I’m not sure how to start this review. To be honest, I probably shouldn’t even be writing it, being a Fetlar lass myself. But you’ll have to excuse that fact, I’m afraid, because Fiddle Frenzy’s night in Fetlar was superb.
There’s something magical about Fetlar. Maybe it’s all the trowie goings on or maybe it’s just because it’s home, but I always feel there’s something special about the place, and it would seem I’m not the only one if the crowd’s reaction on Friday night was anything to go by.
Headlining was the brilliant Fullsceilidh Spellemanslag, who need no introduction here (and I’m not about to get myself into trouble trying …) Their lively set was a big hit with the crowd and got everyone shouting for an encore, and while they were brilliant, for me the highlight of the night came much earlier.
The first act was made up of fiddle players Maurice Henderson, Ashley Leaper and Joe Jamieson, with Andrew Leaper on guitar, who were introduced by Lawrence Tulloch as “a Fetlar band”. It’s here that you’ll have to forgive my bias because 80-year-old Joe Jamieson is my uncle and Andrew and Ashley are my cousins.
Uncle Joe is a brilliant fiddle player, something I’d heard about a lot growing up but didn’t hear for myself until a few years ago, when he took the fiddle down at my granny’s and played for us one New Year.
Seeing him on stage playing was excellent, especially because so many of the tunes he knows are old, many without names, learnt from other great fiddle players now long gone. It’s special to have someone that can remember them and pass them on to another generation to enjoy.
One such tune played on Friday was learnt from the late Irvine Park, another Fetlar man. Uncle Joe either forgot its name or forgot to ask, so it remains nameless. Others were Winyadepla, Heogravilta and Garster’s Dream, which are all traditional Shetland tunes. It was a lovely set and a gentle start to the night.
The next act on was Kevin Henderson on fiddle, accompanied by guitarist Fionán de Barra. The pair played seven sets of traditional and modern tunes, as well as a couple of guitar tunes from Fionán.
Originally from Dublin, Fionán now plays with Fiddlers’ Bid. I was blown away with his playing. It’s not often my attention is pulled away from the fiddle but with his style, rhythm and impressive finger picking it was hard for it not to be. It was a brilliant reminder that the guitar doesn’t have to (and shouldn’t) play second, er, fiddle in a set like that. Wow is pretty much all that came to mind.
Some of the highlights of their set included a Gaelic song learnt by Kevin from the Boys of the Lough, which will also have to go nameless as Kevin can’t pronounce it. (He didn’t attempt to sing it either, but played the tune instead.) It had a lovely melody and worked really well as a fiddle tune.
They also played Da Trowie Burn and a barn dance learnt from Irish fiddler Martin Hayes. Da Trowie Burn is a favourite of mine, a beautiful Shetland lament and the kind of tune that makes you homesick, and was beautifully played.
The boys finished with a tune written after a night spent in Austin, Texas, on a Fiddlers’ Bid tour, when Kevin and Maurice managed to convince some unwitting folk that they were a Gaelic singing duo. I’m not sure I’d want a repeat of that performance but the tune that came from it was excellent.
The third act on were the Cullivoe Fiddlers. With various members of the band having played from the middle of the last century, it was good to hear them still on the go.
After some minor trowie technical interference, fourth and final act Fullsceilidh took to the stage and immediately got the crowd stomping their feet and even a few young ones up to dance.
They played tunes from their new album Spreefix, as well as a few new ones including Pure Sandy, after the late Sandy Macaulay, and the Pierhead Reel and were, as ever, sickeningly good.
A quick scan around the hall revealed a rare sight – people of all ages sitting enthralled. I can’t imagine many other occasions that young kids will sit for over an hour to watch a night of fiddle music.
After the rows of seating were cleared away there was a dance to Leeshinat to round things off before the various visitors, musicians and organisers made their way to the last ferry. The night reminded me – as did all of the music heard at the Fiddle Frenzy week – of how lucky we are in Shetland to have talent like this on our doorstep.