In the final part of her live review of Orkney Folk Festival 2015 Alice captures performances from Claire Hastings, Hannah Rarity, Nordic Fiddlers Bloc, a final performance from the New Rope String Band, Dallahan and not forgetting the Orkney v’s the Rest of the World’ folkie-football match.
Day 4 – Sunday 24th May
The final day was also filled with concerts, with three Stromess based concerts kicking off at 2pm and the ‘Sunday Tipple’ with Findlay Napier and Barrule taking place in the idyllic setting of the Orkney Brewery. I visited the Song Club, which was pleasantly opened by the singing of this year’s BBC Radio Scotland’s Young Traditional Musician of the year, Claire Hastings (main image above). Accompanied tastefully by her own un-intrusive ukulele, she sang a mix of her own composition and traditional scots songs. Her voice is perfectly balanced; sweet enough to articulate characterful tales like her witty self-penned account of a stay in Dundee: and with substance and a real quality which was showcased in another of her own compositions, ‘I Missed the Boat’. Unprompted the audience joined her on the chorus highlighting the following she had gathered over the weekend. http://www.clairehastings.com
The Song Club also featured Hannah Rarity, another young Scottish vocal talent. Although the Orkney weekend marked Hannah’s debut solo festival appearance, she is familiar and at ease on stage, having performed alongside Blazin’ Fiddles on the most recent BBC Hogmanay Live show. She explained she had travelled north almost immediately after arriving from a semester in Limerick, where she studied under iconic Irish singer Karan Casey. Her set was evidently influenced by her time across the water performing a stunning rendition of Irish Gaelic song ‘Siuil A Run’ followed by a grittier interpretation of ‘The Ballad of Accounting’, a political song co-written by Peggy Seeger and Ewan MacColl during the 70’s folk revival which was skilfully energised by Innes White’s guitar accompaniment. To the delight of the sing-along audience, Hannah finished with another playful piece she had collected in Ireland ‘Four and Nine’ intimately bringing the final Song Club of the 2015 festival to a close. http://hannahrarity.wix.com/hannahrarity
Between the afternoon and the Farewell concerts the annual ‘Orkney v’s the Rest of the World’ folkie-football match took place at the Market Green, which lies between the Stromness Hotel and the Academy Club. After a chaotic hour or so of play, Orkney took this years’ title, with player of the match being awarded to a very muddy Ciarán Ryan of Dallahan, in his debut match for the rest of the world.
I managed to flit between two equally fine farewell concerts, catching the freshly formed, open-invite Orkney Folk Festival choir, rising from all corners of the Town Hall singing an uplifting swinging Americana number before breaking into ‘William and Mary’ an Orcadian song from the early 1900’s collected by choir leader, Aimee Lenoard. Kevin McLeod introduced familiar festival faces, the New Rope String Band, to the stage for what will be not only their final appearance in Orkney but one of their last performances as a group. As always, they brought a hilariously absurd and entertaining set which saw fiddles being thrown into the air during Lexi Maccaskill’s reel; morris dancing meeting the Bee Gees and a final theatrical and impressively complex performance of a jig achieved by banging large and brightly coloured percussive pipes. Their final performance shall take place on the 31st October at the Tyne Theatre and Opera House. http://www.newropestringband.co.uk/
After the wild New Rope set, two thirds of the Nordic Fiddlers Bloc (image above) took to the stage. The condensed version comprising Anders Hall of Sweden and Shetland’s Kevin Henderson graced the audience with a floating performance of a waltz from Hälsingland, the home of Anders, an area with a thriving fiddling tradition. The remaining two joked asking the audience to relay to Olav Luksengård Mjelva – the final member of the band, who had left Orkney to perform in Dusseldorf the previous day – that they had never heard the band sounding better. They invited the Haltadans to the stage; a newly formed Shetland band, featuring Kevin’s fellow Fiddlers Bid member Maurice Henderson. The collaborative unit brought a mix familiar Shetland reels effortlessly wrapped in the Scandic influence by Kevin and Ander’s harmonies on the fiddle and viola, respectively. Underpinned by the one of Shetland’s signature sounds, the lifting, vamping guitar style derived from the jazz influenced playing of the legendary Peerie Willie Johnson, the Nordic combination made for easy listening and is hopefully to be heard again in future. http://thenordicfiddlersbloc.com/ | http://www.haltadans.com/
Over at the academy club Seth Lakeman delighted fans with a surprise performance just before Dallahan took to the stage. Speaking afterwards Seth explained he had driven with his family from Dartmoor and was delighted to be well looked after at the festival, he spoke too of an incredibly busy summer involving a trip to the US for Newport Folk Festival where he will be presenting a BBC Radio 4 show, marking 50 years since ‘Dylan went Electric’. http://www.sethlakeman.co.uk/
Dallahan (image above) followed with a dynamic set which, within the limited time, cast light on diversity of their music. Although strung together by a prominently Irish sound, their music energetically touches down upon their Scottish and Hungarian heritage, moving the audience into dancing. Captivating from the outset, with ‘When the Day Is On the Turn’ which titles their debut album and builds substantially on Irish tunes passed between the melody players; namely award winning Banjo player Ciarán Ryan; Jani Lang on the fiddle working alongside Andrew Waite on piano accordion. Andrew was filling in for Paddy Callaghan and captured the spark and lift inherent in Paddy’s playing. The instrumental development featured a subtle and effortless funk inspired transition into the wholesome, earthy vocals of Jack Badcock, lined with a fitting, moody Irish melody. ‘Carrick a Rede’ further showcased Jack’s vocal competence and was met by sentimental accompaniment by rest of the band. A whimsical and punchier set ‘Hurley’s House’ drew on Balkan influence hearing intricately ornamented fiddle playing from Jani Lang robustly matched by Balázs Hermann’s striking basslines. The magic crammed into this short performance can account for their swift emergence onto the scene since December 2013. http://www.dallahanmusic.com
Both farewell concerts closed with the entirety of the nights cast taking to the stage for a final stramash, enthusiastically received at each of the venues. This final get-together emphasised a central feature of the Orkney Folk Festival; a culture which catalyses collaborations bringing pleasure to the audience and artistes in equal quantity.
Review by: Alice Tait
Photo credits: Sean Purser and Mike Guest