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Isle of Skye Accordion & Fiddle Festival 2018


Wall to wall sunshine, wall to wall music and capacity audiences were the order of the day for the fourteenth Skye Accordion and Fiddle Festival based in Portree’s Royal Hotel and which attracted a host of fine musicians and enthusiasts from throughout Scotland and further afield. Compereing duties were shared between Jim Campbell and Aly ‘k’ MacPherson, both long standing members of the Festival Committee and on the first evening it was Jim who started proceedings by asking multi talented Derek Hamilton of Galston to formally open the Festival. Derek, who is never short of a few wise words, made a short and humorous speech with an appeal to musicians of all ages and capabilities to support their local accordion and fiddle clubs without which the traditional music scene would wither and die. Before he declared to Festival open he also expressed his opinion that the Skye Festival was the best in the country bar none! Derek has supported, assisted and encouraged the Skye Club and none more so than their annual Festivals when he and two friends, pianist Jimmy MacDonald of Tighnabruaich and drummer Richard Hughes of Tobermory team up to provide backing to very many of the visiting musicians. They undoubtedly are the hardest working musicians at any of the Skye Festivals, seldom off the stage and have become affectionately widely known as ‘The Last of the Summer Wine’! Having set the tone for a great Festival it was music all the way from a host of great players, too numerous to mention individually. However special mention must be given to the youngest player, namely eight year old fiddler Tilly Ng of Portree who played a fine set for the capacity audience which earned her huge applause, not only for her fine playing but for her courage in standing up in front of such a large audience to perform. Special guest band for the evening was The Jeniffer Cruikshank Scottish Dance Band which was led on accordion by Jeniffer herself, husband Brian and daughter Iona both on fiddles, son Calum on keyboard and cousin Aly ‘K’ MacPherson on drums. Many great sets flowed from the band to delight the audience for the rest of the evening until it was time to go home.

On the following morning music was again to the fore from breakfast time with a continual flow of musicians giving their all throughout the day and once again in the evening it was a full house who settled down to enjoy the music with the guest band, The Willie MacFarlane Band who have a huge following throughout the country. Wliie led the band on his five-row button box with Derek Hamilton on second box, Caroline Rae on piano and Jim Dow on drums. Willie has a wonderful unique style with not only traditional Scottish sets, but Continental style and fabulous Latin American swing numbers. To say he was well received would be an understatement. Suffice it to say that he had to play no less than three encores before the audience would let him off the stage at the end of another evening of top class music.

On the final official day of the Festival the music broke out again after breakfast with many more visiting musicians until the capacity audience were treated to a session from well known Tom Cruikshank, accordionist and music teacher from Kiltarlity area who brought along some of his Inverness-shire pupils under the name of ‘Tom Cruikshanks Brats’! Well they certainly were not ‘Brats’ but they certainly were great young musicians and put on a great half hour performance, much appreciated by the audience. Undoubtedly they were going to be some of the great stars of the future and it was a huge pleasure to have them at the Festival. For the rest of the afternoon music came from guest band, The Martainn Skene Highland Dance Band led on accordion by Martainn from Spean Bridge with Claire Gullan on fiddle, Matthew MacLennan on keyboard and Neil MacGregor on drums. Simply a great session from this lively band ending the afternoon on a high and indeed ending the official Festival activities in the Royal Hotel. However in the evening an unofficial session continued in the Royal Hotel with a plethora of musicians while for those in need of exercise made their way to the nearby famous Skye Gathering Hall to dance the night away at the Festival Dance to the incredible sound of The Ian Hutson Scottish Dance Band. This was a six piece band led on accordion by Ian himself, Alistair MacLeod on second box, Neil Dawson on fiddle, Gordon Smith on drums, Jim Nicholl on piano and Alasdair MacLeod on double bass. Top class musicians with a top class sound ensured that the dance floor was always full and more than one person commented that it was many years since they had attended such a memorable occasion in the Skye Gathering Hall. What a sound and what a night to finish the Festival.
Many Festival goers stayed on for another night and consequently there were more fine musical sessions throughout the day and evening until eventually towards the end of the evening it became necessary to pack away the instruments and equipment to allow everybody get some sleep before departing homewards the following morning. The small Festival Committee are to be hugely congratulated on the massive amount of work which went into organising the whole Festival, rated as probably the best ever, which was borne out by the number of people asking for dates and tickets for the 2019 Festival before they headed homewards!
John Grundy.

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Isle of Skye (Photograph)