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Reviews / Folk Fest 2011: Something a little bit different

St. Columba’s Church concert
Thursday 28 April

Nordmore Folkhighschool Choir and The North Ness Boys

With Americana being the signature sound at this year’s Shetland folk festival, the presence of a church concert featuring a Norwegian school choir and a local all-male gospel threesome, offered the prospect of experiencing something a little bit different within the weekend’s heady programme of late-night sessions, sprees and soirees.

The choir, a 140-strong group of teenagers from the Nordmore Folkhighschool, one of many non-traditional colleges found throughout Scandinavia, delivered two sets that took in old Norwegian tales of deep sea fishing, a version of Ralph McTell’s ‘70s hit Streets of London, and ended with a South American folk tune that featured a fine solo from a young man who looked more like he spends his time rocking out to Nirvana than singing serenely with his classmates.

This same performer also delivered a graceful instrumental on the guitar, which, as it climbed the aeshins of the hall, helped show the big kirk off as one of the best acoustic spaces in the town.

The other act of the night, Lerwick’s very own North Ness Boys (brothers Clive, Trevor and Aubrey Jamieson) entertained well with a gospel set interspersed with the odd sea shanty.

There’s a lively bluegrass theme running through their sound, led by the steady hand of Clive on acoustic guitar, while Trevor and Aubrey keep things lively on banjo and mandolin.

These guys are among the tightest performers on the local scene, as can be heard most clearly on their debut CD The Sea of Life, which was released last year and has to date sold over 3,000 copies – no mean feat for any band, local or otherwise.

Tonight the Boys were in top vocal form, effortlessly crafting triple harmonies, heard at their naked best in an unaccompanied performance of the gospel standard Peace in the Valley. They’re funny too, and had the audience giggling at various occasions with anecdotes on songs and singing.

This is the first time that St. Columba’s has been used as a festival venue, and judging on the success of this concert, it probably won’t be the last.

Refurbished in 2008, the sizable interior is modestly attired in rich tones of red and cream. The eyes are further interested by the grand pipes of the organ at the centre of the apse, and the modernist font designed by local craftsman Cecil Tait.

All in all it made for a pleasant place to experience live music, as well as a calming and slightly unusual way to begin the musical festivities.

Jordan Ogg