The Between Islands event at Mareel on Saturday night was a delight and much appreciated by the large audience – only a seats on the back three or four rows of the auditorium remained unoccupied.
The project was designed to bring together musicians Arthur Nicholson from Shetland, Kris Drever from Orkney and Willie Campbell from the Western Isles, to compose and perform – and to celebrate their island heritage. They had written nine songs in 10 days in their sessions together.
Saturday was the third and final night of the project, the trio having played in the opening concert at the HebCeltic Festival in Stornoway and in Orkney during previous days.
Singing separately and together, the three, each playing guitar, impressed with the sheer quality of their songwriting and singing (and playing) abilities. And although from came from different regions, they had had the shared experience of the vagaries of island life.
This was revealed in the opening song, which started with the words: “Is the boat sailing today, looks like a rough one”, a sentiment with which the audience would be all to familiar.
Their three voices blended and harmonised well, and set the tone for a near-faultless one and a half hours of music.
The interaction between the three was heart-warming, and they had clearly become friends as well as musical collaborators during the project.
Campbell called it an “absolute privilege” to work with the other two, who both concurred with this sentiment.
When they sang and played together, their diction was clear and their guitar playing impressive. And their solo numbers were of the same standard.
Campbell sang – at times in touching higher register – of a doomed marriage, smiling for the camera at the wedding and the “fragile love” that ensued.
Drever, of folk supergroup Lau, sang that he “didn’t try hard enough” and Nicholson performed some favourites: “You don’t need to be in the picture when you’re already in the frame” and “go for it we’ll deal with it later”.
All were well-received by the audience, with lots of claps and cheers.
The “final” song, a bluesy number, was excellent and Nicholson, who won a Danny Kyle award at Celtic Connections last year, showed his singing talent for this genre. However, much loud clapping and thumping of feet brought the trio back on stage for an encore
The Between Islands project was devised by Alex Macdonald of the An Lanntair arts centre in Stornoway and it is hoped the collaboration between islands will continue.