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Celtic Fiddle Festival, Queen's Hall, Edinburgh


The fiddle music of Shetland, Brittany, Quebec and Ireland were all represented in Friday's Fiddle 2012 concert, the last three of these being both celebrated individually and united in the current edition of Celtic Fiddle Festival. Described with typical wit as "three cultures destroyed by one instrument" by their founder, the late, much-missed Johnny Cunningham, the group proved, of course, to be quite the reverse of this observation.

Physically four-strong, with guitarist Nicholas Quemener providing the engine room for fiddlers Christian Lemaitre, Andre Brunet and Kevin Burke, they really become a quintet with Brunet's application of the dancing feet percussion style that drives the Quebecois tradition and gives this group a hugely appealing, apparently unstoppable momentum. Their solo spots were quite different, with Lemaitre's vinegary toned impetus contrasting with Burke's beautifully paced, lyrical playing and Brunet's nimble, silk and steel approach, but together their styles coalesced into a marvellously characterful, uplifting sound that captured the tipsy weave of Cunningham's Pernod Waltz, especially, to a T.

Shetlander Kevin Henderson's opening set with Swedish guitarist Mattias Perez referenced quite a few of the tunes that have become familiar through the group Henderson's played with since school days, Fiddlers' Bid. But even without his three fiddling partners, Henderson portrayed all the colour and sheer melodic depth of items such as Da Farder Ben da Welcomer, with Perez providing ultra-sympathetic accompaniments on bouzouki as well as guitar. Henderson's relaying of background tales enhanced his melodic command and graceful delivery.

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