2009 Folk Festival: Solid, cider-making Asturians were very tuneful, with charm thrown in

SATURDAY – Clickimin

The third night of the festival saw a huge crowd at Clickimin for a varied evening.

Opening the proceedings were Nordic Tone, a group of more than 20 tutors and students from Shetland, Norway, Denmark, Sweden and Finland who had been sharing their knowledge and skills in the week prior to their performance on that night.

They treated the audience to nearly an hour of traditional singing and playing on fiddle, accordion, flute and whistle in a set that ranged from sad love songs to Finnish polkas. The stage was full – a great effort and lots of talent.

Together they produced an enjoyable orchestral sound in a long set, which warmed everyone up for the impressive Sheila Henderson Band.

The four-piece band emerged from a sophisticated smoky backdrop of pink and green lighting and, it seemed, they could make any style sound good.

Henderson sang many of her own compositions, her big voice railing against standing in the shadows or living a lie. Particularly enjoyable were the bluesy Never No More and the Beth Nielsen Chapman number Say You Will, aided by band members Ivor “Fred” Polson, drummer Archer Kemp and veteran rocker Brian Nicholson who produced some brilliant guitar work.

Next up was Felpeyu, from the rugged Asturian region between the mountains and the sea of northern Spain. Their charming front man chatted away to the audience about everything from cider-making to the Flintstones and their music impressed too, with tuneful fiddle, flute accordion and Asturian bagpipes aided by the solid rhythms of bouzouki, bass and bodhran. “I hope you like it”, he said, and the audience did, the fast fingerwork and insistent beat producing a great sound especially in the Asturian wedding tune.

Felpeyu is a well-respected band in the Asturian region and was a great addition to the festival.

By contrast the renowned Irish songstress Cara Dillon introduced a sadder tone in her love songs. The blonde beauty opened with a lament about Johnny – her next subject, Jimmy, was “a whole lot worse”. There was also a song about another mean man, Paddy, which got the audience clapping and impressed with frantic guitar and pipes.

But the band could perform in happier mode too, with several Irish jigs and Cara on fiddle showing her versatility.

Then there was haunting music. Dillon’s song The Parting Glass and her song about the Hill of Thieves, about what she loved about her home in County Derry, were particularly moving, with the swirling stage effects of green Irish mist adding to the atmosphere and much appreciated by the audience.

Then came a change of pace for the final act. Frigg, a young and amazingly energetic Finnish-Norwegian fiddle group influenced by American grassroots styles as well as Nordic music, were simply terrific.

Their high-octane performance inspired much shouting, stomping and clapping from the audience, and at last folk got up to dance in front of the stage. The four fiddles, plus guitar banjo and double bass, produced a fully rounded sound, and their monosyllabic “singing” was truly frenetic.

“Here’s a tune I wrote about a slow rally driver”, one of the band said, with the furious fiddling against a billowing red-lit wall of smoke looking almost like spontaneous combustion.

Their varied sounds, frenetic performance and humour enthralled the audience, and the extended clapping produced the only encore of the night. But it was a shame so many people started to leave the hall before the end of their set – they deserved to be listened to. More Frigg and shortened sets from the others might have been the answer.

Rosalind Griffiths


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