We conclude our live review of the Big Whistle Festival with a spellbinding performance by The Shee…
Members of The Shee had been busy during Saturday afternoon contributing to workshops around The Met. Rachel Newton and Olivia Ross had led a session on how vocal arrangements can work with a tune, whilst Lillias and Laura-Beth’s workshop highlighted tunes from the Scottish Border area which the band weave into their repertoire.
Once again, a band packed to the brim with outstanding young talent, their performance of the six piece female group in the main theatre combined the traditional violins, flute and mandolin, and was embellished by Rachel’s harp, together with several opportunities to indulge in some fine three way vocal harmonies. The Shee had been at The Met back in October promoting the release of their Murmurations album (read the Folk Radio UK Review here) from which a number of compositions featured quite heavily in the set; a set which ranged from the traditional and rather unsavoury Frances Child ballad Three Knights with its murderous tale sung out with some stunning three way harmonies to the more Celtic yet bluesy feel of Chilly Winds and Pity Me sung solo by Olivia with its smouldering soundtrack being matched by the lyrical content.
Showing how the band are just as at home with traditional as well as original material, harpist Rachel Newton took centre stage for a spellbinding and almost hypnotic Scottish Gaelic mouth music.Many might pick out accordionist Amy Thatcher for her clog dancing contribution to Shona Mooney’s Down In The Ditch – inspired by an event involving a motor rescue during which the tune was composed. Not only did the clogs (rather appropriately for a Lancashire town) provide a high tempo accompaniment for the instruments, it was amazing to see Amy simply pause her jigging to return to the accordion and carry on playing seemingly effortlessly. There can’t be too many bands who include a clog dancing solo (although having recently seen Leonard Podolak and Matt Gordon doing the Appalachian flat footing and ‘hamboning’ at a Show Of Hands gig, clog solos aren’t that startling) but as Amy kept her clogs on for the encore, it was only fair to make the most of the moment. At least it finally encouraged the audience to let their hair down and clap along having been relatively deferential and respectful during the bulk of the gig.
The violin and flute led jig encore was a terrific way to end the evening – and for me very reminiscent of The Levellers’ Boatman Jig. All round a highly passionate and upbeat performance and yet another troupe to add to the ever growing collection of exceptional fresh talent on show.
Review by: Michael Ainscoe
Photo Credit: Michael Ainscoe