“For a singer with a penchant for Scottish and Gaelic song, Elena’s background is quite unusual. She was born in Sardinia, and only discovered Scots and Gaelic music on moving to the UK at age 18 – although her father’s love of singing was unquestionably an influence. That comes through in this new collection, Elena’s second CD. It was mainly recorded during lockdown in a shed set up as a recording studio, and the tasteful and apposite contributions from Angus Lyon (piano), Craig Baxter (bodhrán), Seonaid Aitken (fiddle) and Alex Martin (bass, ukulele) were mixed in later.
The overall mood of the album is roundly uplifting, and Elena is to be congratulated for her achievement and perseverance in the face of multiple issues. Her choice of songs is unified by her intention to make the authentic power of the original song relatable and relevant for today’s listener. To my ears, Elena’s intentions are most closely realised when she communicates most directly and intimately, as on the disc’s three beautiful “natural as breathing” a cappella renditions of Scottish Gaelic language songs (texts and synopses are given). Elena also turns in affecting accounts of Adam McNaughtan’s Yellow’s On The Broom and the traditional Bleacher Lass Of Kelvinhaugh and Da Fetlar Lullaby, and to round off the disc transforms The Parting Glass into a more overtly rousing affair which offers the vital spark of originality that’s missing from some of the album’s earlier offerings, notably Elena’s covers of the well-trodden Fields Of Gold, Last Thing On My Mind and Wild Mountain’s Thyme (sic). These are pleasing and efficient but sadly unremarkable, and add nothing to the already extensive corpus of cover versions.
Elsewhere, though, Elena’s album has much to commend it. For there’s no denying the sense of commitment that Elena brings to her interpretations, or that she’s a competent arranger of her chosen material, even if this commitment doesn’t perhaps quite attain the level of making the songs truly her own…yet.”
“Elena Piras was born in Sardinia, has lived in London and Scotland and now resides in South Wales having picked up an award for her work on the way. She has produced ‘Journey’ which is a twelve track album of predominately traditional Scottish folk music, but also includes songs from Ireland, Sardinia and Bulgaria. She has arranged and has sung some of the songs in Gaelic, Italian and Bulgarian adding to their authenticity.
This is an interesting collection of songs beautifully sung and performed by Elena, the surprise for me was the tracks six and ten ‘Izgreyala Yasna Zvezda’ and ‘Aide Momi Na Megdano’, which are Bulgarian traditional folk songs I think it was the amazing harmonies which grabbed my attention but both songs sound extremely convincing and also demonstrate her diversity in the world of folk music. Several songs are performed without instrumentation with Elena using just her pitch perfect voice; truly stunning!”
Brian Inglis, Director of Jelli Records
Wales Council of the Blind Roundup
An interview with Elena in Wales Council of the Blind’s newsletter Roundup (Winter 2015 edition), in which she talks about her musical journey from Sardinia to the UK.
Sardinia at Twilight
“With hints of Joni Mitchell and allusions to Shepherd sighs, Elena successfully drew together these unrelated musical connotations in a refreshingly organic, personal one-hour set, which constituted the second part of the evening. … The first-rate bill I witnessed was utterly inspiring and professional yet comfortably informal, from start to finish. A musical, cultural and all-round educational evening and a credible publicity for why everybody should visit Sardinia – if this taster were anything to go by.”
Elena opens for Eddi Reader
“The purity of her vocal was greeted with strong applause and Piras had the audience clapping and singing along through her set.”
Piras opens up in style at village concert
“The talented Piras had the onerous task of warming up the crowd, but her deeply impressive voice was enough to grab hold of – and keep – their attention.”
Folk singer Piras hailed by charity
“Elena […] thrilled the crowd with a handful of honest, tender songs. […] Her songs capture listeners immediately and it was a special moment when she performed.”
Sardinian-born singer moves to isles as her Journey is released
“Her Gaelic is very convincing, moverover it’s pitch perfect, rhythmic and emotive. It sounds like a blue print for how Gaelic should always be sung.”
Blind Sardinian learning Gaelic for one year wins 2012 Mod trophy
“In a stunning achievement assisted by three short courses in Gaelic at Sabhal Mor Ostaig, the inspirational Gaelic college on the shores of the Sound of Sleat in Skye, a Sardinian-born singer, Elena Piras has won the Margot Campbell Trophy at the 2012 Royal National Mod in Dunoon after one year learning the language.”
Brave Elena’s Mod
A Pitlochry singer travelled to Dunoon by public transport on her own and won the Margot Campbell Trophy at the Royal National Mòd. Elena Piras’ story is one of remarkable courage – she is blind.
Blind since birth, Elena Piras is a 29-year old opera, jazz and folk singer from Sasseri in Sardinia who moved to England aged 18, she went on to work at the Royal Scottish Academy of Art in Edinburgh, where she now lives.
Breaking the sound barrier … in Gaelic
Blind singer masters language to triumph at the Mod.
Winner beats the odds
“The Sardinian-born singer studied determinedly for 12 months to overcome her blindness to learn Gaelic to the high standard essential to qualify just to take part in the prestigious competition.”
The Press and Journal (PDF)