Introduction (Courtesy of the Artist’s site, 2005).
Anne Lorne Gillies is a Scottish singer, songwriter, broadcaster, author and academic. Born in Stirling, she now lives in Ayrshire.
Raised on a croft in Argyll, she began singing in early childhood and won the Mòd Gold Medal when she was only seventeen - the day before she left home to study Celtic and English at Edinburgh University.
In a musical career spanning more than thirty years she has sung throughout the world and made many albums, radio and television series. Unusually she combines classical musical training (in London and Italy) with a deep understanding of Gaelic musical, historical and literary tradition.
A fluent Gaelic speaker, she has been at the heart of the movement to regenerate Scotland’s ancient language and culture – as educationalist, television producer, political activist and, of course, parent.
As a writer she is equally at home in Gaelic and English. She has written scripts and screenplays, short stories and children’s novels, newspaper columns and an award-winning autobiography.
Since early childhood Anne Lorne Gillies has always had a thoroughly eclectic approach to music. Her maternal grandparents were both classical violinists. Her grandfather was a professional conductor with his own orchestra, which played the full classical repertoire around England and Wales. Her mother was a cellist.
Anne Gillies was brought up in the Scottish Highlands, in a tiny crofthouse with neither plumbing nor electricity. But her home was always bursting with books and music: one day chamber music, the next fiddling, piping, accordeon and jew’s harp. Anne’s Granny began teaching her the piano from the age of four, and throughout her schooldays she performed at concerts and shows around Argyll: as a country dancer, a pianist, and a singer – in folk-groups, Gaelic choirs, Gilbert and Sullivan, oratorio, and above all as a solo Gaelic singer with a particular interest in the traditional repertoire.
Anne began learning traditional Gaelic songs from the Rector of Oban High School, John MacLean – brother of renowned Gaelic poet Sorley MacLean, and Calum MacLean, the distinguished folk-collector and co-founder (with Hamish Henderson) of the School of Scottish Studies. Oban then was home to some fine tradition-bearers, notably the Uist piper and singer Alasdair Boyd – from whom Anne learned several songs. Having won the Mòd Gold Medal for singing when she was just 17, she left Oban for Edinburgh University, where she spent four years as the devoted student of the Rev. William Matheson - “indisputably the most distinguished scholar of the Gaelic literary and historical tradition”.
During this time Anne also sang at the Edinburgh International Festival (Usher Hall), folk festivals throughout the UK, Hamish Henderson’s massive celebration of folk-music in Glasgow’s Kelvin Hall, BBC Gaelic radio recitals and even black-and-white television appearances: she always jokes that she appeared on telly before she had actually seen one! She also worked part-time at the School of Scottish Studies as a transcriber and researcher. In fact she expected to remain there for life.
However the performing bug bit again in 1966 when she attended a summer music school in Siena. From Italy she went to London and embarked upon five years’ classical musical training. Her teachers were the Lieder experts Helene Isepp, Ilse Wolf and Paul Hamburger.
Full-time professional career
In 1971 BBC Scotland invited Anne to sing on BBC TV live every Saturday night: 26 weeks as resident singer alongside presenter Magnus Magnusson. This was when she joined Equity and adopted the middle name “Lorne” – which is a name given to the part of Argyll in which she was raised. (There was another Anne Gillies on Equity’s books at that time, a singer from Skye, married to Lewis-born Gaelic singer Calum Kennedy, sister of Gaelic singer Alasdair Gillies, and no relation of Anne Lorne.)
It was also the start of a 15-year long television career (in the days when they still made music programmes!).
You can listen to short samples from some of the tracks from this artist using the player below.
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