Thrills and spills at Islay Sessions

Kim Carnie will headline MOK Fest's Gaelic Night.
Kim Carnie.

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Last weekend saw the ninth Islay Sessions started by the late Fraser Shaw and his great pal Grahame Allison, for whom he worked, writes Angus Rice.

The format has changed little over the years except for the size of the audiences with all concerts full to capacity. People are now travelling from the mainland and much further afield to enjoy the music. Over 60 per cent of the audiences were from afar, bringing a much-needed boost to the economy of the island but it would be good to see more local support.

The first of the intimate concerts in the conservatory of the Port Charlotte Hotel was on Friday night featuring Vox – namely Calum MacCrimmon, (of Breabach), LB Salter, Kim Carnie and Innes White.

Their musicality and vocal harmonies were a joy to behold. A great session in the bar followed with all the visiting musicians joining in.

Saturday dawned with a few bleary-eyed musicians about. However, after a good breakfast they were ready for the day’s workshops with tuition available in fiddle, accordion and guitar. LB held a workshop in the afternoon on mandolin which was followed by a ‘slow session’ in the bar with the participants.

Saturday night’s concert in Bruich­laddich hall was all set to go when a last-minute problem arose and ‘Islay time’ came in to force when a young lady arrived asking for assistance. Never one to ignore a lady, we put things on hold, plucked six members from the audience and went to the rescue of a member of the audience’s car that had landed in the ditch while being parked! With all returned to their seats, Calum struck up the pipes and opened the concert.

First to appear were Charlie Stewart and Innes White, who rendered a selection of lively and beautifully controlled tunes. They were followed by the Kim Carnie band and Kim’s wonderful voice and the musicality of her band were jaw-dropping. Following a short interval, and of course the raffle, Eabhal came on to the stage. They are a young band but their driving style soon had feet tapping and hands clapping. The night concluded with another great session in the hotel bar.

First up on Sunday saw a good crowd gathering at Fraser’s seat outside Bruichladdich distillery for the now annual dram to Fraser’s memory. While a poignant occasion, there was a lovely warm ambience and good to see more folk gathering.

The finale came on Sunday night for the second concert in the conservatory. Claire Hastings, albeit a year late (she had lost her voice last year), was here to entertain. The purity of Claire’s voice, her style and choice of songs had everybody captivated and, I can assure you, Claire, it was well worth the wait.

Sponsors are so importanrt to be able to put on such an event and we thank and salute you for your generosity, not forgetting those who do not wish to be named. Thank you for allowing the Sessions to continue.

Dates for your next year’s diary – November 20, 21, 22, 2020. See you then!