VENUES across Shetland hosted musicians and dancers alike this weekend as the islands were swept up in revelry, while the ‘Grand Dance’ held at the Clickimin acted as the flagship event of the accordion and fiddle festival.
After the opening ceremony was held on Thursday afternoon, the following two nights saw country halls all over the isles open up to musical acts and dancing well into the early hours of the morning.
Meanwhile Islesburgh acted as a festival hub during the day, with sessions as well as a youth concert held on Saturday morning highlighting the younger generation’s musical talent – an event that has always been a favourite for attendees.
Andy Philip has been a compere at events throughout the weekend and was in Brae Hall on Friday night.
“All the events you attend are superb, it sounds cliché but everything you go to is incredible,” he said.
“It’s always lovely to go out to the outlying villages, the halls are beautiful, the committees really look after them. The organisation and the warmth we receive is absolutely first-class.”
The Grand Dance on Saturday night was the big event, with local and visiting artists putting on a six-hour show featuring plenty of traditional dancing.
The Callum Nicolson Dance Band kicked things off with a couple of tunes, bringing everyone out of their seats for a Boston Two Step followed by a slower St Bernard’s Waltz, which allowed people to get their breath back after a particularly energetic first dance.
The night followed with other local and visiting musicians playing a range of tunes from traditional to jazz. Dancers were on their feet and kept the floor filled no matter which traditional dance was on – from favourites like the Dashing White Sergeant and Strip the Willow to more obscure ones like the Eva Three Step and Mississippi Dip.
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Fiddle player Jaynie Laurenson was enjoying the Grand Dance with her friends, and won’t miss a chance to come to the festival, whether she’s attending as a musician or just to have fun.
“Being a musician gets you into so many things, and I couldn’t thank my fiddle enough for getting me involved in festivals like this. My favourite dance is Strip The Willow, and it’s amazing getting together and sharing all the music,” she said.
Halfway through the night Da Fustra took to the stage and kept the crowd twirling on the floor, followed by Leeshinat.
Philip wasn’t a compere on Saturday night, but attended the Grand Dance as a spectator, and said: “I’m not much of a dancer but I thoroughly enjoyed sitting and listening to all the bands, it’s great to see so many people up on the floor of all ages.
“In Shetland particularly, the influence of the music with young people – whether they’re playing or dancing to it – is phenomenal.”
The Cullivoe Dance Band finished off the night, with dancers on the go until around 1am, ending on the same two tunes the night started on.
Two final concerts were held on Sunday afternoon in the Garrison Theatre and Islesburgh, with the same performers playing at each one – showcasing local and visiting musical talent, compered by Andy Philip.
Commenting on the musical teaching in Shetland, he said: “The job that’s done here by all the tutors, committees, and teachers is first-class, possibly unmatched, but that’s with no disrespect to any other areas.
“The enthusiasm you see young people having for the music, and wanting to perform, is great. That’s down to their confidence being built and being tutored by excellent musicians.”
The show started at Islesburgh with Graeme and Maggie MacKay, who played a version of Chopin’s Waltz in E Major, stating it was an arrangement put together specially for the Shetland Accordion and Fiddle Festival. Maggie followed by singing a beautiful rendition of A Red Red Rose by Robbie Burns.
Alistair McCulloch followed with a variety of fiddle tunes and jigs, one song being a traditional Shetland tune played on Christmas morning. He also played a waltz he composed during a tour in the USA called Sunset on St. Pete’s.
He also played another tune composed during the pandemic which was hauntingly soulful. After composing the piece, he sold it at an auction, giving a woman in Philadelphia who won the chance to name the track, so she titled it after her husband – giving it the name Bruce Robert Burton.
He finished up with a set of three lively reels which got shoes tapping across the venue.
Other acts included the Neil Hardie Band and Gavin Piper who played reels and jigs. Irish musician Manus McGuire was joined on the stage by Brian Nicholson and Martin Henderson, both from Yell, and played a range of Irish tunes.
The concert finished up with Nicola Braid and Gordon Haddow who were playing at the festival for the first time. Braid said: “We can’t tell you how welcomed we’ve been.”
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