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Shetland Guitar Festival

Concerts and workshops throughout autumn and winter 2010

Visit the Shetland Arts 'Guitar Festival' page for the full programme of events.

The Shetland Guitar Festival is a celebration of guitar with concerts and educational events held around Shetland in September each year. Known locally as the "Peerie Willie" Guitar Festival, the event is dedicated to the memory of the late Willie Johnson, the highly regarded guitarist who pioneered the jazz influenced accompaniment style now prevalent in traditional Shetland music.

History and background:

The "Peerie Willie" Guitar Festival is another Shetland Arts' Music Development promotion and, in local festival terms, thebaby of the lot with the first event being held in 2005.

John Goldie at the 2005 Peerie Willie Guitar FestivalJohn Goldie at the 2005 Peerie Willie Guitar Festival

Shetland is, more often than not, musically associated with the fiddle for very obvious reasons. However one of our best-loved, not to mention internationally acclaimed, musicians was guitarist 'Peerie' Willie Johnson - who sadly passsed on in 2007 at the grand old age of 86.

Willie himself was well enough and sprighlty enough to attend two of the festivals that were held in his honour and the memories of those evenings will live with us all for a very long time - probably forever.

Spanish guitar at the 2005 Peerie Willie Guitar FestivalSpanish guitar at the 2005 Peerie Willie Guitar Festival

In honour of his already assured place in Shetland music history and in recognition of what he did for guitar music in general this festival focuses on guitar music in all its forms, including workshops on the accompaniment style Williehimself 'invented'.

Again encompassing a range of workshops and concerts, this event will allow you an 'up close and personal' opportunity with some of the world's finest exponents of the instrument, a boast perhaps very few other festivals of this kind and quality can make. Surely having no less a patron as Martin Taylor (a great personal friend of Willie's) just about says it all.

Steve Kaufmann, Peerie Willie, John Goldie and Martin TaylorSteve Kaufmann, Peerie Willie, John Goldie and Martin Taylor

Previous performers:

Our first event in 2005 featured Martin Taylor, Steve Kaufmann (USA), Eduardo Niebla (Spain) and John Goldie - what a start.

The 2006 event again featured Martin Taylor with Neil Stacey, Tony McManus (Scotland / Canada), Duck Baker (USA) Terje Rypdal(Norway), Juan Martin (Spain) and Shetland's own guitar hero Ian Bairnson.

Guitarists at the 2007 festival included J P Cormier (Cape Breton), Martin Taylor's Spirit of Django and clasical guitarist Simon Thacker. There was also a tribute concert to Peerie Willie, who had passed away earlier in the year, featuring a host of local talent.

The 2008 festival line up included Martin Taylor with jazz vocalist Alison Burns, 10 string player Redmond O'Toole, Brian Gore, Miguel De La Bastide, Cecilia Zabala and Andy Sheppard.

2009 performers included; Lulo Reinhardt, a highly respected German guitarist who plays a variety of Latin, Swing, Jazz, Samba and Salsa styles and grandnephew of the late great Django Reinhardt; Itamar Erez is an Israeli born Canadian guitarist, pianist and composer with a breadth of expression from European classical to jazz, world music and beyond; Brian Gore, a steel strung acoustic player from the US, uses alternate tunings to achieve deep drones and countermelodies in his contemporary compositions; Havana Swing, a quintet comprising three guitar, clarniet and double bass who specialise in "Gypsy Jazz" and he music of the Quintette du Hot Club de France, Django Reinhardt's famous band formed in the 1930s.

As part of the 2009 festival, the first Shetland Classic Guitar Show was held on Sunday 20th Septemeber featuring a range of guitars including vintage, historically significant, hand made and unusual instruments.

Martin Taylor on stage at the Peerie Willie Guitar FestivalMartin Taylor on stage at the Peerie Willie Guitar Festival


Review of the 2006 Guitar Festival - The Shetland Times

Photos of the 2006 Festival - Billy Fox Photography

Review of the 2007 Guitar Festival - The Shetland Times

Peerie Willie Guitar Festival page -

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Latest News

The first concerts in this year’s Peerie Willie Guitar Season ( will feature guitarist Simon Thacker leading the Svara Kanti ensemble at concerts in Bigton Hall on Friday 14th October and the Garrison Theatre on Saturday 15th.
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On Friday 9th September the Big Kirk in Lerwick opens its doors to the Craigiebuckler String Ensemble who will be performing Strauss Prelude for Sextet from 'Capriccio', Vivaldi’s double concerto for two cellos RV 531 in G minor. and Brahms Sextet no.2 in G major.


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Cooper's Reels
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Camera Obscura
Cullivoe Fiddlers
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Fiddler's Bid
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Jenna Reid
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Jillian Isbister
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Jukebox tracks are in MP3 format. Click to listen, or right-click to save to your computer.

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