Caithness pair Alastair MacDonald and Karen Steven perform upbeat tunes in live show from Canada

A live trad music gig from across the Pond saw two Caithness musicians connect to people far and wide through a shared history and love of folk tunes.

Alastair MacDonald and Karen Steven played to a live audience – and more after the event following a slight technical glitch – with listeners across the county as well as in Canada, where the show was performed, England, Orkney, Shetland and elsewhere.

Alastair confessed he’d got the Facebook settings wrong by making the show for ‘friends only’ at first – but it is now available to watch back at www.facebook.com/alastair.macdonald.14418

Karen Steven and Alastair MacDonald performing the show from Canada.
Karen Steven and Alastair MacDonald performing the show from Canada.

The pair went straight into an upbeat set of tunes, starting off with The Barrowburn Reel and Walking on the Moon – both written by Wick’s own Addie Harper – along with Elliot’s Fancy.

It was the beginning of a lively hour-long performance of traditional and contemporary Scottish tunes, played on fiddle by Karen and accordion by Alastair live from his studio just outside Ottawa. It was Alastair’s first online show for a year and a half, after they became popular during the Covid lockdown.

The shows had clearly been missed, with people tuning in and commenting during the proceedings, all kindly acknowledged by Alastair who was keeping an eye on the Facebook feed while calmly playing his perfectly composed tunes.

The sound quality was excellent for the music, if a little quiet on my device for the chat in between – but that didn’t detract from an entertaining night.

There was definitely a bit of a ceilidh feel to this show and it sounded like a few folk were taking advantage and having a bit of a dance – or at least a whisky – during the performance. We didn’t quite have room for the Gay Gordon’s in our living room, so had to settle for just a dram while we enjoyed tapping away to a great selection of trad tunes.

Karen enjoyed playing Pipe Major Jim Christie of Wick, a tune she said she had first played with the Wick Players many moons ago along with Alastair, who moved to Canada from Caithness around four years ago.

She also performed a nameless slow waltz she had composed as a fundraiser for the Thurso High School parent teacher association.

The connections to Caithness were many and frequent, and judging by the reaction online, it went down well here as well as it did with those listening elsewhere.

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