Fiddle Frenzy finale has Mareel bursting at the seams

All good things come to an end, so the saying goes, and so it was with Fiddle Frenzy 2015 last night.

Did they keep the best for last? That might be an issue for debate but the final concert in Mareel was a cracker.

Students from all over the world had worked extremely hard with the tutors and now they were given the opportunity to perform on stage.

Given the students, tutors and members of the paying public, Mareel was bursting at the seams and everyone present keenly anticipated the entertainment to come.

Bethany Reid welcomed everyone before taking her seat at the keyboard surrounded by around 40 fiddles and a few other instruments including a cello and flute.

They played a beautiful air called Lorna written by Arthur Scott Robertson and a set of Shetland reels.

They clearly enjoyed the experience of playing on stage and certainly the audience enjoyed it too.

With the number of music stands, chairs and mike stands it took a few minutes to clear the stage for the next act and it is here that Jonathan Ritch excels.

He moved around at a speed that is little more than a blur but without fuss or bother and soon everything was in place for Birls Aloud.

This was a band consisting of five fiddle players led by Eunice Henderson.

She was joined by Sophie and Alison Moar, Susan Thomson and Wendy Laurenson.

The only male member of the group was keyboard player Martin Henderson.

Mairearad Green dazzles on the accordion. Photo: Dave Donaldson.
Mairearad Green dazzles on the accordion. Photo: Dave Donaldson.

The music played was varied, Eunice is well known as a lover of music from all over the world, and a feature was the Norwegian tunes.

Another set was of tunes that had been written for Guizer Jarls over the years. Martin Henderson had been the Guizer Jarl in the Cullivoe festival and not only had a tune been written for him but there was also one for his wife Ingrid.

All this was hugely enjoyable and Eunice helped the whole performance along with her easy patter generously spiced with humour.

They finished their spot with a set of 6/8 Scottish tunes.

And so the first half of the concert was complete and a welcome break was announced, not as a break from the music but as relief for the rear ends suffering from the unkindness of the Mareel seats.

It is sensible, and refreshing, that the intervals at those concerts are 30 minutes.

Too often at concerts intervals are supposed to be a totally unrealistic 10 minutes.

When everyone had taken their seats again it was time for the headline act, Mairearad Green and Anna Massie.

They are Scottish lasses who display a jaw dropping versatility on numerous different instruments.

Mairearad is a very fine accordion player but she is also at home with a set of Highland bagpipes.

Meanwhile Anna is a super fiddler, singer and banjo player but one senses that her first love is the guitar.

The verbal interludes were notable for their length rather than their quality but, make no mistake, those two ladies are superb musicians.

One of the many memorable sets was the fiddle tunes from Cape Breton remembering the late, great, Jerry Holland.

One was the lovely reel named for Harry Bradshaw, a producer of programmes on RTE and another reel by Otis Thomas called Maire O’Keeffe’s, an Irish fiddle player, and an old friend of ours, who clearly made an impact when she visited Cape Breton a few years ago.

There was no way that Mairearad and Anna were going to be allowed to leave without doing an encore and this they willingly did.

This brought to an end the final concert of the week. It also brought to an end the stewardship of Bethany and Jenna Reid.

They have been curators of Fiddle Frenzy for three years but now they are both expecting children and everyone wishes them, and their husbands, all the very best.

In her final address Bethany said how much she, and Jenna, had enjoyed the festivals and she thanked all the folk that they had worked with during that time.

The last word came from Lynda Anderson of Shetland Arts and it was right and proper that she so sincerely thanked the work done by the Reid sisters.

Lynda’s hand is firmly on the tiller of Fiddle Frenzy and a safe hand it is. She was clearly delighted to look forward to next year and announce that Fiddle Frenzy 2016 will begin on July 31st.

– Lawrence Tulloch.


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