But a few months later, a new chapter of the band, which took the Gaelic language from Highland and Island party halls to concert halls around the world, was about to unfold.
Theater producers Margaret-Anne O’Donnell and Gillian Garrity had embarked on a ‘road trip’ across Scotland to showcase their new company’s ambitions to create bold and accessible new Scottish work that would cross borders – and have returned with a tantalizing prospect to pursue.
After more than three years in development, a major new musical is set to have its world premiere in the Highlands, with Runrig’s music and songs taking center stage.
The Stamping Ground, which is already set to tour Scotland next year after launching at Eden Court in Inverness on Thursday, received the stamp of approval from Runrig songwriters Calum MacDonald and Rory MacDonald during a career spanning 45 years.
The lyrics, themes and characters of their songs have inspired a new story, from Moray playwright Morna Young, set in a modern rural village, which will explore climate change, the impact of tourism, family tensions and growing threats to the way of life. living in a close-knit Highland community.
It focuses on the “couple together forever” Euan and Annie, who return from London with their daughter aiming to leave trouble behind, only to find things are not as they hoped.
Young’s story evolved from an idea for a show inspired by Runrig’s music, which Eden Court had been sitting on for years.
When O’Donnell and Garrity met with then-general manager James Mackenzie-Blackman in early 2019, he suggested Brora songwriter and poet Alan B McLeod’s original concept just before the left.
O’Donnell said: “We had been a bit excited about the stories Scotland tells, the love people have for Scottish stories and our desire to do work that really speaks to Scots, but also speaks to the whole world.
“Runrig had just retired from performing live. We felt it was time to reflect on their legacy. When we did a workshop a few months later, we felt the poetry in their songs was quite phenomenal. We could see the pictures they could paint on stage.
Musical director John Kielty and director Luke Kernaghan have been involved since that workshop, along with three of the current cast, Steven Miller, Brian James O’Sullivan and Annie Grace.
Grace, who previously played with Celtic band The Iron Horse, was quick to get involved.
Grace, who plays Mary, said: “I take my folk tradition very seriously and if there’s ever an opportunity to go out and promote Scottish culture, Gaelic culture or our music, I’m there.
“I was in familiar territory. Runrig was actually the first band I went to see live, at the Milton Hotel in Fort William.
“They were an absolute phenomenon on the west coast of Scotland. They took the Gaelic language, mixed it with contemporary sounds and introduced young people to such a new fusion. The atmosphere was amazing.”
The Stamping Ground was also a dream that Young, a lifelong fan, was asked to work on. In a rented chalet, she set about shaping a scenario of more than 200 songs, lining the walls with lyrics.
She said: “Runrig has something to say about the world and I wanted to stay true to ideas of people, place and identity, while asking questions about the future of the Highlands. There is a creative curiosity in Runrig’s work and I wanted to approach the story in that same spirit.
Gordon, who plays Summer, said: “Morna took absolutely every element of the show straight from the songs.
“There are a lot of characters who have longstanding relationships with the land, their community, and each other. Some have been away for a while and are trying to find a way to reconnect. A lot of it is about having a sense of belonging. »
Miller, who plays Euan, said: “Morna has given her an amazing life since she arrived, she’s done an amazing job.
“There are a host of very carefully crafted but heartfelt messages and themes in there.
“Browsing through Runrig’s songs in the way we have the lyrics has been such a pleasure.”
Worker For The Wind, Going Home, Skye and In Search Of Angels are among the songs set to feature.
Grace said, “We were blown away by how well their songs were translated into musical theatre. We all had a little surprise. Their lyrics are so evocative and they write from a beautiful, genuine love of land, culture and community. Our show mixes all these ingredients.
“There’s a huge element of accountability in what we do. We want to do a really good job. We don’t cover Runrig songs. We present them in a dramatic way. Every song has something attached to it. her and will take you on a journey.
Miller said, “John Kielty, who rearranged and reworked the songs, did such a great job. Runrig’s lyrics were really woven into the show. It’s not a story with a few songs coming out of it.
“For anyone who isn’t a Runrig enthusiast, it’s a jaw-dropping piece of theater and there’s so much more to it than the average musical.”
Gordon added: “It felt like a huge undertaking. None of us deny the amount of work we have to put in, but in a brilliant and challenging way. It’s all about singing, all about dancing with characters who have their hearts on their sleeves. It’s really demanding, but it’s so much fun.