Published: 12/01/2016 13:18 - Updated: 14/01/2016 10:46

18 acts bound for Orkney as Folk Fest announces line up

Award-winners RURA are among the headliners at this year's Orkney Folk Festival.
Award-winners RURA are among the headliners at this year's Orkney Folk Festival.

 Orkney Folk Festival has today (Tuesday, January 12) revealed some 14 acts – bringing the current total to 18, spanning nine distinct traditions – who will perform at the 34th annual event, held between May 26-29.

Artists from the United States, Canada, Finland, Ireland, England, mainland Scotland, Shetland and the Hebrides will join with Orkney’s own talent at the four-day event.

Live Act of the Year at the 2015 Scots Trad Music Awards, RURA; Scottish fiddling sensations, Session A9; traditional Irish song quartet, Lynched; Acadian trio, Vishtèn, who hail from Canada’s Prince Edward Island and Montreal; Rob Heron and the Teapad Orchestra, who fuse Western Swing, Gypsy Jazz, country and blues; stalwart of the West Country folk scene, and father of a folk dynasty, Geoff Lakeman; popular Shetland fiddle and guitar duo, Maggie Adamson and Brian Nicholson; rising Scottish singer and ukulele player, Zoë Bestel; and one of Scotland’s most in-demand ceilidh outfits, The Glencraig Scottish Dance Band, will all take to Orkney’s festival stages this year.

The festival will also host the first Orkney performances from  FunBox – the new family singalong show from Anya Scott-Rodgers, Gary Coupland and Kevin Macleod, former stars and writers of The Singing Kettle.

Visiting acts will be welcomed by a stellar cast of Orcadian musicians and singers, which so far includes one of Orkney’s best known musical sons, Ivan Drever, returning to the festival for the first time in eight years, to celebrate his sixtieth birthday in fitting style; power duo Saltfishforty, who will reprise their Saltfish@forty Celtic Connections show on home turf; Orkney’s world-renowned and much loved musical twins, The Wrigley Sisters; and nationwide festival favourites, The Chair.

These announcements follows last month’s news that the festival will host world-renowned, Grammy-nominated Irish-American fiddler Liz Carroll; Mercury-nominated Tyneside vocal sister-act The Unthanks; the leading act on the Nordic fiddle scene, Finland’s Frigg; and the voice of Disney Pixar’s Brave, Gaelic songstress Julie Fowlis.

This year’s festival will encompass over 30 ticketed events, across its four days. Rather than offering an all-in-one festival site, concerts and ceilidhs takes place in venues throughout the Orkney mainland and some neighbouring isles. Alongside a number of venues in the festival’s hometown and hub of Stromness, the 2016 festival will visit Birsay, Finstown, Harray, Kirkwall, Orphir, Quoyloo and St Margaret’s Hope, as well as the islands of Hoy, Shapinsay and Westray.

Tickets for all festival events will go on sale in April, around six weeks ahead of the festival.

Last year the festival broke all of its previous box office and ticket records, with more than 6,000 tickets changing hands, two thirds of all events selling out, and total occupancy rising to well over 90% across the board.

This success was largely attributed to two high-profile press visits in 2014, from BBC Radio 2’s Folk Show and leading world music magazine, Songlines. During the hour-long Orkney Folk Festival special edition of the flagship BBC programme, presenter Mark Radcliffe hailed the festival to be; “an amazing and indelible few days”.

Live Act of the Year at the 2015 Scots Trad Music Awards, RURA are "one of the most exciting bands on the Scottish folk scene" (Songlines). With their second album, 2015's Despite the Dark, accompanied by extensive UK and international touring, the band have cemented their reputation as one of Scotland’s most powerful folk-based bands. Their exquisitely rugged, yet refined blend of fiddle, Highland pipes, voice, flute, bodhran and guitar has proven a resounding hit across the board, and at many of the world’s leading folk festivals – including Cambridge, Tønder, Winnipeg, HebCelt and Orkney back in 2012, amongst countless others.

Session A9, which includes members from Speyside, Caithness and the Inverness area, will also be taking the road north to Orkney.
Session A9, which includes members from Speyside, Caithness and the Inverness area, will also be taking the road north to Orkney.

Also returning to the festival, Session A9 are set to make their third Orkney Folk Festival appearance – having previously visited in 2004 and 2011. Featuring Charlie McKerron, Gordon Gunn, Kevin Henderson and Adam Sutherland on fiddle, backed by pianist Brian McAlpine, David “Chimp” Robertson on percussion, and Marc Clement on guitar and vocals, the group boast not just some of Scotland’s highest revered players, but also some of the country’s best tunesmiths.

A recent hit on Later… with Jools Holland, Lynched are a traditional four-piece from Dublin, who combine distinctive four-part vocal harmonies with arrangements of uilleann pipes, concertina, Russian accordion, fiddle and guitar. Their repertoire spans humorous Dublin music-hall ditties and street-songs, classic ballads from the Traveller tradition, traditional Irish and American dance tunes, and their own original material.

No strangers to the north isles – having performed at the Shetland Folk Festival in 2009 – but making their first visit to Orkney, Vishtèn have acted as Francophone musical ambassadors throughout the world for well over a decade. This Canadian trio dazzles audiences with their fiery blend of traditional French songs and original instrumentals, fusing Celtic and Acadian genres with a modern sensibility. Their tight sibling harmonies, layered foot percussion, and trademark blend of fiddle, guitar, accordion, harmonium, whistles, piano, bodhrán, jaw harp, moog, and electric guitar make for a unique tour de force.

Fusing their own brand of Western Swing, blues, Gypsy Jazz and country, Rob Heron and the Tea Pad Orchestra are one of the hardest working bands in the UK roots circuit, with thousands of touring miles under their belts. Based in Newcastle upon Tyne – but featuring Stromness’ own Colin Nicholson – they have earned themselves a sizeable fan base in the UK, Europe and beyond, with songs penned by frontman Rob; a self-confessed fool for country music and a full time dandy-cowboy.  His songs are full of character, satire, and good old fashion hollerin’.

A Cornishman who has lived on Dartmoor in Devon for the last 38 years, Geoff Lakeman is a stalwart of the West Country folk scene, a leading exponent of the rare Crane Duet concertina, and father of a virtual folk dynasty (his sons, Seth, Sean and Sam, are all internationally renowned musicians). With an evident and infectious love and knowledge of his native folk traditions, Geoff's self-written songs sit comfortably alongside centuries-old titles not only from the West Country, but also the English, Irish and Scottish idioms.

Shetlanders Maggie Adamson and Brian Nicholson are a much-loved fiddle and guitar duo, whose wide ranging repertoire bridges traditional Shetland tunes with American, Scottish, Eastern European and classical styles. No strangers to Orkney, Maggie and Brian won the festival's Open Stage competition in 2007, when Maggie was just 15. In the near decade that they have now performed together, they have recorded five albums - most recently Here 'N Now, released in November 2015 - and have toured as far afield as Australia, the United States and Norway, as well as to many of Scotland's leading folk festivals.

Drawing comparisons with KT Tunstall and Ed Sheeran, award winning nu-folk singer-songwriter and ukulele fanatic, Zoë Bestel is fast making a name for herself on the Scottish music scene. With her first single, 35 Missed Calls - released in 2012, when she was just 14 – reaching number three in Amazon’s folk chart, and her debut record awarded Album of the Week by the Scottish Daily Record, she is winning admiration both from national press and the wider folk scene, having been invited to support such artists as The Peatbog Faeries, Emily Smith, Paul Brady, and Bella Hardy.

Fronted by Nicol McLaren, The Glencraig Scottish Dance Band are one of Scotland’s most in-demand ceilidh outfits, making their debut Orkney Folk Festival appearance. Nicol – an agricultural sales specialist by trade, and chair of the National Association of Accordion and Fiddle Clubs - formed the band in 1983 to play at a ‘kirk social’, and over three decades later the band remain one of the Scottish Country Dance scene’s finest.

Ensuring that the festival reaches out to folkies of all ages, FunBox is the new family show from Anya Scott-Rodgers, Gary Coupland and Kevin Macleod. Bringing a wealth of experience from their days as performers and writers of The Singing Kettle, they have created a sparkling new show for kids of all ages, from nought to ninety, maintaining the balance of traditional singalong songs and brand new compositions, but with a distinctly Scottish flavour.

Orkney Folk Festival’s Artistic Director, Bob Gibbon, said: “We’re really pleased with how this year’s line-up is coming together. The artists announced today represent a very broad spread of not just international folk traditions and styles, but also the rich tapestry of Scotland’s own folk scene. It’s great to have artists from the three island groups of Orkney, Shetland and the Hebrides at the festival in the same year, as well as leading and new names from the Scottish mainland.

“The term ‘folk’ means very different things to lots of people, and we aim to cater for as many of those varying strands and interpretations as we can, within a relatively small line-up. From jumping party bands to solo singers and musicians, and leading international performers to singalong family shows, there’s something there for folk of all ages – and we can’t wait to welcome them all to the festival once again.

To find out more about the festival, head to www.orkneyfolkfestival.com.

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