Monday, July 28, 2008

The Norse connection

After many years of plundering attacks on the Shetland Isles, Norse Vikings finally invaded during the 9th Century A.D., destroyed the Picts (the Peti) living there, and intermarried with the local Scots (the Scotti). In 880, King Harald of Norway established an earldom of Orkney which controlled Shetland, until control reverted directly back to Norway in the 12th century. By 1397, Norway had come under the control of Denmark. In 1469 and short of funds, King Christian I of Denmark and Norway pawned Orkney and Shetland to Scotland to pay for the dowry of his 12 year-old daughter Margaret for whom he arranged marriage to James III of Scotland. Scotland annexed both territories in 1472, and subsequently refused all offers to redeem them for several centuries thereafter. The Norse language and customs were broadly integrated into the Scots daily life, and this amalgamation is amply evident today. On the Friday (Aug. 8) of Fiddle Frenzy, special workshops will focus on Norwegian-style fiddling. janet

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Frenzy itinerary

Mon 4 Aug 08
07:00-Arrive Lerwick, Ferry from Aberdeen
13:30-14:00 Activity: Registration & Welcome
14:00-16:00 Activity: Workshops - Medium/Fast
19:00-23:00 Activity: Fiddle Frenzy Dance - Jim Halcrow Band
Tue 5 Aug 08 Lerwick
10:30-12:30 Activity: Workshop - Medium/Fast
14:00-16:00 Activity: Workshop - Medium/Fast

19:30-22:00 Activity: Fiddle Frenzy - Jenna Reid band
Wed 6 Aug 08 Walls
10:30-12:30 Activity: Workshop - Medium/Fast Walls Hall
14:00-16:00 Activity: Trip, Jamieson's Spinning Shetland Ltd
19:30- 00:30 Activity: "An Evening With..." concert & dance, Walls Hall
Thu 7 Aug 08 Lerwick
10:30-12:30 Activity: Workshop - Medium/Fast
14:00-16:00 Activity: Trip, Old Scatness Settlement
19:30-22:00 Activity: Fiddle Frenzy - Catriona Macdonald & Annbjorg Lien Concert
Fri 8 Aug 08 Unst, Baltasound
10:30-12:30 Activity: Workshop - Norwegian style
14:00-16:00 Activity: Trip, tour Unst
19:30-00:30 Activity: Fiddle Frenzy - Drop the Box concert & dance
Sat 9 Aug 08 Eshaness
10:00-16:00 Activity: Trip to Eshaness

19:00 Ferry, Lerwick to Aberdeen

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Getting there

Last year we flew via Icelandair to/from Glasgow. Our route took us to an overnight on Skye and a weeklong harp workshop on the island of Lewis, Outer Hebrides with Wendy Stewart. We then traveled by bus and ferry to Stromness, Orkney and on to Lerwick, Shetland via the overnight ferry from Kirkwall. We returned via ferry to Aberdeen, rail to Glasgow, flight to Boston. We loved the Northlink ferries (see 'ferry' link, under Frenzy links). We especially liked our airline stopover in Reykjavik, where we had time to visit the Blue Lagoon before boarding for the transatlantic journey.

This year Janet and I are traveling solo on the outbound leg from Boston. I am flying to London via BA a few days before the 'frenzy.' I'll be visiting with my son and his wife, who now live there. It's possible to fly to Shetland from London, but we decided to fly to Aberdeen on Sunday, Aug 3, so as to enjoy a hotel room on the Northlink ferry. I'll be meeting Janet on that flight (hopefully). We arrive in Lerwick Aug. 4 for day 1 of the 'frenzy.' We'll be leaving Lerwick for Aberdeen on Aug. 9., overnight London Aug. 10 and 11, to Boston Aug. 12. jane

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Fiddling and harping coming full-circle

I was introduced to violin in grade school, took several years of lessons, and played in school orchestras through high school. I vividly recall my embarrassment, when I was about 13 yrs. old, the little old lady who lived in the apartment building next to mine, stopping me and gushing over how much my playing had improved. I was immediately struck by how much she must have suffered in the process...

While I was in high school, an elderly family friend , Prof. Walter Baldwin gave me his old German-made violin, which sounded immensely better than the recommended school instrument my mother had so carefully budgetted to buy me for $65. Many years later I took a couple more years of lessons while my young children Bradley and Heather were studying Suzuki violin and cello. Then, only many years later, with significantly reduced family and work responsibilities, did I return to the joys and challenges of playing music on a regular basis.

I started playing Celtic harp, which I had long fancied, with Kathleen Guilday (through the CCE Program at Harvard and Boston College), who introduced me to a wealth of traditional music, including Da Day Dawns, a Shetland air traditionally played on New Year's Day. Through Kathleen's classes I was also introduced to her other students, a remarkably eclectic and jolly group, including the inimitable Jane. When we attended the outstanding summer Gaelic Roots program at Boston College, we were drawn to the infectious enthusiasm of the fiddling all around us. Rather adventurously (and audaciously), we both signed up for a class with the Shetland fiddler Catriona MacDonald, whose playing had captivated us, especially her rendition of Michael's Mazurka. She gave an entrancing lecture on the Shetland Islands, its history and music, and, as they say, the "rest is history".

It all took several years to evolve, facilitated by our harping with Shetlander Catriona McKay and fiddling with Shetlander Chris Stout, who gave us some very good advice on the week-long Fiddle Frenzy extravaganza, how you really do get out to the Shetland Islands, places to stay, etc. This past week at this year's Harp In The Hills Retreat, we had the pleasure of harping Da Day Dawns under the excellent tutelage of Maeve Gilchrist using her evocative arrangement. Jane and I also took the opportunity to practice fiddling some of our old and new Shetland tunes. We took the precaution of removing ourselves to another building so as not to drown out (and risk some creative retribution from) our good harping colleagues. janet

Tom Anderson

Tom Anderson is a legend in Shetland fiddle history. The accompanying 'musicians' link under the 'Frenzy links' heading will guide you to his biography. He was an outstanding fiddler, composer, collector of tunes; a teacher, advocate, and promoter of Shetland music. His album, The Silver Bow, recorded with Aly Bain in the 1970's, contains the core fiddle repertoire of Shetland. A CD version is still available. jane

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

From fiddle to harp and back...

Although I played the violin as a child, my introduction to traditional music began with the celtic harp. After retirement, I started lessons. One of the earliest tunes I learned was a Shetland tune, Da Slockit Light, by Tom Anderson, in an arrangement by my harp teacher at the time, Kathleen Guilday. I recall being enchanted by the melody. As I listened to more traditional music, I realized I was missing a lot by not playing fiddle, too. I dusted off my grandfather's fiddle, fixed it up, and started fiddle lessons. Not long after, I attended a workshop by Catriona MacDonald at Boston College. Once again I was struck by the Shetland tunes and inspired to come to Shetland by Catriona's presentation. This past week I was at a harp workshop with Maeve Gilchrist, who taught us her lovely arrangement of Da Day Dawns. jane

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Shetland itinerary

If you click on the map above, you will link to another, detailed map of the Shetland Islands.

Our itinerary for 2008 workshops just arrived in the mail. Home base is, again, the Isleburgh Centre in Lerwick. We are excited about outings for workshops in Walls on the west of the mainland and in Baltasound on the island of Unst. We are planning side trips to Old Scatness (near Sumburgh, main island) and Eshaness.

In 2007 we traveled for workshops in Vidlin on the far east of the main island. On another day we went by bus/ferry/bus to the island of Yell. In addition, Janet and I took a side trip to Scalloway and West Burra. Later in the week we also took a 'nature' boat trip around Bressay to see nesting colonies of guillemots; skua and puffins. Photo albums from Scalloway, W. Burra, and Yell will be up soon. jane