FOR any artist, having a clear and communicable idea of what you are trying to achieve is essential. The ability to convey ideas and emotions is simply made easier by knowing exactly what it is you are trying to achieve. That clarity of purpose is something that much of the best art has in common. For Sian, it’s simply their reason for being.

Brought together by the Blas festival back in 2016, the Gaelic singing trio of Ellen MacDonald, Ceitlin Lilidh and Eilidh Cormack were formed with one object in mind – to bring the work of long-forgotten female Gaelic bards back to life. It may have started with the young women being thrown together by others but there was method behind the concept.

“Eilidh Mackenzie did bring us together,” says MacDonald, “but even though we didn’t know each other she knew us individually and thought that our voices would work well together.”

Their voices do indeed work well together. Sian means the storm or the elements and is a perfect reflection of the stir the trio have caused since announcing themselves in 2016. Their stunning harmonies and reworkings of Gaelic song brought them to immediate attention and since then they have been battling to find the time to record their first album, All three are busy with other jobs, Ceitlin Lilidh at BBC Alba, MacDonald as a singer with Daimh and Niteworks while also working in children’s programming BBC Alba and Cormack as a Gaelic tutor in primary schools, so allocating time off to record was a struggle. But the results are definitely worth the wait.

“It’s good to finally have it out there,” says MacDonald of their self-titled debut which is released tomorrow. “It’s a relief to actually get to hold it in your hand.”

“We started in 2016 and we’ve been asked every year ‘do you have a CD’ so we decided we would make one,” says Ceitlin Lilidh. “It feels like it’s the right time to do it. I think if we’d done it any earlier it would have been a wee bit premature.”

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It was not just finding the time that proved time-consuming. The trio also had to collect and sift through songs to allow them to find those that would work with their voices, arrange those songs and then whittle them down to an album’s worth of music. The result is a surprisingly contemporary piece of work that nevertheless showcases both the beauty of the three voices and the timeless magic of the Gaelic songs. It is at once both ancient and modern and never less than remarkable.

“We had all those years to collect the material and have exactly what we want on it,” says Cormack. “We were really able to think about it and have lots to choose from and we’ve arranged some more traditional tunes that weren’t part of our repertoire specifically for the album.”

How though, do the trio go about sourcing their material?

“We all have our different sources for songs so we all collect some songs and bring them to the table and then pick ones that we think would be suitable for arranging with our voices and hat maybe lend themselves to nice harmonies,” says MacDonald. “I got loads from Christine Primrose at Sabhal Mor Ostaig as well as Kenna Campbell and Ishbel T MacDonald. Even the people we get these old songs from tend to be women!”

The concept of re-imagining the works of old female bards which brought the trio together is something that clearly inspires them and, while they don’t rule out penning some songs themselves in the future, it is a theme which they have no plans on abandoning any time soon.

“We’ve made sure that the album is full of either songs that were written by women or are traditional songs written from a women’s perspective,” says Cormack. “We do make a conscious effort but we’re not against performing songs by men, it’s just an interesting theme and it brings these lesser-known songs to the fore.”

“All the songs we all like that we’ve found have happened to be by women anyway,” adds Ceitlin Lilidh. “We like the theme so I think we’re going to stick with it. It seems to be working for us.”

It certainly does. For a debut album, Sian’s clarity of purpose shines through. The arrangements and accompaniments add to the whole while never taking away from the voices which are always to the fore and always surprising in their range and the way they work together. The trio were aided by having Donald Shaw as producer and he, along with guitarist Innes White, fiddler Charlie Stewart and percussionist Signy Jakobsdottir, have managed to give a fresh and contemporary folk edge to what is essentially a collection of ancient Gaelic song.

“It’s all obviously traditional material but we’ve tried to make the backing and the arrangements more contemporary,” says Cormack.

“We wanted to keep the meaning of the songs at the forefront but we wanted to arrange them in quite a new and contemporary way,” adds MacDonald. “Innes plays with us all the time but we wanted a couple of other musicians on the album to give us a bigger, fuller sound and also add a bit more variation. And we wanted to make Gaelic songs more accessible to a wider audience.”

“We also took inspiration from the music we like to listen to like (English indie-folk sisters) The Staves and tried to put that together with Gaelic song,” says Cormack.

The trio also appear to feed off each other. Despite having been brought together rather than forming organically, they have a musical and cultural bond as well as voices that were almost meant to intertwine.

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“We’re all very different in terms of style,” says Ceitlin Lilidh. “We’ve all had different influences, we’re all from different backgrounds and it’s nice to have all these different kinds of songs and ideas and bringing these to the table together. You learn from one and other as well.”

“When you sing with other people it’s something special,” says MacDonald. “You create quite a bond.

“I sang in choirs and singing groups when I was younger and then I stopped doing that and I just sang with musicians, which in itself is totally great but when you sing with other people you’re really listening to the tuning, you’re very aware of what everyone else is doing and I felt like I was losing a bit of that. So when we were brought together it was so exciting because it felt like I was getting that back.”

“We didn’t choose to be together but it definitely has worked out well,” adds Cormack.

It certainly has. From that initial Blas festival, Sian have gone on to record with Niteworks, play the Hydro as part of Celtic Connections and now they have their own album out. It has been a process long in the making but one that has definitely proved worth it.

Sian play Cottiers on March 8, Berneray Community Hall on March 10, An Lanntair in Stornoway on March 11 and Seall at Sabhal Mor Ostaig on March 12.

Sian is released tomorrow March 6 and is available in both CD and digital formats