THE 2014 Shetland Folk Festival is sure to be a poignant occasion. It is the first since the premature death of committee mainstay Davie Henderson, and the final line up to have been handpicked by a man whose name became almost synonymous with one of the most eagerly anticipated events on the islands’ social calendar.
His involvement dates back to the early 1990s, and fellow organiser Mhari Pottinger said it was a strange feeling to be setting off for Aberdeen to meet the artists earlier this week without Henderson in tow.
But the committee has resolved to ensure that this year offers the kind of party atmosphere which Henderson, who passed away in January aged 63, would have wanted.
“Obviously it’s with very mixed emotions that the committee are going into this year’s festival,” she says.
“Given that he’s played such an instrumental part in all festivals over the past 23 years and was responsible for booking the fantastic visiting act line up that we are presenting this year, then the 34th festival is in his honour.
“He’ll have wanted us to have a good party and that’s what we’ll do, whilst raising plenty of glasses to him!”
Davie’s son Kevin Henderson, who now lives in Norway, will be back home as part of the Nordic Fiddlers Bloc trio.
“It’s going to be a very difficult weekend for me as there’s so many memories from the festival alone, but I’m really happy to be home for it,” he says.
“Dad would have wanted everyone to have a fantastic weekend and I’m sure he will be here in spirit.”
As ever there’s a broad musical mix among the 16 visiting and almost 50 local acts, who will perform at more than 45 events between now and Sunday night. More than 5,000 tickets have been sold with all but a handful of concerts now fully subscribed.
Pottinger says it continues to be a “massive logistical operation” with the festival’s success hinging on the efforts of hundreds of volunteers: “We’re extremely thankful to each and every one of them.”
Tickets are still available for the three isles concerts in Fetlar, Mid Yell and Bressay, as well as for tonight’s traditional dance showcase at Mareel and tomorrow night’s Clickimin gig which pairs local favourites The Revellers with much-loved Orcadians The Chair.
Among the highlights this year is the much anticipated return, following rave reviews in 2009, of Canadian roots group Madison Violet and their gorgeous vocal harmonies.
Fellow Canucks the Sojourners will play alongside local singers at a gospel concert in Lerwick tonight. Also flying the Maple Leaf flag will be Newfoundland traditional outfit The Dardanelles and 14-piece Manitoba dance group The Asham Stompers.
Also winging their way across the Atlantic are acoustic US trio Brittany Haas (fiddle), Jordan Tice (guitar) and Paul Kowert (bass).
Other acts include the Brighton-based Mountain Firework Company, Belgian four-piece MANdolinMAN, energetic Irish outfit FullSet and Orcadians Saltfishforty. Lending a Latino flavour to proceedings will be London-based four piece Mariachi Tequila.
Closer to home, there is a growing buzz surrounding immensely talented Scottish singer Adam Holmes and his band The Embers.
Having seen the 23-year-old perform a stellar set in Edinburgh last month, Shetland News can vouch for that – he boasts great songs, a timeless voice and a deadpan sense of humour drier than the Swiss navy.
Holmes started out on fiddle as a youngster so, Shetland being “the mecca for fiddles”, it is a place he has heard much about and he says he can’t wait to introduce songs from last year’s classy album ‘Heirs and Graces’.
“I’ve heard from a few people that they’re looking forward to seeing us, so it’ll be great to get up and play the stuff live to people who’ve only heard it on record, and gain some new fans,” he says.
“I’ve heard it’s a very beautiful place, and that there’s lots of drinking – which suits me fine!”
- The 34th Shetland Folk Festival runs until Sunday 4 May and memberships for the festival club, along with any remaining concert tickets, will be on sale at Islesburgh from 11am until 5pm today, Friday and Saturday. You can read more on the festival website at www.shetlandfolkfestival.com
For our comprehensive folk festival coverage go to http://www.shetnews.co.uk/features/folk-festival-2014/