The 26th Accordion and Fiddle Festival got under way last night with concerts in Baltasound, North Nesting, Aith, Muckle Roe and Sandwick, as well as the festival club at Islesburgh.
More than 20 visiting artistes will be performing over the weekend at public halls across the isles with dozens of local acts adding to the musical variety.
Many of the visiting acts, as well as festival-goers, travelled to Shetland on the North Boat on Wednesday night on what was a rough crossing.
That journey, which did not arrive in Lerwick until after 11am yesterday because of the conditions, was a popular topic of conversation at the Thursday night concert at Islesburgh. Compere Nicol McLaren referred to those who were on the boat needing a strong stomach.
The music at the festival club got under way when the Westside Accordion and Fiddle Club took to the stage and warmed the crowd up with several sets of reels and waltzes. Not that room 16 in Islesburgh needed any warming up, the stage lights making it stifling at times – and that was before any dancing.
Oban-born Craig McFadyen was accompanied on the keyboard by Brian Morrison, who stepped in as a last-minute replacement. The highlight of his performance was a set of Gaelic waltzes. McFadyen apologised for his pronunciation of the titles but it did not matter. The tunes and the accompaniment were excellent.
Also performing before the break were Still Game – who took the audience on an unexpected journey with some French tunes and the appearance of an incredible-looking hurdy gurdy – and in a more traditional vein Liza Fullerton and Alison Kay Ramsay, who played fantastically and were a big hit with the audience.
That man Morrison was back on stage with his accordion after the interval to open the second half. His affable on-stage chatter and superb and varied tunes, including The Special Train by an Italian accordionist in which the instrument is made to replicate the sounds of a train, were the hit of the night. So much so that the full crowd demanded more.
Following some gentle encouragement from compere McLaren, he obliged performing a bit of Mozart to top off his set.
Accomplished Irish visitors Aileen, Emma and Ciaran Fitzpatrick were next up. They were said to be nervous on what was their first trip to Shetland but needn’t have been as their modern approach was fantastic and well received.
The jazz-influenced Jim Cleland Trio, with their matching tartan waistcoats, took the baton from the young Irish group. They took the pace up and down throughout the performance before the trio finished with a fine set of reels.
Then it was left for the well-known Roy Hendrie Scottish Dance Band to take over and get the crowd ready for the dance. That they did with a fine set of eight reels to finish the club’s opening night concert.
If the variety and quality of musicianship on show is replicated over the rest of the weekend accordion and fiddle fans are in for a treat.
• There will be full coverage of the Accordion and Fiddle Festival in next week’s Shetland Times, including reviews and photographs.