WATCH: Well-kent reel inspires Henderson’s Greenland adventure
Isles fiddler Maurice Henderson has released a new book documenting his adventure to Greenland in search of the origins of a well-kent tune he learned as a youngster.
In Search of Willafjord is part detective work, part history and part travelogue as Henderson headed north in September last year in search of the mysterious location.
The Fiddlers’ Bid and Haltadans musician says Willafjord remains one of his favourite reels, and after plenty of questions and research he decided to go and see the place for himself.
A keen photographer the book includes stunning photos of ice, dramatics and the many interesting characters he met along the way.
“It’s a very well known tune and I think every fiddler in Shetland pretty much knows that one,” he said.
“It’s a popular tune as well and it’s normally played in a set called ‘the Greenland tunes’.
“I wondered where that place is? ‘Does it exist?’ and ‘where is Willafjord?’. I would ask folk over the years and I would never get an answer of any sense.”
Henderson said tunes were exchanged between fiddler players during the whaling era.
And despite the end to the industry the musical connections remain.
“The ties kind of ceased and they didn’t have the same exchange when the whaling stopped and it [Shetlanders going to Greenland] is beyond living memory. But the tune’s still in the repertoire,” Henderson said.
“The places I went the people were based around the coast. They were fishing folk. The Greenlanders live off what the land and see provides around them. They export fish but they go and shoot their food and they live from the sea.
“They’re quite similar in that sense to Shetlanders. They also have a strong knowledge of passing on traditions down their family and I think in that sense they are similar to Shetlanders.”
Henderson said he fitted a lot into his visit, and it was a special moment when he found what he was looking for, arriving at Willafjord and playing the tune.
And he hopes to return again in future.
“Music is a big thing in Greenland and there’s all different types of genres.
“I definitely think there’s a future in making some of these links again because it’s a place that was familiar to folk in the past.”
• The book is available from The Shetland Times Bookshop and Maurice will be signing copies in the bookshop on Thursday, 6.30 – 8.30pm. Order online at – https://www.shetlandtimes.co.uk/shop/product.php?productid=344&cat=0&page=1