Northern Roots Festival, One Touch Theatre at Eden Court on Saturday 31st of May: a review.
Saturday picked up in just as impressive a manner as Friday ended. The format for the evening was considerably different.
Friday was divided into sections for each artist to come to the front of the stage and perform however Saturday’s Highland Sessions saw a collaborative effort from all involved, from beginning until end.
The performance was coordinated by Anna Massie and Angus Lyon; members of the Highland House band. Massie and Lyon, along with other band members Rua MacMillan and Mike Vass were responsible for organising the rehearsal (which we were told was quite brief) and arrangements for the performance. The evening centred around three incredible singer songwriters; Aoife O’Donovan, Rachel Sermanni and Adam Holmes, but with fantastic accompaniment from the Highland House band, Feis Rois and the superb Inverness Gaelic Choir conducted by Mary Anne Kennedy.
Aoife is an alternative folk singer from Massachusetts. She was previously the lead singer of Crooked Still but has set out on a solo career. Her first album Fossils was released in 2013 to critical acclaim. Throughout the session we heard several tracks from the album including ‘Fire Engine’ and ‘Thursday’s Child’. Her soft, breathy voice is inviting, enjoyable and versatile dictating the tenor of each song.
Carrbridge’s own Rachel Sermanni named ‘one of the UK’s hardest working musicians’ keeps going from strength to strength. Her beautiful voice coupled with her charming and quirky stage presence has led to a large following. She was of course, on top form for the session and joined in at every available opportunity; often adding backing vocals for O’Donovan and Holmes.
Adam Holmes has been deemed ‘one of the brightest rising stars on the Scottish folk scene’ and with good reason. His deep, melancholic voice does not necessarily belong exclusively to folk and his honest and touching lyrics could appeal to anyone. His debut album Heirs and Graces has been shortlisted for the Scottish Album of the Year Award 2014 alongside the likes of Edwyn Collins and Biffy Clyro; and with good reason.
On stage, Holmes collaborated to great effect with the award winning Inverness Gaelic Choir. The Feis Rois musicians played us into the interval with a toe-tapping jig. The second half of the evening kept it’s easy going and enjoyable pace, with individual performances from all singers and a song from the choir which was stunning.
As with the previous evening Bruce MacGregor conducted well judged interviews from the home of Northern Roots Radio. The evening was unconventional in the sense that it didn’t follow the; one musician on, one musician off format, but it was refreshing to see so many talented musicians all mucking in, in a sense, to create a truly enjoyable evening. A fitting finale saw the entire ensemble bid us goodnight with a wonderful rendition of Ae Fond Kiss.
Perhaps what was most impressive was that it was relaxed, intimate and seamless – the hard work that went into the festival was invisible and that, allied to a very creative set and overall design, allowed a real intimate feel and an instant connection with the audience. A truly memorable festival that had the audience buzzing, a perfect venue in Eden Courts One Touch Theatre and a real sense of anticipation about what Northern Roots will treat us to next year – there will many happy customers returning and a fair few new faces I’ll bet.
Let’s not forget that what we have not been able to cover here were all the great fringe events taking place in various venues in the city centre. Word on the streets would suggest the place was buzzing. Take a well deserved bow Northern Roots, round of applause and a standing ovation!
Please have a look at our other coverage and photographs of the Norther Roots Festival 2014.