Fine guitar music and a brisk trade at CD stall

AN EVENING of three contrasting acts rounded off the third Peerie Willie Festival on Sunday.

The offerings, which started with Shetland favourites Maggie Adamson and Brian Nicholson, progressed to Irish lyricism from Redmond O’Toole and ended with sultry jazz from Martin Taylor and Alison Burns, were all top class and held the audience’s attention from the outset.

Maggie and Brian started with a pacy Hungarian dance which engaged the Garrison crowd straight away. The eastern Euro­pean sound, with which they had also delighted the audience at the recent Fiddle Frenzy, went down a storm.

Their varied set included lots of difficult sounding fiddle playing from Young Fiddler of the Year Maggie and guitar from Brian in the style of Peerie Willie. One of Peerie Willie’s favourite tunes, Somewhere over the Rainbow, played in first wistful, then syncopated style, showed off their versatility.

So did one of his tunes, The President, with its hint of Gershwin and part march, part dance.

There were traditional Shetland pieces too, some written by the late Tom Anderson, and singing from Brian in The Wilds of Yell, a nostalgic number about leaving home to sail on a three-year trip in the Merchant Navy. All was done with great aplomb and assurance.

A 10-minute interval followed somewhat unexpectedly after a 40-minute set. With no bar to go to, the audience made do with looking at CDs.

Next up was Irish guitarist Redmond O’Toole who played a guitar that looked like a cello and sounded like a harpsichord. Or more than one instrument, possibly – the beautiful and haunting Spanish compositions were full of harmony and sounded like the work of several players.

He had changed the shape of the guitar, he said, so that he could play the music of JS Bach written for a lute harpsichord. The audience was treated to some Bach, then a gipsy invocation and dance and an Irish tune.

The set ended with a tribute to Peerie Willie, an “easy” tune taught to him, he said, by Brian Nicholson.

Another interval, rather bizar­rely, followed his 40-minute set. But by this time the audience was entranced and there was a brisk trade at the CD desk.

The final act of the evening came from jazz guitarist Martin Taylor accompanying singer Ali­son Burns, whose soft and sultry tones were the perfect ending. The duo, who have recently performed at Ronnie Scott’s, turned the stage into a nightspot with Alison in her black lace and glittery jewellry, Martin in a red velvet chair and a table lamp beside them.

Their renderings of favourites such as I’ll take romance, The good life and Kissing Bug were both sophisticated and relaxing, the diction faultless and the guitar solos impressive.

A portrait of Peerie Willie looked down over the softly-lit stage and there was sustained applause after their final bow. The audience definitely wanted more and the CDs were virtually cleaned out, with £10 and £20 notes being stuffed into plastic bags behind the counter.

Rosalind Griffiths


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