I left the island of Westray with a ferry-load of young musicians yesterday, and now I’m in Kirkwell Island in cold, rain and wind. Maybe it’s time to get the Icelandic sweater out from inside the bottom of my bag.
The ferry left at 6 p.m. with a leave-taking musical salute to the organizer of the week-end music festival that entertained, not only Westray folks, but from nearby islands, as well.
The great leave-taking was done by bagpipers playing as the boat made waves, with the musicians waving goodbye.
Music was played at various locations throughout the week, ending in the wee early hours on Sunday morning.
Don’t know why, but somehow I missed the grand slam music venue that drew folks in to listen to many kinds of bands the night of Saturday, but I did have two more chances before I boarded the ferry.
A woman on Kirkwell, who, with one other organizer got a few music groups of teenaged musicians, along with a few older folks, together and in American-jazz parlance, they ‘jammed’ the weekend away.
I left the Old Manse Bed and Breakfast where I was grandly spoiled, with full breakfasts, daily room-cleaning, a softer-that-ever quilt, and a sleep-easy mattress, and then had the rest of the day until I’d meet the bus to take to the ferry.
I left my luggage at the B&B and walked around a bit, eventually ended up at the Pierwall Hotel where I went the first night in Kirkwall to use the wifi. A lovely lady invited me in and even had coffee delivered to me. It was here she told me I’d have two choices to hear the music that day.
“A group will be playing at the Church of Scotland,” she told me, and then right there on the Pierwell grounds would be an afternoon session.
“The Church of Scotland is a bit too far for me to walk up there but is there a bus?”
“Oh, I’ll find someone. I’ll go call and get a ride for you.”
It wasn’t more than five minutes that she came and told me, “Janet will pick you up in an hour out there.” She pointed to the street.
Janet and I, along with a crowded room, filled with many Island people, including some folks I had met on Papa Westray, were treated to an hour of music.
There were young people playing violins, a string bass, guitar, drums, piano and they introduced the songs they planned to play.
“Some of our music we have already played last night but we’re going to play them again, anyway,” one of the teen musicians said, and he got a chuckle from the listeners.
Not only did the teens entertain with classical music, three men pipers played, as well.
Some of the pipers were members of the men’s singing quartet who sang later.
After church, I rolled my suitcase and bag, computer and camera bag over rocks on a road to the Pierwell Hotel, from the B&B. I parked them on the side of the building, and waited for the music. Everything is safe on the islands and for proof, not a key was used at the B&B either for the front door or the bedroom doors. I felt safe leaving camera and computer and wallet anywhere there were people around. It’s a refreshing way of life on the islands.
Helen and David Smith, of Washington D.C. also came to enjoy the music. They were folks I met during breakfast at the B&B. They learned that I would take the same ferry that they would, and since they had a car, they invited me to go with them.
Slowly the musicians arrived at the hotel. They got their violins and other instruments out and began to loosen up with traditional Scottish music. All musicians played more than one instrument. Violins became fiddles, guitars were strummed, a drummer beat the rhythm on a typical box drum, like I had seen before in Ireland. Another drummer tapped a bodhrun, a traditional drum used in typical Irish and Scottish folk music.
A fiddle player – and there were many – would begin the round, others joined in and the music went around and around. People tapped their feet, nodded their heads with the beat, and everyone smiled in wonder of the talent there is on these islands.
Every young musician became entranced with the music as they played, and when they finally stopped, a fiddle would began again, and the round continued. Nearly three hours came and went, and the Pierwall Hotel folks filled a table with food for all.
Then, it was time for Helen, David and I to leave. We got on the ferry and realized we were followed on by many of the musicians who live in Kirkwell. Others live on other islands and would take either a different ferry or the airplane.
Traveling by ferry and airplane is the only way to get from one Orkney town to another and is an everyday occurrence.
“I was happy to be here today, and while waiting for the music, I walked me feet off,” said one party goer.