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Live Reviews

SADDLEWORTH FOLK WEEKEND - Uppermill, Oldham - 18-19 July 2015

Take a small inheritance from an elderly aunt, add a challenge from an ex-PA and sprinkle in a dozen pleas from festival goers and stewards... and what do you get? The inaugural Saddleworth Folk Weekend, with Ali O’Brien directing operations. Ali is no stranger to this role as she was director of the original Saddleworth Folk Festival which sadly ceased to exist a few years ago. In the intervening years, many requests to bring it back fell on deaf ears as there was no funding or financial support. Then, good old Aunty Elsie died and left a small inheritance. The unselfish Ali decided to put on a Folk Weekend, smaller than its predecessors and with a cosier atmosphere. This warmer ‘feel’ came through during the entire weekend and many were heard to echo through the hills and valleys around that they were “glad it’s back”, “really missed it” etc.

SHIRLEY COLLINS’ 80TH BIRTHDAY BASH - Cecil Sharp House, London - 31 October 2015

I bought my first Shirley Collins’ record, The Banks Of The Sweet Primroses, in 1968, and was instantly entranced by her voice and her songs. I went to see the The Albion Dance Band in 1976 and to the National Theatre production of Larkrise in 1979, in the hope and expectation of hearing Shirley singing. On neither occasion was she part of the band. It was soon after this that Shirley stopped singing for reasons she explains in her book, America Over The Water. It was only at Cecil Sharp House on this Saturday afternoon that I realised that I had, in fact, never seen Shirley sing live.

CYLCHCANU 2 / SONGCHAIN 2 - St David’s Hall, Cardiff - 14 October 2015

Last year I reviewed the first Cylch Canu in glowing terms. It was so successful that it may become an annual event. I do hope so, as we were once again treated to a delightful evening of tunes, song and dance.

ORAN: A CELEBRATION OF THE SONGS OF RUNRIG - Blas Festival, Inverness - 12 September 2015

The Blas Festival, held every September at various locations throughout the Highlands, regularly culminates in a grand finale concert at Eden Court Theatre in Inverness. This year’s concert was extra special, being a Gaelic star-studded show paying homage to the music of Runrig and sold out faster than the proverbial hot cakes. The singers and musicians ranging through generations and performing to a packed audience, equally wide-ranging age-wise, featured Cathy-Ann McPhee, Julie Fowlis and Mànran. A lengthy programme covered both the earlier and later stages of Runrig's long recording career including interpretations of some English as well as Gaelic songs from the Macdonald brothers' vast repertoire.


If one way of judging the success of an event is to leave the audience begging for more, then this gathering of singers and musicians certainly met that criteria. The evening began with Geordie and Alison singing Inveroran, penned by Geordie. This song, in praise of the Highlands of Argyll, had a short refrain which was picked up immediately by the audience, setting the scene for the rest of the night.