WHEN they first came together at Oban High School, the founding members of Capercaillie had no idea that they could make a living from their passion for music.

Four decades later, the band is not only still going strong but is widely credited for bringing Gaelic music to the world stage and helping to inspire the resurgence in trad that is evident today.

Their worldwide musical journey has taken them from the Brazilian rainforest to the Hanging Gardens of Babylon as well as the pop charts – and now they are marking another first with an album of new symphonic arrangements recorded with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra (SSO).

Founding member Donald Shaw told the Sunday National that the album had been a long time coming.

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“It has always been an ambition to work with an orchestra within traditional music and to do it with a world-class orchestra is fantastic,” he said.

“It has been an incredible experience spending time with the BBC SSO and hearing our music come alive with the power and eloquence of their players.”

Shaw said the collaboration was a natural development, as the great symphonic composers of the last few hundred years were influenced by folk melodies, including Beethoven who arranged Gaelic songs.

Comprising favourite material from their wide repertoire, Re-Loved includes waulking songs collected from the Hebrides such as Hi Rim Bo and Mile Marbhaisg, groove-infused instrumentals, modern ballads such as Manus Lunny’s Servant To The Slave and love songs like Iain Ghlinn Cuaich.

They feature lead singer Karen Matheson – once famously hailed by Sean Connery as possessing “a throat touched by God”.

Since the band’s first innovative recordings, they have played in more than 40 countries, released 10 award-winning albums, notched up more than a million sales worldwide, performed and appeared in the film Rob Roy.

Despite the success, Shaw is modest about the band’s contribution to the resurgence in popularity of Scottish folk music.

“I think our popularity in the early 1990s onwards probably coincided with a change of attitude and atmosphere for traditional music in Scotland with a younger audience coming through,” he said.

It was a change from when Capercaillie first formed in 1984 when only a handful of trad bands like The Boys Of The Lough made a living from playing full time.

“Forty years ago, you were lucky if you saw something on Hogmanay and that was it really,” said Shaw. “We just played locally and never thought much of it and even when we did get a bit of success and started playing bigger concerts, it was still kind of crazy to think you might make a living out of it.”

A soundtrack for a 1988 Channel 4 documentary series on emigration called The Blood Is Strong drew more attention to the band, however.

“That certainly took us to a wider audience and showed we were experimenting with more than jigs and reels,” said Shaw.

Capercaillie’s major-label debut, 1991’s Delirium, was a watershed release on many levels – being on a major label for a start, plus featuring the band’s first original songs in English and introducing percussion to their sound – but above all for the track Coisich, A Ruin, a funked-up, 400-year-old waulking song which went on to become the UK’s first-ever Gaelic Top 40 hit.

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More attention came when they featured in the 1995 Hollywood movie Rob Roy, starring Liam Neeson and Jessica Lange. That and the release of Braveheart saw a renewed interest in Scottish history and culture which possibly contributed to Capercaillie’s rise.

“I remember in 1996, we did a gig in Shepherd’s Bush in London and it was the first time I saw faces in the audience painted with the St Andrews flag à la Mel Gibson,” laughed Shaw.

He said highlights over the past 40 years included filming Rob Roy and playing in many of the big, old European theatres.

“That was back in the day when it was easier to travel – it’s a nightmare since Brexit,” said Shaw.

Despite Brexit complications, fans will be pleased to know that performances in Denmark, France and Spain are planned to mark the new album’s release next month and the band will also play at Cambridge Folk Festival.

Before that, they will appear on May 1 at the Glasgow Gig For Gaza with headliners Deacon Blue to raise money for Medical Aid for Palestinians.

Re-Loved will be released on double vinyl on May 10, and streaming platforms on May 31.