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Fiddlers' Bid FIDDLERS' BID
Live at The Arches, Glasgow
Celtic Connections
9th February 2003

The Arches is packed tonight for the Fiddlers' first gig of this year's festival. They're all itching to dance as well and the desire for a full-on opening number doesn't go unsatisfied. From where I'm sitting it looks like Maurice Henderson, one of the four young Shetland fiddlers who front the group, has virtually sawn through half of the hairs on his bow before the first number is up. The crowd roars and the band barely pause for breath before stamping their way into the second number. The energy they put into their performances is infectious and Chris Stout looks particularly devilish in his bright red shirt with a mischevious glint in his eye. Their second number closes into a soft beautiful harmony before Maurice introduces the third tune, Bedding The Wife, explaining the Shetland custom of the womenfolk preparing the bride for the night ahead. The only man allowed in the bridal chamber is the fiddler and, as he points out, there are a lot of fiddle players in Shetland.

It's not all fiery fiddles though, as demonstrated beautifully by the elegant Catriona MacKay on clarsach and keyboards, sporting the best kitten-heels of the week! She leads the group in a tune she wrote when the Tall Ships Race came to Shetland. It's a delicate, mesmerizing number and you can hear the waves breaking as her fingers flow over the strings. When the boys play background fiddles there's none of that soft-focus, pastel-coloured stuff - it's strong, confident, gentle and tender all at once. Kevin Henderson's fiddle playing is all effortless grace and skill, Maurice Henderson plays like he's never enjoyed himself so much in his life and Andrew Gifford seems born to it, letting it all happen naturally while he thinks about something else with a beautiful smile on his face.

They've put together a perfectly balanced set with the boys sometimes leaving the stage to Catriona on the harp or the fiddles coming on without the bass, guitar and keyboard backing. Those fiddles ring like bells when the four of them get going. The crowd go crazy and the stage takes a hammering from four sets of stomping feet as the band come back for more. There's nothing like Fiddlers' Bid in full flight - you should take every opportunity you get to see them live.

Kit Bailey - February 2003

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An impeccable selection of the best in folk, roots and acoustic music.
Mike Harding
BBCi Music

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