Piping hot stuff at Mareel

Thursday night, the weekend but not quite the weekend, saw Mareel play host to the dynamic piping and flute playing duo of Ross Ainslie and Jarleth Henderson.

They were ably assisted by the unsung Aly Hutton, also a piper but masquerading as a guitarist. I detect a serious piping evening later not for the faint-hearted.

Ross Ainslie is lost in his music. Photo: Stephen Gordon
Ross Ainslie is lost in his music. Photo: Stephen Gordon

On first was the Sardinian born, now Shetland resident Elena Piras, who played a short competent set of Scottish songs with guitar, including a version of the Fetlar Lullaby, no mean feat, and an unaccompanied song in Gaelic.

Her voice is sweet and rich very appealing and provides a unique interpretation of songs like Burns’ Ae Fond Kiss and the traditional Will Ye No Come Back Again, with her Sardinian accent making for an highly original performance.

With the commencement of the Irish pipe duo, a trio on this occasion, it was soon evident that this was to be a niche interest gig.

Mareel is justifiably interested in promoting these events, but with its controversial financial set-up, is a more popular approach not a more sensible route, before it develops into an elitist clique catering for the few with their own gold-plated popcorn and privileges?

I’m familiar with the Irish or Uilleaan pipes as an integral part of bands like Planxty, but I’m not sure of their universal appeal as the front attraction at a concert. Fifty-five folk turned up for this gig, before I had heard “there were a few tickets left”.

It was a robust set full of energy and uplifting vigourous music to “yuech” to and I’m sure wonderful to dance to. Connie from Constantinople stood out as a slower, enchanting tune.

For me the two songs by Henderson, in a charming slighty breathy yet clean vocal, Anyone Whose Yet to Come written by Paddy Casey and a version of the classic John Martyn tune Over the Hill, were the highlights of the evening.

Jarlath Henderson showed great dexterity. Photo: Stephen Gordon
Jarlath Henderson showed great dexterity. Photo: Stephen Gordon

The duo, who are nominated for a Radio Two folk award later on this month, concede they play a specialist form of music and the importance to break up the instrumentals and the continuous on slot of the skirl of the pipes is not everyone’s cup of tea. “Songs are important for non-musical heads,” they had said earlier.

Those who had made the effort to turn up were thoroughly entertained. There was some enthusiastically swaying to the excitement of the tunes yet again aired by Mareel’s exemplary sound system.

The concert was over by the back of 10 with still time to catch Charlie Brooker’s Weekly Wipe on the box, not hindered by the might of the evening’s pipes still faintly ringing in the ears.


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