Homegrown fiddler says Mareel the ideal spot for sisters’ big string sound
Ten-piece folk supergroup String Sisters play their only European show at Mareel tonight – on the back of an ambitious recording session at the arts venue this week.
The band, formed by Shetland’s own Catriona Macdonald, formed almost 20 years ago.
Made up of musicians from Norway, Sweden, America, Ireland and Scotland they have been busy recording their latest offering, due to be launched at Celtic Connections next year.
Speaking ahead of a rehearsal in the Mareel auditorium on Tuesday, Macdonald was happy to be home.
“It’s amazing we’ve managed to get two or three takes down today,” she said.
“Mareel is just working really well for us; it’s a big band, there are lots of people in the band so we need various spaces to record in. Mareel has got that perfectly sorted out for us. There’s a beautiful piano in there which our piano player is appreciating.”
Sound engineer Tim Matthew has been behind the mixing desk, for what has been the largest recording project for the studio since it opened.
Macdonald said quite a few members of the band had never been to Shetland before,and there were plans to head to The Lounge for a session on Wednesday.
The star musicians had weighed up recording the new CD at Castlesound studios in Edinburgh, though Macdonald said Matthew’s engineering skills were another reason to instead head to Lerwick.
For tonight’s gig, they will also be joined by an array of isles fiddle players, taking to the stage for a couple of numbers.
Collectively, String Sisters produce “a massive sound,” said Macdonald though for the new record they also wanted to pick out the smaller components of the arrangements too.
Among the world-class fiddle contingent is Liz Knowles from America and Hardanger fiddle player Annbjøeg Lien from Norway.
“I’m from the west coast of Norway so many of my friends sail to Shetland,” said Lien.
“There’s a very strong bond and Tom Anderson and the young heritage fiddlers visited my home 30 years ago and we had a strong connection since… for me it’s really special.”
Knowles added: “Because we all live in different places this project has always been tricky because we’ve had to be physically in the same place to put things together.
“This time we’ve used the wonders of technology… and started sending tunes to each other and putting things within groups with ideas.
“Really the real stuff happens when we’re in person and with each other… The last three days have been very intense; working out what we’re doing and where we’re going.”
And, being in Shetland for Knowles had helped fuel the creativity. Traditional music, she said was “embedded in the community”.