Shetland (a collection of islands way north of Scotland) is known for its music (as well as wool and ponies). Building on a strong heritage, the fiddler Tom Anderson devoted his life to preserving and promoting the unique tunes and style of Shetland music. Though highly revered at this point, he was also known for his rigidness, which may have been a factor in his persistence and success. Gordon was certainly in awe to meet him, and over the course of the week-long festival, there were times when they shared the stage together. Though Tom was along in years. no one knew that this would be his last year on earth. There were plenty of other people to be excited about. From the Shetland side, in addition to Violet Tulloch, there was Willie Hunter, whose fiddling Gordon had listened to. And there was Peri Willie Johnson, the guitarist who had brought jazz chords into Shetland music. Fellow performers brought in for the occasion included fiddlers Mark O’Conner, Graham Townsend, and the Fiddle Puppets - a music and dance ensemble who Gordon had known from various stateside festivals.
Violet’s style of accompaniment has been described as “impeccable, unobtrusive, and supportive, ideally matched to the moods and styles of the fiddle tunes”.
UNARGUABLY Shetland’s best-known pianist, Violet Tulloch has long been regarded as the accompanist par excellence for some of the most celebrated musicians from the Northern Isles and further afield. She has provided considerate and intuitively musical accompaniment for late great musicians such as Tom Anderson (who wrote Violet Tulloch’s Hornpipe in her honour), Peerie Willie Johnson, Willie Hunter and Jim Halcrow, and more recently for Aly Bain and Phil Cunningham – the latter paying tribute to her with his beautiful air Violet Tulloch, Queen of Lerwick. Read the complete article [from the Scottish Traditional Music Hall of Fame website - 2015].
“Peerie” Willie Johnson
Another of Shetland’s best known accompanists, Willie Johnson started out as a ukulele and was inspired by American western swing. Later he heard and was influenced by the jazz guitar work of Eddie Lang and Django Reinhardt, and brought these elements into his accompaniment of Shetland tunes. Read his informative obituary in The Guardian.