A new collaboration between 24 musicians from Shetland and Orkney will perform on stage together for the first time at May’s Shetland Folk Festival before performing in Orkney three weeks later.
Inspired by the success of the Orkney Gathering project, which premiered at the 2011 Orkney Folk Festival and sold out Glasgow’s Old Fruitmarket at this year’s Celtic Connections, “The Isles Gathering” will unite several generations of musicians for two exciting performances in May.
Joint musical directors Margaret Scollay and Douglas Montgomery will each bring together 12 musicians to form the concerts’ house band. Each performance will feature guest musicians native to the hosting islands.
The Shetland musicians involved in the project include teenage fiddle star Liza Fullerton, dance band legends Jim Halcrow and Peter Wood as well as the acclaimed singer/songwriter Freda Leask, of Shoormal fame.
Lewie Peterson and Ryan Couper from the popular up-and-coming folk band Väir, will join the crew as will two musicians of “dual citizenship” – Shetland singer and instrumentalist Jenny Keldie, who is now resident in Orkney, and Orcadian-born Andrew Gifford, of Shetland’s Fiddlers’ Bid
Many of those involved in the original Orkney project will also be part of the Isles Gathering, including veteran moothie ace Billy Jolly; Kristan Harvey, the BBC Radio Scotland Young Traditional Musician of the Year 2011; accordion whiz Billy Peace and multi-award winner Kris Drever who forms one third of the folk powerhouse Lau.
With the concert programme being drawn from both islands’ heritage the project will put the rich musical traditions and distinctive folk culture of the Northern Isles firmly in the spotlight.
It will be the first time that most of the musicians have met each other onstage. Indeed some of the band will have never met prior to the first day of rehearsals, the day before the first concert scheduled for Saturday 4th May in Mareel.
After their first weekend together in Shetland, the 24-piece band will reunite three weeks later for a performance on Orkney’s largest stage in Kirkwall’s Pickaquoy Centre Arena on Saturday 25th May.
Shetland’s musical director Margaret said: “The combinations and possibilities within The Isles Gathering are endless – I’m delighted to be involved. There’s a real mixture of seasoned players with an injection of youth, giving the chance for the two island groups to pull together some real one-off performances. Look out for some special guests and exciting arrangements from both communities as well as the band on stage – it really is going to be unique.”
Her counterpart in Orkney, Douglas Montgomery said: “I’ve been immersing myself in as much Orkney and Shetland music as I can lay my hands on recently, and Margaret and I have come up with some pretty exciting ideas for the programme. The response to The Gathering so far has been beyond what anyone expected, and so to now be partnering up with musicians from Shetland is excellent. I hope they’re ready for us!”