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The String Sisters spend a week writing, rehearsing, recording and performing in Mareel

The String Sisters is a collaboration of the world’s top fiddlers; Annbjørg Lien from Norway, Catriona Macdonald from Shetland, Liz Carroll and Liz Knowles from the US, Mairead ni Mhaonaigh (Altan) from Ireland and Emma Härdelin from Sweden. Coupled with a world class rhythm section of David Milligan (piano), Conrad Ivitsky (double bass), Tore Bruvoll (guitar) and James Mackintosh (drums) they are a musical powerhouse. When they decided to make their first studio album they elected to come to Shetland and record here in Mareel.

There are not many studios in the country where a 10-piece band comprising 6 fiddlers, a pianist, drummer, bassist and guitarist can record together live. Mareel's unique setup meant we could accommodate the band's wishes. We have the rhythm section playing in the Auditorium, the fiddlers in the Green Room and guitarist or singers in the Live Room - all playing together and able to hear each other. The great advantage of reording in this way is that you can capture a unique group performance in a way that you never could recording separately piece by piece.

We also have, of course, one of the only studio Steinway grand pianos in the country and could supply the high quality double bass and drumkit that the band needed - not only this but one of the fiddlers had her instrument broken on a flight and so is playing a fiddle supplied by Shetland's own Ewen Thomson.

Of course the attraction of Mareel is not just its technical and logistical capabilities - the rooms themselves are nice places to occupy (which is important if you're going to spend a week there), without exception the staff are welcoming and helpful and step out the door and you're right on the water's edge at Hay's Dock - perfect for clearing the head.

The String Sisters arrived last weekend and spent 3 days rehearsing and writing material while we set up the recording equipment around them. On Tuesday we started recording in earnest and tomorrow (Thursday) we finish. A week of very intense, creative work.

Not content with this week of work though - the band are also playing an exclusive concert in Mareel on Friday (9th). This will be the only concert the band play this year and they will be premiering some of the material they have just created. A not to be missed opportunity!!

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