By ROSALIND GRIFFITHS
A PACKED Garrison Theatre reverberated to a spirited session of music and story-telling last Thursday during the fourth night of the Fiddle Frenzy.
It was the first year story-telling had been incorporated into the event and it provided a welcome complement to the musical acts.
The evening started with a Scandinavian-themed folk tale from Lawrence Tulloch, explaining why the sea is salt, which was listened to attentively. His affable manner was coupled with his clear delivery and the bonus for the audience, which comprised a large number of tourists, of the Shetland accent and dialect provided a good warm-up act.
But fiddles were never going to be far away and next up were Fradenr Gamla, a traditional fiddle and accordion band. They, too, were well-received by the audience.
The Heritage Fiddlers followed and continued the Scandinavian theme. The group, started by the late Tom Anderson, played several pacy numbers from Scandinavia and Shetland and produced an impressive showcase of some of his collection.
The fiddlers’ irregularly-timed spinning tune was extremely tight, and their rendition of Dr Anderson’s classic Da Slockit Light, coupled with a poetry, reading was very moving. The lasses engaged well with the audience, with the lighting effects on the backdrop adding warmth and atmosphere to the set.
Well and truly warmed up by this time, the audience next experienced a treat to end the first half of the show in the form of Maggie Adamson and Brian Nicolson.
Shetland’s Young Fiddler of the Year Maggie, 16, and Hom Bru guitarist Brian have been playing together for about 18 months and completely wowed the audience. There were Maggie’s own compositions, traditional Shetland tunes and a tune evoking the motion of a boat, complete with erratic lighting on the walls. “If you feel queasy we’re doing it right,” Brian said.
Then they tackled a difficult-sounding Gideon Stove polka with a flourish, followed by their pièce de résistance, a fast and furious eastern European number which Maggie said she had been inspired to play by Slovenian folk festival performers Terrafolk.
The duo’s confidence and flair shone through and the audience roared and shouted with delight. “We’ve got a wheelbarrow of CDs,” Brian told them.
Their encore was a Hungarian number which also got a rapturous response, the audience amazed at Maggie’s precocious talent and assurance coupled with Brian’s virtuosity. Is there anything they cannot play?
After the interval story-teller Davy Cooper took to the stage with the haunting tale of the selkie wife who loved her human husband and family but for whom the call of the sea was too strong. It was a moving and skilful performance which prepared the audience for more music, the headline act of Catriona MacDonald and Annbjorg Lien.
Catriona obviously enjoyed being back on her home stage and the pair continued the Scandinavian theme, as well as playing traditional tunes and many of their own compositions. The lasses, who play together in String Sisters, varied the programme with Gaelic numbers and some of Annbjorg’s compositions as well as Norwegian jigs, emphasising the link between the countries, while their accompanist Andy May did a sterling job on piano.
One of Shetland’s most distinguished fiddlers and herself a former Young Fiddler of the Year, Catriona’s enthusiasm for her instrument was evident in her impassioned performances – her bending, swaying and footstomping left her quite breathless. The colourful lighting, creating by turns pink, blue and green pillars of light behind the performers, added to the dramatic effect.
Her own compostitions The Joy of It and Show Me went down well, as did her penultimate piece Safe Sex – “that’s what Fiddle Frenzy needs” – in which she and Annbjorg clustered round the young Ryan Couper on guitar, there for this one number, to produce a truly party atmosphere. The evening ended on a quieter note with Shingly Beach.
The performance of Catriona and Annbjorg was excellent, phenomenal even, but at around an hour and a quarter was rather long for some of the audience, who started to drift out discreetly from the back. And why do people still not turn off their mobile phones? But these are just niggles. The evening was great entertainment and a valuable window into Shetland culture.