FARA - 26th October 2017

By my calculations it’s 445 miles as the crow, goose or albatross flies between Kirkwall in Orkney and Baston. And if that bird decided to fly a further 450 miles to the south it would find itself in Strasbourg in north-east France. However by trekking onward the bird would have missed an exceptional concert at Baston by Fara, four supremely talented musicians originating from Orkney. Fara (named after one of the small now uninhabited Orkney islands) are the three fiddles of Jeana Leslie, Kristan Harvey and Catriona Price with Jennifer Austin on piano. The foursome have been friends since early childhood and later ventured south to study at The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, Strathclyde University, The Royal Northern College of Music and The Royal Academy of Music. In fact it’s likely that the ladies have more letters after their names than in them!



The opening instrumental number, Bright Grey, set the scene for what was to follow – supremely well-rehearsed fiddling that one minute could be as subtle as the proverbial lark ascending and the next as dramatic as a Led Zeppelin power ballad. Many of the tunes played are from their much-lauded album Cross the Line, songs such as Changing Plans, Cheeky Vimto, My Heart is in the Highlands and the real surprise of the evening – a sing-along version of Joe South’s 1968 hit Games People Play, which is an inspired choice if ever there was one. Add to that Three Fishers which was performed to the great and the good at this year’s Radio 2 Folk Awards at the Royal Albert Hall (check out the performance on the BBC website) and you have a rich set list indeed.

As the evening progressed four different personalities shone through, from the quiet Jennifer sitting at the back like a wicketkeeper patiently waiting for a quick ball to whistle past the batsman, through the smiley chirpiness of Kristan and Catriona whose smart one-liners try to rein in the brash, energetic Jeana from pursuing her obvious goal as a stand-up comedian. The combination is as charming as it is beguiling.

Midway through the second set, the three fiddlers left the stage so that Jennifer could perform a solo piece, three minutes of pin-drop music so delicate and mesmerising that this reviewer clean forgot to write down its name!

There were hints of new album for release sometime in mid-2018 and, if there is as much energy and verve as in Cross the Line and this live performance, then summer festival goers are going to be queuing up at the merch tent.

During the evening there were lots of on-stage references to almost obscene levels of alcohol consumption and at one point Jeana asked the audience for suggestions for new cocktails. Well here’s one – take three fiddlers and one pianist, all with distinctive personalities, add charm, wit and humour and stir vigorously! Consume voraciously!

Unless I’m much mistaken life on the road must be fun with the four members of Fara. You don’t come as far as they have, individually and collectively, without true camaraderie – the potential stresses and strains would have been too much. Yet all four are still young enough to have a long and distinguished future together, if that’s what they so wish. As I have written before about many of the acts that we have been lucky enough to see at Baston – catch ‘em if you can!