What an amazing start to the Islay Sessions. Live music sessions, inspiring workshops, a sensational concert and a great ceilidh were the highlights of the weekend but it was the enthusiasm of the audiences and participants that have ensured that planning has already started for next year’s event.
The weekend started with live sessions at the Islay Hotel, Lochside Hotel and Port Charlotte Hotel. These open sessions were a perfect introduction to the top flight musicians who were taking part. The Maverick Angels provided the entertainment at the Lochside Hotel with fiddle legend Eilidh Shaw and guitarist Ross Martin at the Islay Hotel and Glasgow five-piece Anarkali taking up residency at the Port Charlotte Hotel. The format of the event was designed to encourage participation and it was particularly rewarding to see Islay’s very talented local musicians taking part at each of the venues.
The interactive theme of the Islay Sessions was continued on Saturday morning with workshops providing a great opportunity for Islay’s home-grown talent to learn and be inspired on fiddle, whistle, guitar and Gaelic song. Participants from all ages seized the chance to improve their skills and the workshops culminated with the performance of a new tune written by singer Darren Maclean.
The highlight of the weekend was the exceptional Saturday night concert and ceildh. A full Bruichladdich Hall was the perfect venue for a showcase of diverse traditional music at its very best. The concert was opened by Eilidh Shaw and Ross Martin with a beautiful and poignant set. The Maverick Angels were performing better than ever with Islay’s own Fraser Shaw and Scots Trad Music Awards nominee, Innes Watson, giving a masterclass in traditional music. Lori Watson’s fiddle and singing delighted the audience and her Borders style provided a fine contrast with the Irish influenced Anarkali. And if this was not enough, Darren Maclean performed a rich and varied set of songs that charmed the audience. The quality and strength of the line-up was the inspiration of the fabulous accordionist John Somerville, who was rarely off the stage all night.
The pace and energy of the concert transferred straight to the ceilidh that followed and there were very few people that could resist the temptations of the dance floor and they were rewarded with an exceptional twenty four minute Orcadian strip the willow which provided the perfect finale to a memorable inaugural Islay Sessions.
There has been a huge amount of work behind the scenes and the Islay Sessions would never have taken place without the support of the sponsors and the hospitality of the hotels. It would also not have worked without the generous contributions of accommodation for the visiting musicians. The weekend surpassed all of our expectations and we are already planning for next year’s event.
The Islay Sessions was supported by Kilchoman, Ardbeg, Bruichladdich, Laphroaig and Lagavulin Distilleries, Islay Ales, Liddell Thomson, The Islay Hotel, Lochside Hotel and Port Charlotte Hotel.
The first ever Islay Sessions traditional music festival was an overwhelming success and looks certain to become an annual event in Islay’s musical calendar.