Music Music

Music in Orkney

Music appears to run in the blood in Orkney and is a way of life for many local people.

You'll hear tunes played pretty much everywhere in Orkney - in homes, schools, pubs, churches, community halls and, during the summer months, out in the streets. The Orkney Folk Festival is a huge draw for lovers of traditional music, with the St Magnus International Festival renowned worldwide for its classical programme, but smaller jazz and blues festivals are also growing in popularity.

Beyond the busy festival calendars you'll find ceilidh, pop and rock bands playing at weddings, charity gigs, harvest homes, Christmas dos and work get-togethers. It's true to say that most celebrations in Orkney involve a dance, with live music always the preferred option.

There are always visiting artists and bands heading to the islands. In the recent past there have been performances by the likes of Mumford and Sons, Idlewild, Steve Earle and Ricky Ross.

Several local projects and initiatives are working hard to save Orkney's rich musical traditions from extinction, ensuring future generations can enjoy the distinctive Orcadian tunes of the past. Orkney Traditional Music Project and the Orkney Strathspey and Reel Society involve large groups of people playing and sometimes performing, with new members always welcome to sit in on sessions. The Big Orkney Song Project has collected and recorded more than 1000 Orkney songs, which can be heard at the Orkney Library and Archive in Kirkwall.

There is a long tradition of fiddle music in the islands and the majority of Orkney schoolchildren get the opportunity to play the violin, or another instrument, from an early age.

Orkney is home to several choirs, pipe bands and orchestras, as well as accomplished solo singers and a huge number of bands, playing everything from traditional and modern folk, to country, jazz, heavy rock, swing, ballads and the blues.