Fara brings together four musicians at the forefront of today’s Scottish folk scene, Jennifer Austin, Kristan Harvey, Jeana Leslie and Catriona Price’s three fiddles and a piano, to produce a fiery sound rooted strongly in their upbringing among the music of Orkney.
Having been friends since early childhood, the girls grew up under the musical guidance of Douglas Montgomery (The Chair, Saltfishforty) with the three East Mainlanders of the band in fiddle group Hadhirgaan at Kirkwall Grammar School, and Kristan, a West Mainlander, in Jenny Keldie’s Shoramere at Stromness Academy. The four girls then went on to study south, and hold degrees from The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, Strathclyde University, The Royal Northern College of Music and The Royal Academy of Music. They have all since established themselves in the Scottish music scene winning prizes along the way which include the BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Award, The BBC Radio Scotland Young Traditional Musician of the Year, The Deutsche Bank Award in Performance and Composition, and the Danny Kyle Award.
The idea for the band came after several appearances as “The Chairettes”, The Chair’s backing band. At one gig, the girls were asked to play a couple of sets on their own, and Bob Gibbon, The Chair’s Accordionist and Orkney Folk Festival director, suggested they form a new band. To the Chair’s disappointment they decided to loose the name, and Fara was born. Since then, the quartet has performed across the UK and Europe, including a special performance at the Royal Albert Hall for the Radio 2 Folk Awards, where they were also nominated in the Horizon category.
With vibrant arrangements full of rich harmonies, energetic fiddle playing and driving piano, Fara’s show is an exciting one. Performing a mixture of self-penned and traditional Orkney tunes as well as stunning vocals, the girls’ combined musical experiences and friendships produce a diverse, individual sound.
For me Fara were THE highlight of the 2014 Orkney Folk Festival. I saw every one of their gigs and they were exceptional. Their on stage banter and musicianship held every audience spellbound. I was thrilled to see them again at this year’s Celtic Connections in Glasgow, and there is an EP too. Sickeningly talented and mad as brushes. A potent combination. A real delight for any festival.
These girls will go far. They sing and play like they mean it.
Shetland Folk Festival
The debut recording from Fara is perhaps one of the most exciting developments in recent years for music from the Northern Isles. Showcasing fired up instrumental sets as well as the beautiful vocals of Jeana Leslie, this recording is testament to the strength of the traditional music development in Orkney. The Northern Isles and indeed Scotland now have a new fiddle supergroup but this time, with an all female line up. I suspect that stages from near and far will be seeing and hearing a lot from these lasses over the coming months.