An amazin’ review

Thank you Jeannette Blunsden for writing such a wonderful review of your experience.

Blazin’ Fiddles, supported by Robyn Stapleton and Claire Hastings

Easterbrook Hall, Dumfries, 1 June 2017

Image courtesy Ronnie Galloway

★★★★★ Review

A rainy evening made the warm and efficient greeting on arrival most welcoming. I entered the foyer at a peak time but there was no queuing, my ticket was quickly marked down on a master sheet, I was warmly addressed and directed to the main auditorium of the grand, stunning and well-maintained Easterbrook Hall.

The evening event consisted of two performances, both represented the very best of Scottish Traditional music. I really liked the contrast in the music styles of the two performances, giving me two completely different concerts, all in the same evening.

The compere clearly outlined the format and timings. The sound system that delivered these directions and the music to follow, from where I was seated, was excellent.

The first performance was given by Claire Hastings and Robyn Stapleton, accompanied on the guitar by Innis White. Each are solo artists in their own right, with released work. They are from this part of Scotland and have beautiful regional tones that fitted so well with the lyrics they sang.

The songs in the set consisted of perfectly harmonised pieces sung by both together and solos by each, voice-accompanied by the other. The combination throughout, along with Innis’ faultless guitar work was such a pleasure to listen to.

I felt caught up and transferred to the places and tales their lyrics portrayed. Some songs sung by Claire such as The Gretna Girls she had written herself. Rattling Roarin Willie was fast and fun, and sung without any accompaniment other than the foot tapping in the audience. In contrast Karine Polwart’s Follow the Heron, sung in harmony by both, moved both me and other listeners. Robyn’s delivery of  Ae Fond Kiss and The Irish Boy highlighted her own particular talents in singing in pure tones with regional voice.

I enjoyed and laughed with the ‘chat’  between songs from both girls with their introductions.

Following a comfortable length of break, the Blazin’ Fiddles took to the stage. There was a sense in the room of eager anticipation. There were four fiddle players, keyboard and guitar accompanying. The group played several sets of music from all over Scotland.

Their style was fast, furious, energetic and fun. They clearly really enjoyed their music making. The musicians were all smiles, bouncing and weaving in and out between each other around the stage. Sometimes they played in pairs facing each other, before they all came together and played the set tune rousingly together.

Extremely entertaining performers, they all took a turn at introducing the sets along with stories of how and when certain pieces had been written by band members, or where discovered.

The guitarist Anna Massey injected further fun to evening with a ‘string plucking’ piece and personable musings. Following this, the fiddles played vigorously in unison, which was very rousing and the audience audibly showed their enthusiasm clapping and stomping along.

There were gentle reflective pieces played too, these worked well to contrast the high energy reels and ceildh pieces. I particularly liked the The Norwegian Waltz. The varied programme also included Hornpipe pieces, all showcasing how diverse an instrument the fiddle is, and how talented this group of musicians are.

As the final tunes were played the bows all had pieces of horsehair flying loose, visible in the lighting from where I sat, evidence of the vigorous play.  I could feel the hairs on the back of my neck stand up as the players stepped forward and played in unison, literally jumping up and down in time with their music. The concert ended on a great high and I left having had a very uplifting experience.

Thank you to the all the talented musicians last night and thank you Dumfries and Galloway Arts Festival for organising the event in our region.

Jeannette Blunsden