The first musical performance of the Shetland Folk Festival was not the official opening concert in Islesburgh – but a short interactive concert for Tingwall pupils yesterday morning.
Around 100 bairns from the Tingwall Primary School and Little Tikes Playgroup piled into the Tingwall Hall to enjoy a performance from Belgian band WÖR.
WÖR are a quintet, featuring Fabio Di Meo on saxophone, Pieterjan Van Kerckhoven on Flemish bagpipes, Oscar Beerten on fiddle, Bert Ruymbeek on accordion and Ward Dhoore on guitar.
Saxophonist Di Meo describes the band as playing 18th Century Flemish music “in a new modern jacket.”
It is customary for one of the visiting acts to perform for school children on a Friday morning but this year the custom was pushed forward a day meaning the Tingwall performance was the first event of the four-day festival – the 36th annual celebration of music. It was also the first time that Tingwall pupils were treated to a concert.
WÖR played a short and lively set interspersed with interactive moments aimed at providing an educational – if humorous – slant to the show. Di Meo told the children a little bit about Belgium and taught them some Dutch – “Hello is Hallo. Taxi is taxi. It is a very easy language”.
The children learnt a little about Belgian inventions too – the saxophone, chocolate and fries apparently.
Musical skills were also put to the test with pupils encouraged to sing, clap and stomp along with some of the pieces of music.
And then in a flash the performance was over and the band was whisked away to their next appointment – the official opening concert in Islesburgh which gave people their first glimpse of all the visiting acts.
But before WÖR left Tingwall for the festival club there was a few moments for gift giving. From WÖR the school received a CD to commemorate the visit, and from the pupils the band received cards and a box of Shetland Fudge.
Room 12 at Islesburgh was packed for the traditional launch concert with enthusiasts enraptured by the sounds from the stage, making the atmosphere electric.
“It’s going to be a good festival,” predicted Islesburgh manager Dale Smith.
The musicians, performing short numbers, were in energetic form, with Finnish band Tsuumi Sound System wowing the audience with their “Nordic urban ethno”.
One of their country’s premier bands, the all male seven-piece conjured up images of mountains and trolls with their traditional instruments, with a stamping and whooping accordion player pumping up the atmosphere.
All girl band Laura Cortese and the Dance Cards from the USA thrilled with jazzy sounds, produced from double bass, cello and fiddles, augmented by Laura’s husky vocals.
Speaking afterwards, Laura said the folk festival had already been amazing – it had started for her on the boat where “it was amazing to be surrounded by great musicians you respect”.
Visitor Jill Crawford from Hexham echoed this, and said: “It was so exciting coming over on the boat with all the musicians playing and knowing we were all coming to Shetland.”
The festival fun was due to kick-off in earnest last night with the first set of concerts taking place at Mareel, the festival club at Islesburgh, Cunningsburgh hall, Whiteness and Weisdale hall, Voe hall and the Shetland Hotel.
● The Shetland Times will be providing comprehensive coverage of the festival online across the weekend and in next week’s paper.