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Reviews / ‘Even the weather improved’ – Simmer Dim Song event hailed for its positivity

The amassed voices of Shetland Community Choir, the Soundhouse Choir fromEdinburgh plus local volunteers. All photos: Chris Brown.

A miserable night of rain and wind turned into a marvellous evening of music and song thanks to the organisers and sponsors of the Simmer Dim Song in Mareel on Saturday, writes Lesley Roberts.

Drookit and bedraggled supporters were met first at the door by the local Samba band, providing a lively thumping beat to lift the mood straight away. In the café, the wonderful local klezmer band Odessa played, and toe-tapping began.

By this time, the weather was far away and the night of song ready to begin.

Visitors to the Simmer Dim Song event were welcomed by the local Samba band.

First up were guitarists and songsters Alan McKay, Robert Bennet and John Johnston – their mellow, jazzy sound was a fine, gentle start to the show.

Les Sinclair, a local stand-up comedian then welcomed the Shetland Community Choir on stage. The choir’s choice of songs echoed a theme of the evening – nature and the importance of protecting it.

Guitarists Alan McKay, Robert Bennet and John Johnston.

The pace of the night quickened with the arrival of Jack Sandison and Frank Stove, two excellent rock guitarists. Their initial lively rendition of Jack’s own songs was in some contrast to the brand-new piece of music he has written for choir and string quartet, another jewel in the night’s crown.

This Shetland half of the concert also included a brief memorial film to Heidi Pearson, who was well known on Shetland’s music scene and it was a poignant reminder of her positive, smiling character.

In the second half of the concert Gina Rae and Heather Macleod, with Marty Hailey and Vini Bonnar, treated us to a very fine set of jazz numbers – including Ugly Man by Ricki Lee Jones, and Lee Dorsey’s Yes We Can, to echo the words of David Attenborough who remains positive that it is not yet too late to stop the climate crisis.

The harmony and humour of these two splendid singers, familiar now in Shetland, was a delight to hear and the arrival of around 25 feisty choristers from Edinburgh contributed to the lift of everybody’s mood.

A beautiful song about a Ukrainian soldier’s dialogue with his mother, and a subsequent ‘mash’ on the theme of peace brought tears to a few eyes in the audience. But the impact on the audience of the Wood Brothers’ song Sing about it, an upbeat, soulful song promoting the power of song, reminded us that “if you get worried, what you ought to do is sing”. The point of the evening was to raise your voice, to ‘ring the bell’.

Shetland Community Choir.

This Simmer Dim concert was conceived by Dave Hammond, who was keen to create a further opportunity to hear Enough is Enough, Karine Polwart’s evocative song, the title of which condemns the empty promises of politicians while conveying the message of over-consumption and its threat to our planet, and was first performed in Glasgow at COP26.

He worked with Heather Macleod and Gina Rae (remember the Bevvy Sisters?)  to pull together the amassed voices of Shetland Community Choir and the Soundhouse Choir from Edinburgh.

Added to this were local volunteers, young and old, who sang or played drums to further swell the very emotional finale of the evening.

Even the weather had improved by the time the audience was making its way home, uplifted by a night of variety and pleasure. Many thanks are due to the positivity of those who pulled this gig together, and to those who contributed to a great night of entertainment.