Celts, Arabs and Africans on song at Tweed Valley festivals

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The Tweed Valley filled with folk music, art, literature and politics last weekend at Innerleithen Music Festival and Traquair’s Books, Borders and Bikes.

Folk superstar Julie Fowlis headlined the town’s 11th music festival in a sold-out Memorial Hall on Friday. The North Uist artist, who featured in the soundtrack of Disney-Pixar’s Brave, performed Gaelic songs backed by young Bluegrass band The Dirty Beggars, Eamon Doorley (fiddle and bouzouki), Highland fiddler Duncan Chisholm and Tony Byrne (guitar).

Two characters at the Union Club in Innerleithen as part of the Innerleithen Music Festival.

Two characters at the Union Club in Innerleithen as part of the Innerleithen Music Festival.

Robin Dempsey, one of the festival organisers, said: “One of the highlights was Julie’s encore when she marched back on stage playing her own Highland bagpipes.”

Three more outstanding acts followed on Saturday, with veteran Rod Paterson, Glasgow’s The Paul McKenna Band, and Jeanna Leslie and Siobhan Miller “bringing the house down”, Mr Dempsey reported.

The Festival Club held open sessions at the Union Club, while the Masons hosted a singaround with Susie Kelly, and Gala’s String Jam Club featured John Hinshelwood, Seoras Ashby, Tom Clelland, Rob Nicholson, Becky Hogg, Fiona Laing, Rebecca McCue, Georgia Gordon, Angus Gunn, and Ryan Hooper.

All weekend the Vale Club hosted a “Live & Local Fringe” of the Borders’ emerging musical talents, plus St Ronan’s Silver Band, a “Historic Innerleithen” tour and an open day at Big Sky Studios in The Gordon Arms, Yarrow.

General Sir Mike Jackson at this year's Beyond Borders held at Traquair House, Innerleithen.

General Sir Mike Jackson at this year's Beyond Borders held at Traquair House, Innerleithen.

A busking competition on Innerleithen High Street was won by Karen Barber and her band, while the Matt Seattle Band’s “Parcel of Tunes for a Nation” concert, billed as “an introduction to our own Border piping tradition and its distinctive contribution, past, present and future”, was joined by pipers Bill Telfer, Ewan Ross and Ewan’s band Minchmoor.

The weekend also saw the first of six riverside Tweed Sessions to celebrate the tunes and songs of the Tweed and the Borders as part of the Working the Tweed project, awarded to Borders artists by Year of Natural Scotland 2013.

Music workshops also taught fiddle with Duncan Chisholm and Fiona Cuthill, harmony singing from Kathy Stewart, Scottish Country Dance with Julia Sharp, percussion by Alison Cameron, Scots song with Siobhan Miller and Jeanna Leslie, and bouzouki with Aaron Jones.

Innerleithen Parish Church saw Merlin Traditional Music Academy in Melrose’s second summer school concert, featuring students and teachers playing – on a plethora of instruments – traditional tunes picked up and arranged during the three days before the show.

Jane Kinninmont of Chatham House at this year's Beyond Borders held at Traquair House, Innerleithen with Sir Kieran Prendergast.

Jane Kinninmont of Chatham House at this year's Beyond Borders held at Traquair House, Innerleithen with Sir Kieran Prendergast.

The concert also saw fiddler and school music director Iain Fraser, plus Paul Chamberlain on accordion.

Sunday afternoon’s “Live and Local” main stage thumped to footstompin’ country music with Kathy Stewart and The Frequent Flyers, plus Pauline Alexander and Joe Richardson, while the evening saw a traditional singers’ concert, featuring a line-up of the Wendy Wetherby Band, Steve Byrne, Aileen Carr, Pat Douglas and Fisher Lassies.

“It’s a cliche, but the festival gets bigger and better every year,” Mr Demspey added, “and we’ve already got Aly Bain and Phil Cunningham booked for the opening night next year.”

Hawick's Donald Knox and Pat Douglas

Hawick's Donald Knox and Pat Douglas

Innerleithen Music Festival at the weekend, St Ronans Brass Band play in the High Street.

Innerleithen Music Festival at the weekend, St Ronans Brass Band play in the High Street.

Union Club in Innerleithen as part of the Innerleithen Music Festival. Working The Tweed, The Tweed Session. Traditional music sessions along The Tweed celebrating the music and song of The Tweed catchment.

Union Club in Innerleithen as part of the Innerleithen Music Festival. Working The Tweed, The Tweed Session. Traditional music sessions along The Tweed celebrating the music and song of The Tweed catchment.

Julie Fowlis

Julie Fowlis