|Flaming Fiddles Fivefold
||[May. 3rd, 2015|10:49 pm]
We spent the past two evenings at the Sage, at concerts linked to their 'Fiddles on Fire' weekend: two concerts, five bands, two opprtunities to meet friends and gossip over a picnic and a bottle of wine on the Sage's concourse.
Friday night was billed as "Martin Carthy and Dave Swarbrick, Jackie Oates Trio" which I had mis-parsed as indicating that Jackie Oates was working with Carthy and Swarbrick as a trio, something I'd go some distance to hear. What it actually meant, of course, was that the Jackie Oates Trio were the support band for a Carthy and Swarb. gig - and nothing wrong with that, either. S. mocked my misreading: as if! But if it could happen anywhere, folk music would be the place. We agreed, however, that Jackie Oates and co. had performed admirably as a warm-up act: what they did was close enough in its nature to the main act to have some hope of pleasing an audience here in search of English traditional music with a helping of fiddle, and good enough not to be embarrassed by the comparison. Overshadowed, inevitably, but not embarrassed, and I'd gladly go to hear them in their own right.
Carthy and Swarbrick were, as they have been for the last 50 years, Carthy and Swarbrick, from the first chord of Sovay to the last twist of the melody of Byker Hill and on into an encore of - was it My Heart's in New South Wales? Gail-Nina was sufficiently impressed by what she heard to do some research, and when we met the following evening, she announced: "You realise that your fiddler has had a double lung transplant?" Yes, we said, and got to read his own obituary, too. He played sitting down on Friday, but it didn't seem to slow him down at all.
Last night's concert was an epic event in Hall One, the big concert hall. I tend to prefer the intimacy of Hall Two; last night's audience would have filled the smaller hall, I think, whereas it was a bit sparse in the large one. But we had seats very near the front, and although I ended the evening with a stiff neck, it was worth it for the sense of engagement with the performers. The show began with Finnish band Frigg, whose website has been removed for renovation (I hate it when they do that). A seven piece band, with a front row of four fiddles and a back row that did all the talking, lively tunes, good fun - and I'd have liked to know more about the background of their music, and where it fits in the Swedish-speaking / Finnish national matrix.
Sandwiched between two Scandinavian bands (no, seriously, the Sage's website describes the concert as "[a] Nordic sandwich with a Scottish filling" - I wouldn't call Finland 'Nordic' myself, but Frigg, perhaps...) were Chris Stout and Catriona McKay and the Scottish Ensemble. I'm hesitant about these folk / classical rapprochements, but enjoy Chris Stout's work with Catriona McKay, so it seemed worth a try. The main orchestral piece was a composition by Sally Beamish called Seavaigers, which included a rather splendid rendition of a storm at sea - but on the whole I preferred their work as a duo. They seemed to be having a wonderful time, and we were close enough to be getting a contact high.
By now we'd heard two solid sets from two excellent ensembles, and could have gone home feeling we'd already had a good evening's concert. Some of the younger members of the audience had spent the day at workshops, and were falling asleep. Could Väsen bring anything more to the proceedings? Why yes, it seems they could, and I'm not just talking about the nyckelharpa. Or the polskas, though they certainly left us well polskaed. Playing mostly, I think, their own compositions in tradional styles, they have a unity which gives their sound great force - like this:
Plus bonus fiddle: The Legacy of John Rae's Fiddle: A Cultural Journey between Orkney & the Arctic