THE SHETLAND Accordion and Fiddle Festival this year is expected to be a great success, with a host of top performers from within and outwith Shetland.
Chairman of the festival Peter Leask described this year’s line-up as “particularly good”, with a strong Irish contingent and a welcome return visit from a Norwegian band who were a “big hit” last time.
The festival, now in its 21st year, has gradually evolved into a major event, Mr Leask said, with this year having the most advance ticket sales ever. By the beginning of this week, four out of six venues for Thursday concerts had sold out as had three of the six Friday venues.
Fiddle and Accordion Society membership has now been sold to 240 people outwith Shetland, he said, and their visit to this festival is expected to provide a welcome boost to the end of the tourist season.
One third of the society’s membership comes from outwith Shetland, and forms part of the close-knit community that travels to festivals throughout Scotland and further afield. It is very encouraging to see the same faces of visitors coming back year after year, said Mr Leask – and there are repeat visits from performers too.
This year’s festival promises a varied repertoire and something for everyone, including young folk. One of the things about the festival that most impresses visitors, said Mr Leask, is the fact that so many young bands take part, putting a modern slant on traditional music.
For although fiddle and accordion music is the staple of Scottish dance music, and a large number of top dance bands will be performing this weekend, many young people from Shetland are taking part too.
There are so many, in fact, that some years at the final Islesburgh concert for under-16s it has been impossible to get them all on the stage during the two-hour concert, and some had to be content with an offer of playing the following year. This enthusiasm bodes well for the future of the festival.
Mr Leask said “it is a good situation to be in”, and is one of the great attractions for south visitors who do not have the same experience.
Among the local acts taking part this year are favourites Young Fiddler of the Year Maggie Adamson and Brian Nicholson, Gemma Donald, Kollifirbolli, Ryan Couper and Adam Johnson, Victoria Laurenson, Miriam Brett, Heritage Fiddlers, Rachel Anne Laurenson and Leeshinat.
A first-time visitor will be Niall Kirkpatrick and his Scottish Ceilidh Band. Niall is originally from Islay, and is already well-known on the Scottish dance scene. Then there are veterans of the performing scene such as Colin Dewar’s Scottish Dance Band, which has been playing for 25 years and has recorded 16 albums.
Many award-winning players will be at the festival, including 15-year-old Craig Paton, who took up the accordion at the age of nine and became the under-16 champion at the All Scotland Music Festival last year. Other award winners are Duncan Black with this Scottish Dance Band, the self-taught George Balfour, and, featured in new Irish band Dalltach (dazzling), an eight times All Irish Champion tin whistle player.
There are many return visits, including James Coutts’ Scottish Dance Band, accordionist Lynne Christie on her 16th visit, Irishman Larry Gavin, Liz Doherty, also from Ireland, fiddler Neil Dawson and after many years, Norwegian folk group Wenche and Terje.