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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.

Perfect way to end successful residency

Scottish Ensemble at Mareel on Saturday night: 'playing was skilled, impeccably synchronised, and musically flawless' - Photo: Chris BrownEIGHT months, three concerts, one play, several workshops, some jam sessions, one night of cooking in the Carnegie Hall and a pop-up gig in Tesco later, and here we are.

En Rêve - the final concert of both the Scottish Ensemble's Shetland Season and their four-day residency. So, after all this build up, did the ensemble manage to end on a high?

Maconie's conversational style impresses

WHEN Stuart Maconie set out to promote his latest book, The Pie At Night, he fully realised that a standard book-reading tour, where the audience sits and watches the author read passages from their own work, can be a little dull, writes Alex Garrick-Wright.

So Stuart began to add anecdotes and jokes. Over time, this side of the show grew and grew, and by the time he came to Mareel on Saturday night, the show had become something very unusual indeed.

Sublime stuff from The Unthanks at Mareel

BBC Folk Award winners The Unthanks juxtaposed beautiful melodies and gritty subject matter to enchanting effect. Photo: Kelly Nicolson RiddellTHE UNTHANK sisters and their backing band delivered an enchanting evening of top drawer, adventurous folk music before a bustling Mareel auditorium on Thursday.

A 250-plus turnout – at the start of a weekend when a fair few folkies are off to the Orkney festival – certainly goes some way to dispelling any notion that there’s no audience for English folk music in these parts.

There might be a heavenly, ethereal feel to their vocal performance, but the down-to-earth patois of the Gateshead siblings and their band saw the crowd immediately warm to the quintet.

An excellent evening of classical music

Violinist Cheryl Crockett and cellist Alison Lawrance during rehearsals on Thursday afternoon - Photo: Hans J Marter/ShetNewsThe Scottish Ensemble graced Mareel's stage once again for the third part of their Shetland Series - Duos for Violin and Cello - on Thursday night, writes Alex Garrick-Wright.

The previous show Quintets was comprised entirely of three long compositions.

Duos for Violin and Cello was a musical anthology of shorter pieces that worked very well.

Shetland’s tribute to Hank Williams

Singer-songwriter Dean Owens and an extensive cast of local musicians paying tribute to country icon Hank Williams.SCOTTISH singer-songwriter Dean Owens and local music promoter Davie Gardner paid tribute to country icon Hank Williams alongside a slew of Shetland stars this weekend.

Following a concept developed by Gardner and put into action by Owens, the 'Settin' the Woods on Fire: The Songs of Hank Williams' show hit the stage at the Mid Yell Hall on Friday before playing at Mareel on Saturday night and Sunday afternoon.

Hey BBC, more Shetland please…and soon

 Three deaths, another rape, extortion and money laundering. That’s a lot for any detective to deal with. Anna Chancellor as senior procurator fiscal Phyllis Brennan, Douglas Henshall as DI Jimmy Perez and Julie Graham as Shetland procurator fiscal Rhona Kelly - Photo: Mark Mainz/ITV StudiosHAVING left audiences waiting two weeks for the grand finale of BBC TV series Shetland, it was a case of bringing it all back home for the big reveal, writes Jordan Ogg.

A slimy lawyer in service to a brutal Glasgow big man. A dodgy senior cop who might be covering for her rapist son. Three deaths, another rape, extortion and money laundering.

Scottish Ensemble: Carnegie Hall next

Scottish Ensemble - the kind of talent that normally skips over places like Shetland - Photo: Chris BrownThe Scottish Ensemble returned to the Mareel Auditorium on Friday night to bring us the second of their three shows in the 2015/16 Shetland Season, writes Alex Garrick-Wright.

Extraordinary tales from high in the Alps

Jeff Merrifield contributing to the Institute of the Mythology of Humankind.The Might of the Myth, the new book released this week by veteran music promoter Jeff Merrifield, is by his own admission a 73-years-in-the-making magnum opus. Better known in Shetland for his JAWS work than for his fortean writing, Alex Garrick-Wright went along to the launch on Wednesday night to gain a little insight into the book.

The Might of the Myth is the culmination of decades of interest and experience, a journey first started by Merrifield and his friend Ken Campbell, the late actor and theatrical experimentalist, in the mid-1990s.


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