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Monday, 4 June 2012

Orkney Folk Festival

It's been a busy weekend! Each May the town of Stromness hosts a folk festival. Musicians from around the globe arrive in the country and perform concerts in various places around the town and in the wider community too. There's a real buzz in the town. Local performers, including many young musicians starting out on their careers, also share the stage with the international acts.  Local folk who just enjoy playing a tune on a fiddle, guitar, or squeeze box gather in the pubs and on the street to give impromptu "gigs".

Saturday night I started out with a concert in the Town Hall, a converted kirk (church). The evening began with two young performers, Maggie and James Nicolson - with an average age between them of 14 years! They are ones to watch for the future. Next on was Kris Drever and his festival quartet, Kris is a local lad, though his music career means he lives outside Orkney now. Loved his group. Note to self - must go to more of his gigs.  The evening ended with a brilliant show from "top of the bill" Eddie Reader, that lady can tell a good story as well as sing haunting ballads and great rousting songs. Brilliant evening!

No boat home after the concert so I stayed at a friend's house just outside town. Time enough then to grab some chips (fries) and a nice hot cup of tea.  Meanwhile others were scurrying off to late night concerts.  I was heading for an earlyish night as I had tickets for two concerts the next day!

The view from my bedroom window looked back at Graemsay. Did I mention I live next-door to a lighthouse? ;-)

The first concert on the Sunday was in Hoy up at the old kirk. So a short boat journey and a ride up the hill in a minibus to the next concert.  The Stromabank Pub Choir were the first to perform. This is a choir of local folk from the island and yes, as their name suggests they rehearse in a pub! They began with their own composition telling a story about themselves. Below is Choir Leader, Fran Gray, playing her ukulele to accompany the choir.

Then onto a lovely lullaby written for the youngest member of the Choir, Finn, who is only a few months old!

Then it was onto some well known tunes, their rendition of "Lonley Scapa Flow" brought a tear to my eye! A professional artist saw them performing some time ago and wanted to paint them. So from a number of photos taken over a period of time she created this wonderful picture. Unfortunately I didn't catch her name! I'll have to ask someone and add to the blog later.

The presentation!

The choir see "themselves" for the first time

Fran centre stage - in both pictures!

Another local duo gave a brilliant peformance, Erik Linklater and David Delday are local lads and both clearly hold great promise for the future. Erik's fiddle playing was extraordinary - so fast, how his fingers didn't get tied into knots is beyond me!

The afternoon was ended by the Harald Daugaard Trio, over from Denmark. Um.. there were four of them but who's counting ;-)   A lovely lively set of traditional Danish tunes were played and some haunting melodies written by Harald.  But time was running out for the boat home so there was a prompt ending and a mad dash to the ferry home.  However Harald and his group didn't want to see us "short-changed" so they carried on playing on the boat.

 And Erik, the young fiddle player, joined in too.

The evening "Farewell Concert" was a sell out, again in the Stromness Town Hall. Lots of bands playing, including Harald and his band again after a short break from his trip to Hoy. They played some wonderful wild tunes.  He is an amazing fiddle player!  Then at the end all the musicians came on stage and played some foot stomping numbers (see photo at top of this post)!  Brilliant end to a great weekend.

Outside a short shower hung a rainbow over the harbour. Perfect timing to folk coming out from the concerts.


  1. Ooh, reading that was the next best thing to being there. It sounds just fabulous: I really want to make it to the festival one of these days. I love the way you don't just go to a concert, you immerse yourself completely in the festival, even getting music on da ferry!

  2. What a happening place ! Love the painting !

  3. I hugely enjoyed the Sunday night concert, and I thought Harald Haugaard was amazing - how cool to have music like that for your on-board entertainment!

  4. all these years and you never mentioned living close to a lighthouse! How special.

  5. The whole festival sounds like heaven to me!