The 2017 Islay Sessions is done and dusted and what a weekend it was! Music, drams and craic for three days, and most exciting of all – the release of Fraser Shaw’s much anticipated tune book.
Islay Sessions attendee, Cathy Pidsley has written a piece on the festival and what it’s like coming as a first-timer:
“I learnt this past weekend that attending the Islay Sessions is a journey far more profound than the distance between Glasgow and Islay. Once experienced, the laughter and music created by the warmth and talent of the Islay Sessions musicians on the perfect setting of Islay itself, is an annual event not to be missed.
The weekend started strongly with an intense gig with Scots Trad Award Composer of the Year nominee Adam Sutherland and Mark Clement (both of whom are members of Session A9) in a guitar/vocals and fiddle duo, blending perfectly a range of musical styles into the traditional, revealing highly honed musical skills.
Saturday opened with a workshop opportunity for both the very young and those less so, under the guidance of Scots Trad Award Tutor of the Year nominee Emma Tomlinson, ably assisted by Adam Sutherland. Appropriately, Emma and Adam chose to use Fraser Shaw’s musical tribute to fellow Port Charlotte Hotel colleague Graham Allison. A slow session afterwards gave more opportunity for those of us practising new skills.
A tour of a few distilleries took place that afternoon, with visits to Bruichladdich, Caol Ila and Bunnahabhain by two bus loads of eager festival attendees. A wee stop at Fraser’s seat, overlooking Lochindaal, for a toast to the man himself was a necessity, with the launch of his tune book taking place that very night. Saturday night at the Islay Sessions was the big one – a packed Bruichladdich Hall was treated to a rousing performance of music learned in the morning workshop, some beautiful and ethereal Gaelic songs from Joy Dunlop, joined by Mhairi Marwick and Ron Jappy on fiddle and guitar, followed by the guitar and mandolin playing, and lyrical vocals of Jen Butterworth and Laura-Beth Salter.
Finally, the moment arrived for Fraser’s tune book to be introduced: Fraser’s brother Greig gave a beautiful speech about him and his dream to release a book, after which it’s first few copies were presented to a few people who were key to getting this immense project off the ground. Then, the book was available for sale for everyone!
After a token raffle, fiery young band Tannara took to the stage, finishing off the concert with a pulsing set of contemporary and traditional tunes and songs. At the end of the concert, all musicians in the room got up to finish the night off with a favourite composition of Fraser’s, The C-Side.
A necessarily quiet Sunday ended perfectly with the guitar and vocals of Innes Watson, setting to music his poems of ordinary daily life – namely of a robin and a chicken who were walking in the woods. Definitely not an allegory of a true love story! Innes seamlessly shared love, laughter and wine whilst creating a potential new tour band from the exuberant and vocal audience. As as the case for each night at the festival, a late night session in the Port Charlotte Hotel bar rounded off each day perfectly.”
The Islay Sessions would like to say a massive thank you to Graham and all of the staff at Port Charlotte Hotel, Bruichladdich, Laphraoig, Calmac Ferries, Emergency One, Ardbeg, Islay Ales, Kilchoman, Ardnahoe and The Fraser Shaw Trust. Purchase a copy of Fraser’s book or CD, sign up to the Trust newsletter, and keep up to date with all of their news at www.frasershawtrust.com .