2018/2 – Music in all Places

Musicians the world over are well-known for their somewhat scatterbrained tendencies, and yesterday yielded the 2018 festival’s first fruit of this proclivity. Having arrived at her home festival after completing an entire US tour without any such issues, Orkney’s own Kristan Harvey, of Fara fame, managed to get all the way out to Evie before realising she was sans fiddle, and had no idea whether she’d left it in the street or her hotel room.

Thankfully it turned up in the latter, so fiddler and instrument were reunited in time for the show, after an extra round trip back to Stromness by an obliging festival rep. (Quite how you set off to play a concert minus the very object you’re due to be playing, without some internal alarm-bell going off, is a question we’ll leave for another day.) Meanwhile keeping up the boys’ end in the flakiness stakes, Ímar piper Ryan Murphy blithely left his phone behind in Burray, but it was spotted by the sound crew during the get-out, and safely delivered back to him in Stromness. Just as well some of us are on the ball. . .

Talking of the same two bands, stunned punters in the Stromness Hotel bar witnessed the possibly unprecedented sight of all four Fara members heading for bed early, soon after midnight (and all five of Ímar’s line-up talking about going to bed early. . .) This was for the admirably sound reason that both acts were playing the School’s Out concert at 10am today in the Town Hall, necessitating sound-checks from 8am.

Both reaped due reward, however, doubtless winning dozens of new fans for life, if the tumultuous reception from their young audience is anything to go by. Fara fans, meanwhile, will be excited to hear that the band start recording their second album immediately after the festival, and so the irrepressible Jeanie Leslie, in particular, had stated that she’s planning a more moderate weekend than is customarily her wont, else she’ll have no voice left. We shall see. . .

Yesterday’s proceedings also included this year’s first instance of late-night déshabille in the Stromness Hotel, after a member of one Glasgow-based band received a phone-call from his girlfriend, just as he and his roommate were going to sleep. Unceremoniously ordered out of the bedroom if he was going to talk, our affectionate swain stepped out into the corridor clad solely in his boxers – just as a bunch of his fellow artistes arrived upstairs from the bar. Knowing the man as we do, we’d lay money he styled it out with nary an eyelid batted.

Far be it from us to encourage any more imbibing than you’ll instigate yourselves, but when it comes to choice of beverage, we’ll just leave it here that Swannay Brewery are donating 10p from every bottle sold of Orkney Session ale – custom-crafted for the festival, at a nice’n’easy 3.8% – to Folk Festival funds, so you can salve any conscience pangs by quaffing in a good cause. (Though it may be that such charitable endeavours have already been over-enthusiastically embraced, as the bottles are currently listed ‘out of stock’ on the brewery website.)

Even by Orkney standards, there was music popping up in all sorts of unexpected places last night. Awaiting our order in the Chinese after the sumptuous Town Hall show, we were entertained by a young local fiddle/guitar/vocal duo, interspersing local tunes with a creditable rendition of Sandy Wright’s ‘Wild Hurricane’, evidently learned from Kris Drever’s version. As we left, they’d just been joined by a festival-goer en route to the Song Club, taking the opportunity for a wee vocal warm-up. On subsequent arrival at the Stromness Hotel, for the Festival Club, we were greeted by a lone gentleman sat on the bench in the entrance hall, contentedly communing with his piano accordion (some said he’d been there most of the day). Then as the evening later dwindled towards its close, the last huddle of smokers outside were treated to iPhone recordings of newly-written songs by one of the bar-staff – newly-written as in that very morning, despite his wee-hours shift finish the previous night – beyond which was audible a last wee al fresco mandolin/guitar jam, taking place on the bench beside the RNLI. Small wonder that an elderly local was overheard earlier in the Red Cross charity shop, declaring – in reply to an enquiry about her forthcoming trip away – “I can’t think about my holiday the noo – my head’s just too full of music.”

Promising to pack festival heads even fuller, tomorrow and Sunday see the maiden outings for our brand-new outdoor stage, adjacent to the Stromness Hotel, running between noon and 4pm. Non-competitive open slots are available, and tomorrow’s performances will overlap with not one but two parading pipe bands, with Kirkwall City playing at the pierhead at 1.30, before Stromness’s Royal British Legion squad lead off from The Gathering: Generations concert around 3.15, wending their way to the open-air stage before Hadhirgaan round off proceedings there. Also, in yesterday’s mention of the festival session circuit, we omitted the British Legion from our list of hosting hostelries, but there is music there all weekend, too – look out for the printed flyers outlining the session schedule.