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Review: 'magnificent' ensemble's risk pays off

Musical ensemble Mr McFall's Chamber's risk paid off at Mareel on Saturday night. Photo: Shetland News/Alex Garrick-Wright.

It can’t be easy to plan a classical concert. Play it too safe, and the performance might fail to be memorable; make it too ‘out there’, and you risk alienating the audience.

Mr McFall’s Chamber took a risk with a programme of relatively modern Baltic tunes and Finnish Tango when they took to the stage at Mareel in Lerwick on Saturday: one that was well worth it.

Review: engrossing play about family, mortality and reconciliation

Aging retiree Norman (played by Andy Long) with his dutiful wife Ethel (Christine Geldard) - Photos: Austin TaylorIF YOU concentrated hard enough, there were a number of moments at the Garrison Theatre in Lerwick on Tuesday night when it felt as if you had been transported to northeast America.

The Islesburgh Drama Group's latest production On Golden Pond, set in a country house in Maine, New England, saw the American accents rolled out in force; a potentially perilous minefield, but it was at times wholly convincing.

Review: a concert not for the lighthearted

SHETLAND Arts' 2016/17 classical season has, so far, been bold and uncompromising, with Shetland-born virtuoso Neil Georgeson at the helm of a series of characteristically unorthodox concerts. Saturday night saw the critically acclaimed Hebrides Ensemble take to the stage to put their own mark on the season, writes Alex Garrick-Wright.

'Not wholly enjoyable, but entirely brilliant'

Neil Georgeson performing at Mareel."The music looks unusual. You'll be hearing unusual sounds. I'll be using a fiddle bow, paperclips and a chisel."

Music fans turned out in force on Thursday night to see the last of Neil's performances as part of the 2016/17 classical season; packing out the auditorium for a concert that promised to marry sound and image in new and exciting ways. They had little idea what they were in for - Pictures was a mind-bending bit of experimental art, and an unforgettable experience.

Grammy nominee Jarosz shows her class

Multiple Grammy nominee Sarah Jarosz during Sunday night's sell-out show at Mareel. Photo: Dale SmithAMERICANA songstress and multi-instrumentalist Sarah Jarosz, who is nominated for four Grammy Awards in LA next month, put on a sold-out show at Mareel on Sunday night. 

Review: a celebration of island life

Artist Vivian Ross-Smith making island connections at her Bonhoga exhibition - Photos: Alex Garrick-WrightHaving grown up in Fair Isle, local artist Vivian Ross-Smith has always been fascinated by islands and their residents. Her new exhibition, Island Connections, is an ode to island life, and a celebration of the "island mentality", writes Alex Garrick-Wright.

Outstanding playing at pre-festive trad gigs

Nordic Fiddlers Bloc, including Kevin Henderson (centre), again proved a class act at the Carnegie Hall in Sandwick on Sunday afternoon. Photo: Dale SmithKEVIN Henderson’s pan-Scandinavian group Nordic Fiddlers Bloc were joined by Catriona McKay and Chris Stout for a trio of intimate concerts at the weekend.

Carrying on the mantle of his late father Davie Henderson’s “peerie Christmas sprees”, Kevin and bandmates Anders Hall and Olav Luksengard Mielva treated audiences to classy performances at the Shetland Museum in Lerwick on Friday, Muckle Roe Hall on Saturday and then Sandwick’s Carnegie Hall on Sunday afternoon.

Review: Thoughtful & beautiful documentary

Knitwear designer Mati Ventrillon. Image courtesy of BBC Scotland.JUST five months after moving to Fair Isle in search of the good life, Shaun and Rachel, a young couple from Lincolnshire, are preparing to face their first winter on the island, writes Jordan Ogg.

It’s not looking good. They’ve spent their entire life savings getting here and now they’re struggling to manage the cost of keeping the house warm and the sheep fed.

Review: unorthodox to the last note

Pianist Neil Georgeson and soprano Anna Dennis offered music new and old, conventional and unconventionalMaintaining a balance between comfortably familiar and the challengingly unorthodox can be quite tricky to pull off in a classical concert. However, this is a trick that Life Story pulled off with aplomb for an eager Mareel audience on Thursday night, writes Alex Garrick-Wright.

BBC's Fair Isle documentary: a fine balance of emotional and environmental extremes

Monday night saw the screening of the first episode of BBC1 Scotland's Fair Isle documentary. Image courtesy of BBC.HOW LONG should you wait before moving in together? It’s a question all couples face when they cruise into the ‘going steady’ zone, writes Jordan Ogg.

Six months to a year is the general consensus amongst online advice columnists. But what if you’re relocating to the UK's most remote inhabited island to run a croft that you have absolutely no experience or qualifications for? Here the advice is, well, non-existent.

Fond memories of the Bobby the birdman

Renowned field ornithologist Bobby Tulloch. Photo: Gunnie MobergONE OF Shetland's "greatest-ever ambassadors" is being celebrated in a new anthology published at the weekend. Bobby the Birdman is not an analytical biography of the islands' most famous birdwatcher, Bobby Tulloch, but a series of entertaining personal reminisces from people who were lucky enough to have known and worked with him.

Wordplay: A different take on literature

A comic creation workshop is just the sort of new and open approach to literature that Wordplay should be about, writes Alex Garrick-Wright.

Comic Creation with Edward Ross, held at Lerwick's Mareel on Thursday, invited locals of any and all levels of ability or interest in comics to come along and try their hand, under the guidance of Edinburgh-based comic artist Edward Ross.

Ross freely admitted that he would never have pegged himself as a comic writer. While he dabbled in comics as a teenager (both reading and drawing them) he had fully intended to be a filmmaker.

Scots Makar Jackie Kay opens Wordplay

Scots Makar Jackie Kay: warm, witty, friendly, captivating, sensitive, funny, moving -  Photo: Dale SmithWARM, witty, friendly, captivating, sensitive, funny, moving. These are some of the words I jotted down trying to describe Wednesday night's talk by Scots Makar, Jackie Kay.

Appointed national poet for Scotland in March of this year, Kay's event opened the Wordplay 2016 festival, and a better opening it would have been difficult to find.

Flit: big, bold and breathtaking

A thought-provoking and stimulating show: Flit during the soundcheck on Wednesday - Photo: Shetland ArtsSTANDING on stage at Mareel on Wednesday night was an all-star cast of musicians from big-hitters Portishead, Mogwai, Lau and The Unthanks, as well as singer Adam Holmes, writes Chris Cope.

Flit, however, felt a sum of all its parts, with the quintet melting together seamlessly to magic up a musical journey as enveloping and progressive as Shetland has ever seen.

High energy comedy at Clickimin

Comedian Russell Kane at the Clickimin on Wednesday night: 'jolting and thrusting in entertaining style' -Photo: Davie GardnerSHETLAND is in the midst of a purple patch when it comes to visits from comedians - and long may it continue, writes Chris Cope.

Seann Walsh and Mark Simmons broke out the belly laughs in September, while Mark Steel is returning in November - and let's not forget about the likes of Ross Noble and Dylan Moran who have visited in recent years.

The latest comedian to head up north was Russell Kane, perhaps best known for appearing on the telly on shows like Live At The Apollo and Celebrity Juice.

Spellbinding Americana harmonies at Mareel

Harmony trio The Stray Birds, featuring new addition Dominic Billett on drums, delivered "a plethora of great songs delivered with absolute conviction". Photo: Dale SmithA PACKED crowd at Mareel for a night of Americana music on Friday night - headlined by Pennsylvanian harmony group The Stray Birds - certainly did not leave disappointed, writes Catherine Brown.

The evening started off with Shetland band Kansa. As band member Norma put it, we were taken on a “whistle-stop tour of country across the decades”. And what a delightful tour it was!

Inferno dance show wows big crowd

A host of young dancers took part in the Inferno show at the Clickimin on Saturday. Photo: Louise ThomasonLOCAL dance group Inferno took over the Clickimin in Lerwick on Friday night to present their Halloween themed 'Spooktacular' showcase, writes Louise Thomason.

The group, which began in 2011 and currently consists of 110 children aged from 3 to 17 years, put on an incredibly impressive show featuring a range of dance styles and spooky costumes to a packed out audience of around 600 people.

Cleeves talk ‘enjoyable but slightly unfocused’

Ann Cleeves signed copies of her new book Cold Earth out in the Mareel foyer. Photo: Davie GardnerA BOOK launch is usually a straightforward affair: the author reads some extracts and talks a little about the book to entice people to buy it. However, when that book is Ann Cleeves' new Shetland-based murder novel, and to discuss the plot risks spoiling the enjoyment of unravelling the mystery, what's to be done?

Review: Welcome home, Neil!

Shetland born pianist Neil Georgsson at Mareel - Photo: Shetland ArtsIt's been four years since Neil Georgeson played to a Shetland audience, on the then new stage of Mareel's auditorium. On Thursday night, the prodigal son returned to an enthusiastic reception, writes Alex Garrick-Wright.

The seats were packed with eager fans, all clamouring to hear one of the isles' most talented musicians play his home turf once again. He did not disappoint.

Review: Eloquent songs exquisitely sung

One of Yorkshire's very finest, Richard Hawley, on stage at Mareel on Tuesday night. Photo: Shetnews/Kelly Nicolson RiddellWITH Shetland possessing its own distinct musical tradition, Richard Hawley confessed towards the end of his Mareel gig that he’d feared it’d be “a bit like selling fridges to eskimos”. On this evidence, if Hawley had been the salesman there’d be a bunch of igloos with electrical cooling appliances in them by now.

Tuesday night’s rapturously received show – part of the tenth anniversary of Shetland Arts’ thriving film festival Screenplay – can safely be added to a bulging catalogue of memorable nights in the North Ness auditorium.

REVIEW: Tunstall a class act at Clickimin

KT Tunstall was in great voice in Lerwick on Tuesday night. Photo: Shetnews/Kelly Nicolson RiddellAS  SOON as KT Tunstall bounded on stage just after 9pm and started nattering away to the Clickimin audience like they were old pals, there was no doubt we were in for a feel-good night in the company of a class act.

Islanders snapped up tickets for the show back in May so rapidly that it was upgraded from Mareel to a bigger room across town.

Review: Marjolein's festival gig shows 'confidence way beyond her years'

Marjolein Robertson has been performing as part of the PBH Free Fringe in Edinburgh this month.AS FAR as Edinburgh Festival Fringe shows go, there won't be many comedians that have to deal with a guide dog being hit on the head by a fiddle midway through her set, writes Alan Donald.

But Shetlander Marjolein Robertson handles it with the professionalism of a comedian with many years experience below her belt – by cutting a deal to pet the dog at the end of the show.

Marjolein touts herself as "the UK's second most Northerly comedian" which ticked a number of boxes for this exiled reviewer...the main one being having never seen a Shetland-based comedian performing at the festival which, for the month of August, takes over the city he calls home.

Fantastic way to round off Fiddle Frenzy

From left: bassist Graham Malcolmson, singers Sheila Duncan and Freda Leask, mandolinist Lewie Peterson and fiddler Lois Nicol around a single mic at Mareel on Saturday evening. Photo: Dale SmithAFTER a week of hectic workshops, sessions, tours and shows, another Fiddle Frenzy came to a satisfying and spirited conclusion with the slightly awkwardly-named Frenzy Sessions, Frenzy Students and Jodie Smith show in Mareel on Saturday night.

'Fantastic' songwriter Peters shines at Mareel

Gretchen Peters, accompanied by husband and musical partner Barry Walsh, at a busy Mareel on Tuesday night. Photo: Kelly Nicolson RiddellMAREEL provided the setting for another superb evening of music with a performance from American singer-songwriter Gretchen Peters on Tuesday night, writes Louise Thomason.

The Grammy-nominated folk/country/Americana star was accompanied by partner Barry Walsh on piano and accordion for a set of beautifully vivid songs.

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