Review: Hidden gems inspire Back From Beyond show
From rousing fiddles to crunchy guitars, heartfelt harmonies to clever poetry, Back from Beyond was an eclectic celebration of Shetland’s charms.
Visitors to Mareel on Saturday night were treated to a fantastic show – combining live music, spoken word and moving montages and short films.
In a packed auditorium, act after act delivered their experiences of visiting some of Shetland’s hidden gems.
Many local artists talked of their new appreciation of their surroundings, and, as a newcomer to the isles, Back from Beyond was a great introduction to what Shetland has to offer.
Eight musicians, musical groups and poets, all Shetland-based, shared their stories.
During the summer they travelled to the isles’ national nature reserves and national scenic areas, using their visit as inspiration to create music or poetry.
First up were the Mareel Music Makers, armed with an array of instruments to tell their story about their visit to Scalloway and Bigton.
It was a brilliant start to the show as the group combined ukuleles, guitars and percussion to represent the sea and surrounding beauty.
A slick blues section marked the journey between the two locations and the group was met by whistles and a rapturous applause from the audience at the end of the performance.
Next was Neil Thomson’s intricate guitar playing, which matched beautifully with the choral power of the da Shanty Yellmen in their take on Fethaland.
In an introductory video, Thomson spoke about the history of the area, its fishing heritage and “the lovely state of timelessness about the place”.
And his piece did not disappoint, transporting the audience to times gone by.
Teenage folk-funk band Teevliks had the crowd chuckling along with the introduction to their piece about their visit to Noss – encountering plenty of fog and gale force winds when they pitched up their tents on the island.
Eerie bass riffs and a toe-tapping funk section made for an interesting insight into their climb up the noup and their camping experiences.
A real highlight of the evening came just before the interval courtesy of Joyce Wark and popular Shetland band Bongshang.
The fusion of electronic beats, dreamy textures and old film footage, made for a moving and inspiring description of Muckle Roe.
And the high standard continued after the break with Freda Leask and the Shoormal Band and the Jennifer McCormack Trio.
Driving drums opened the second half along with tight harmonies for their piece based on Fair Isle.
“Wir blood is in the soil” was a standout lyric, highlighting the connection between the land and its inhabitants.
Trevor Smith’s guitar playing was also a pleasure to listen to as the array of talented musicians worked their way through the varied song structure.
The laughter continued in the second half as Maurice Henderson of Haltadans talked about the band’s visit to Foula.
Along with its stunning cliffs and scenery, Henderson spoke of the tired Transit van which struggled to transport the band members across the island – despite it only being three miles in length.
Henderson was clearly at ease with the audience and his enthusiasm, love of the island and its folk was there for all to see.
A trio of tunes was played by the group containing talented fiddle players, with Foula Transit being a particular favourite.
Laureen Johnson and Paolo Ritch’s poetry on Eshaness then followed, adding yet more variety to the evening.
Ritch was unable to attend the event but a video featuring stunning views of the cliffs was played to the audience along with a voice over of his poem Da Villans At Da Gate.
Written in dialect, Ritch spoke of his existence in comparison to the great cliffs, drawing on themes of longevity and time.
Johnson’s two poems – Timescales and Comin Fae Da Mill included similar time themes and were warmly received as she recited them on stage.
Folk rockers the Revellers rounded off the evening with their anti- war song Lower The Rope based on the escape of Danish king Guthrum The Dane, who escaped from Unst following a shipwreck.
Adam Priest, who occasionally plays bass with the band, hails from Unst and spoke at length about the group’s trip to Hermaness and how the idea for the song came about.
Priest joined The Revellers on stage as the group injected a good helping of gritty guitar riffs to proceedings.
One happy punter said to me at the bar afterwards, it was like seeing Shetland through my eyes – as if it was all for the first time again.
As a celebration of Shetland, Back from Beyond is both diverse and thought provoking. The night was a huge success.
A website has now been launched – www.backfrombeyond.org – featuring all the music and poetry from the gig.
The project is hoped to encourage people to get out and about and explore Shetland.
Visitors to the website can download the creations so they can listen to them when they visit the various locations featured in the project.
People are also encouraged to upload their own creations onto the website, drawing their own inspiration from the sites.