Capercaillie had another tremendous performance as the headline act of
the at the tenth annual Gosport and Fareham Easter [Folk] Festival at
Ferneham Hall (Fareham, Hampshire, UK) last night. The closing session
of the third of the festival's four days began with two well-appreciated
support acts. Apologies from the organisers for a late start due to
technical difficulties encountered during the sound check were
well received despite the heightened audience interest in the
headline act. Ferneham Hall is a lovely and intimate venue--the
tremendous sound achieved in the concert was a result of the
Hall's already good acoustic quality, good engineering and an
excellent sound system.
First up was the award-winning Gaelic singer Anne Martin--from the
Scottish isle of Skye--accompanied by harpist and backing vocalist
Ingrid Henderson. Anne and Ingrid have worked together since they
met as part of a larger ensemble at Celtic Connections in 1996 and
have performed as a duo at many festivals throughout Scotland as
well as a tour of Holland in 1998 and of the Czech Republic in
1999. This partnership highlights the unique musical tradition of
the West Highlands. Their short set included a variety of Gaelic
tunes and a couple of rousing walking songs. During the performance
it was easy to relate to the description in The Scotsman
newspaper as "awesomely beautiful" with her style of singing Gaelic
traditional songs coming "straight from the heart." We especially
enjoyed Ingrid's backing vocal work on the walking songs and in
the rousing harp part in the closing number to their short set.
Their website is full
of further information and soundbites as well.
Gjallarhorn, with four of their five members in tow, is a
world-music oriented folk band from Finland. They were
up next, having made their United Kingdom debut in a set
performed at the Festival just three hours earlier.
The band is fronted by the stunning vocalist and violin player
Jenny Wilhelms, a classically trained musician who is presently
continuing her studies in Helsinki. Also performing were Adrian
Jones (viola, mandola, kalimba), Tommy Mansikka-Aho (didgeridoo,
slideridoo and Jew's harp) and David Lillkvist (udu, djembe,
darabouka, shaman drum and other ethnic percussion). Jenny
explained the origins and themes of each of the songs in the
group's short set drawn from their their latest album
Sjofn, which clearly sold very well at the festival.
The group's songs are full of Jenny's powerful and far ranging
vocal work--she has a tremendous voice. The cover artwork for
the new album is as captivating as the music. It illustrates a
view of Sjofn, an ancient Scandinavian goddess who awakens
love and passion between people. The songs
"Goddess of Spring" and "Dolphin Calling" were certainly two
standouts in their performance; pre-recorded backing tracks
provided additional depth to the band's already rich sound.
Other songs included the group's unique renditions of
Swedish and Finnish folk songs from their Scandinavian homeland.
Their well-designed website
is full of further information as well as an extensive set of
tracks for online sampling.
Capercaillie's headline performance was outstanding in every
respect. Fronted by lead singer Karen Matheson, the eight
person group consisted of Donald Shaw (keyboards and
accordian), Charlie McKeron (fiddle) and Manus
Lunny (bouzouki and guitar), Michael McGoldrick (flute,
whistles, uillean pipes), Ewen Vernal (six-string and
double bass) and James MacKintosh (durms) and another
[currently unidentified] musician
(percussion). In support of their most recent
album Nądurra and sticking with the folk festival's
theme, the almost two hour long set was more traditionally
oriented--full of rousing jigs and reels--than the 1997
Beautiful Wasteland tour
A fantastic introduction to the rich Celtic sound of
Capercaillie and Karen Matheson's vocal prowess, the set
opened with the a sweetly sung Gaelic vocal entitled "Mo
Chailin" from the most recent album. The band's blend of
keyboard and bouzouki is offset by the calling flute and
voilin parts. A new arrangement of the title track from the
band's prior album--"Beautiful Wasteland"--was one of
the more contemporary tunes played during the evening.
Capercaillie's lushly produced arrangements of traditional
tunes began with an accordian, flute and fiddle-driven
theme in "The Cockerel and The Creel." Although made
clear throughout their on-stage performance, the artists'
musicianship is most evident in these rousing and
fast-paced numbers. Donald Shaw's and Michael
McGoldrick's fingers move faster than can possibly
be imagined; Charlie McKerron is quite fast on his
fiddle as well!
Capercaillie uniquely blend fine instrumental
performances and arrangements with Karen Matheson's
stunning vocals. The Daily Telegraph wrote, "Few
women fronting any kind of British band possess a voice
to touch Karen Matheson's, remarkable in English but
breathtaking when she draws on her Hebridean roots to
sing in Gaelic." She has become a Scottish icon and
is universally recognised as the finest Gaelic singer
alive today. And she is as incredible to see and hear
performing on stage as she is on Capercaillie's albums
and her solo project, The Dreaming Sea.
Alternating between vocal and instrumentals the set
continued with "Finlay's" from Beautiful Wasteland,
another slow reel, and the slipjigs in "Argyll Lassies"
both from Nądurra. We were especially fond of
Karen's evocative vocal work and the accompanying
arrangements of the heartfelt ballad "Truth Calling."
Further instrumentals performed in the set were highly
rousing, drawing quite a few from the audience to
dance in the aisles and in front of the stage.
The numbers included "Kepplehall, "Seice Ruairidh"
and "Rob Roy Reels" amongst others, which quite
likely included some new ones.
The main set concluded with "The Tree" from
Beautiful Wasteland. Wild applause from the
audience--before the final Festival announcements
for the day and another afterwards--resulted in
the band's return for one encore. An extended
arrangement of "Pige Ruadh"--a final Karen
Matheson rapid-fired mouth music extravaganza--was
performed featuring solo performances by the each of
the group members. It was a stunning conclusion
to an outstanding performance.
Interested readers should explore these other
Capercaillie reviews at Musical Discoveries:
Capercaillie, credited with being the major force in
bringing Celtic music to the world stage, have indeed
returned to their roots, peforming primarily an
acoustic-based set while retaining a lush style that
produces a vibrant and contemporary sound. With
the majority of the artists playing more than one
instrument as well, the band's musicianship was
supberb and the set clearly illustrated tremendous
virtuosity, skill and overall command of their craft.
While we might have preferred to hear a few more of
Capercaillie's more contemporary tracks, the group's
selection of largely traditionally-based tunes
delighted the audience, fit the theme of the
Festival and supports their latest album. And
it made our most recent trans-Atlantic journey
entirely worthwhile! We really can't wait to
see them again.