Review: Aly Bain and Phil Cunningham @ Lichfield Cathedral

With little more than a violin, an accordion and some well honed repartee, the critically acclaimed musicians Aly Bain and Phil Cunningham turned the grandeur of Lichfield Cathedral into an intimate folk gig.

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Playing a set that included everything from upbeat jigs and reels to polkas, haunting slow airs, strath speys and music from Scotland, Ireland and Shetland, they showed both stunning musical technique and an unerring melodic touch.

Using electric instruments, the technology didn’t intrude in the music making with Phil Cunningham’s outstanding accordion playing being the perfect setting for the soaring and heartfelt of Aly Bain’s fiddle.

Both of these musicians have played with some of the best known folk and roots musicians in the world, appearing at the Transatlantic Sessions for the past few years, and although their music comes from the centuries old traditions of Shetland music and world music in its widest terms, the vibrancy of their performances comes through in these pieces, and is also apparent in their own compositions.

Highlights of the concert were many and included such pieces as the Shetland tune Dr Donaldson.

Heroloph’s Farewell by James Scott-Skinner was a slow and mournful aire that showed of the pure acoustics of the cathedral to fine effect, and Mrs Crawford’s Favourite was a strathspey that proved very popular with the rapt and attentive audience.

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