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Scotland in music

Review by Edward Scott Pearlman

The Orkney Islands in the north of Scotland may be windswept and treeless, but they are also friendly and full of music. Hundreds of musicians of all ages gather weekly in the largest city, Kirkwall, to learn and play traditional tunes, and the islands, home to about 20,000 people, host music festivals in April (jazz), May (folk), June (classical) and September (blues).

Back in the early 1980s, when BBC radio decided to open a local station in Orkney, they were at a loss to play local music. Usually, we take it for granted that if people are playing music, we can hear it on the radio, but the truth is, the music has to be recorded first. In those days there was no recording studio in Orkney.

Last year marked the 25th anniversary of Attic Records, Orkney's record label and recording studio. Its owner, Owen Tierney, a musician himself, owes the quality of his recordings to the generous advice of an expert in recording studios who happened to be visiting his sister in her new job with the BBC Orkney radio station.

With expert advice in hand, Tierney used his attic to build a recording studio that is regarded as acoustically one of the best in Scotland, and proceeded to record local artists.

A 25th anniversary compilation called Gems from the Attic highlights some of Orkney's artistry, including the Wrigley Sisters, Ivan Drever, Douglas Montgomery, the Kirkwall City Pipe Band, Angus Findlater and others.

The full text of this column is available in the Autumn 2008 issue of Scottish Life.

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