The musical connections between three of Scotland’s island groups – Orkney, Shetland and the Outer Hebrides – are to be celebrated at this year’s Shetland Folk Festival, with one special collaborative concert featuring celebrated musicians and singers from each of the areas.
Leading Western Isles vocalists Julie Fowlis and Kathleen MacInnes will appear alongside Orcadian duo Saltfishforty (Douglas Montgomery and Brian Cromarty) and Shetland’s Jenny Keldie (née Napier) from Burra, as well as plenty of other Shetland musicians and young singers who will make guest appearances.
Internationally acclaimed singer Julie is one of Scotland’s most sought-after artists. She performed at the opening ceremony of the Glasgow Commonwealth Games to a television audience of over one billion, and is also known for singing the theme song of Disney Pixar’s Oscar, Golden Globe and BAFTA award-winning feature film Brave. Of her trip to the festival, Julie said “I’m just delighted to be returning to the Shetland Folk Festival! It’s been a good few years since I visited, and it’s especially exciting to be heading to the festival as part of ‘Between Islands’ - a project that really celebrates the music, culture and craic that binds island folk together.” Kathleen MacInnes is another Outer Hebridean artist boasting international acclaim. Hailing from South Uist, Kathleen is a singer, actress and TV presenter and is featured on the soundtrack of the 2010 Hollywood blockbuster, Robin Hood, directed by Ridley Scott and starring Russel Crowe.
A fiddle-player and singer from Burra in Shetland, Jenny is a member of much-loved Shetland band Laeverick and also performed with Sheila Henderson for many years. Since settling in Orkney, Jenny has formed a popular song duo with Brian Cromarty, who also forms one half of Saltfishforty alongside Douglas Montgomery. Linchpin figures in Orkney’s traditional music scene, Brian and Douglas unite these deep-rooted sources with an exhilarating breadth of influence and expertise. Across more than 15 years performing together, the duo has delighted audiences at many of the world’s top folk festivals (including Shetland!), with a focus on traditional Orkney music boldly cross-fertilised with influences from Americana to East European folk.
Julie, Kathleen, Jenny, Brian and Douglas will present a Between Islands concert on Sunday 3rd May, in the Clickimin Centre, Lerwick surrounded by a whole host of other guest musicians including Shetland fiddler and bassist, Andrew Gifford of Fiddlers’ Bid fame and percussionist Erik Laughton of Orkney favourites The Chair. This concert mirrors a hugely successful Between Islands show that took place during Orkney Folk Festival in 2019. The Between Islands project initiative is headed up by Alex Macdonald, of the An Lanntair Arts Centre in Stornoway. The project aims to explore the links between the three islands groups through a series of inter-island initiatives, and this particular project is supported by a regional cooperation funding award from the LEADER 2014-2020 programme.
The concert in Orkney was described by Scotsman reviewer Sue Wilson as “a rich and often moving collaborative programme of songs and tunes, old and new, ranging stylistically from newly-penned folk-pop to venerable Gaelic ballads, bluegrassy instrumentals to vintage Orcadian swing-jazz. Themes of seafaring and longing for home emerged naturally from the pooled material, as languages and dialects were swapped and shared, together with a gorgeous wealth of iridescent vocal harmonies.”
This is one show not to be missed!