The ever-popular children’s entertainers Singing Kettle will be returning to Shetland next week with a brand new show called Farmyard Party.
The four-member group, which has been in existence for nearly 30 years, will perform two shows at Clickimin on 22nd October in their third visit to Shetland in 18 months.
Member Kevin Macleod, now in his 10th year with Singing Kettle, first came to Shetland as a “wee boy” and is delighted to be coming back yet again.
Kevin joined the legendary group as a full-time cast member in 2001 and his years with the purveyors of family entertainment have “flown by”. Other members are founders Cilla Fisher and Artie Trezise, a husband and wife duo who started as a folk band in the 1970s, and classically-trained music man Gary Coupland, who plays keyboards, accordion, trombone and watering can in the shows.
The themed performances, renowned for their madcap humour, contain a range of songs, some new and some to sing along to. Shows are, said Kevin, full of “lots of songs, silliness and dressing up, like pantomime without the boring bits”. Audiences are invited to come in fancy dress if they want to – a recent pirate show yielded lots of interesting outfits – and there is lots of interaction between performers and those watching. “It’s not a show you can come along to with the kids and have a snooze,” said Kevin. “It’s all about families taking part and always different because we take our cue from the kids.”
At the core of the show are kettles, which derive from the fact that Cilla and Artie live in the village of Kingskettle, Fife, which is known locally as Kettle.
The couple used to sing to their daughter Jane (who was once in the group and whom Kevin replaced), and it was she who suggested they record the songs. The notion of the kettle became important and the rhyme “Spout, handle, lid of metal, what’s inside the Singing Kettle”, a jingle Cilla came up with while singing to the young Jane in the car, became used. Four kettles of various colours will be coming to Shetland and inside each is a clue propelling the band into a new song.
Audience participation is vital to the shows and the group members make themselves very accessible. Kevin said: “There’s nothing heavy, no big plot lines, we [aim to be] daft, silly and give kids the upper hand.
“We pick kids from the audience and if we get a wee star it’s great, there’s a danger element because we don’t know what they’ll come out with.”
The shows are now “pacier” than they were in the early days and have been honed to avoid tedium. “Kids are the best critics,” said Kevin. “If they’re bored they’ll tell you straight away.”
The new show Farmyard Party is billed as a “one-hour fun-filled singalong, a fun-packed festival of animal fun and frolics, guaranteed to have the whole family dancing, laughing and singing”.
Songs include Old MacDonald had a Farm, One Man Went to Mow and the Three Pigs and the Wolf, plus the chance to join in the Sheep Dip Derby. Girls and boys of all ages can come dressed as their favourite farmyard animal.
The Singing Kettle have gone from strength to strength since recording their first album in 1982.
To date they have performed live before an estimated four million adults and children, performing over 200 concerts each year. The Singing Kettle’s various television series have been extremely popular. They received a Prince Michael of Kent Safety Award for their “Busy Road Show” video and their first two BBC TV series were awarded a BAFTA.
In 1999, Cilla, Artie, and Gary were awarded the MBE for Services to Children’s Theatre in the New Year Honours List. They went to Buckingham Palace to receive their medals from the Queen, becoming the first group since the Beatles to receive this award. The royal connection continued in 2004 when they were invited by the King and Queen of Jordan to play at the birthday of their daughter Princess Salma at the family’s palace in Amman.