including French, Spanish and Irish. Even so, her heart belongs to Gaelic.
“It was kind of addictive, and I caught the bug; it’s as simple as that,” Fowlis said.