Mairearad Green, she tells us, lives in Ullapool. For those that don't know where Ullapool is, it's pretty near the top of Scotland. Not John O'Groats north, but not too far off. Her duo partner, Anna Massie, is based in Glasgow. Both are a good way from Bristol, where MAIREARAD AND ANNA started their five-date tour of the UK as they graced the stage at Downend for a second time.

The first was back in April 2016, so they tell us. Six years ago, almost to the day... far too long to wait to wait to welcome back two of Scotland's finest multi-instrumentalists (although this was originally scheduled for 2020 until you-know-what got in the way).

But as soon as the pair launched into their first tune-set (Retreats, a pair of marches; Anna's own Ellie's March and Ian MacCrimmon's MacRae's Delight) it's clear that it's been worth the wait... and, far be it from me to speak for them, but the journey too, as the crowd hit the whooping and hollering stage in record time.

Anna plays the guitar, and if there's a better player of her type on the folk scene at the moment, then I've not seen them. Her style is punchy and percussive, but with a beautiful lightness of touch at times. Her fingers fly up and down the fretboard with seeming ease. Mairearad Green plays the accordion with equally fast fingers, and repeatedly shows why all the best box players in the UK and beyond cite her as an influence and an inspiration. Together, the two instruments create a thrilling wall of sound as the pair treat us to a series of tune sets. Dagger Gordon's Campbell's Roup is a particular highlight, whilst the duo's take on Mo Chailin Dileas Donn is breathtaking. It was originally a song, when Ullapool's own Duncan MacKenzie wrote it, and a happy song at that... there's a sailor, he goes off to sea but no-one dies and there's no heartbreak. Mairearad and Anna have reimagined it as a tune... "It's in Gaelic," Anna explains, "and we'd just butcher the beautfful language."

Not that they don't sing. The tune sets are punctuated perfectly with a smattering of songs. Rick Taylor's Anything From You sets the tone in fine style, but it's She Loves Me (When I Try), originally by Dougie MacLean, that brings the lyrical highlight of the evening. The duo's voices complement each other perfectly... both possess a softness in their singing that is the perfect foil for the tune sets. And the magic is added to by their sharp wit... Anna, in particular, knows how to tell a story, including one about driving Dougie slightly mad by singing his own songs softly when in his presence.

There's even time for Mairearad to break out the bagpipes, for which Anna switches to fiddle. The first-half is brought to a rousing close as the pair treat us to the Coigach Reels, with Mairearad on the highland bagpipes, while the second; half gets off to a gentler start as Mairearad switches to the Scottish small pipes for the La Rachoudine set.

Downend Folk Club often feature some fantastic up-and-coming artists to open the evening's entertainment, and the standard always amazes me, but CHRIS ELLIOTT & CAITLIN JONES must surely be right up there with the very best we've seen. Hailing from Lichfield in Staffordshire, they kick us off with an engaging five-song selection. Chris is a particularly adept player of bouzouki and guitar, while Caitlin plays whistles as well as anyone we've heard. The pair both sing, too, and their close harmonies are goosebump inducing stuff.

Their set is a mixture of their own arrangements of traditional numbers and self-penned songs, with their take on Silver Dagger and their closing number Carry Me Home particular highlights. But the 25 minutes whiz by and the audience could certainly have listened to more from them; I've no doubt we'll see Chris & Caitlin again.

But the final word must go to Mairearad and Anna. Hopefully it won't be another six years!

Words: Bea Furlong
Photo: Barry Savell

It's still an "interesting" time, isn't it? We recognise that buying tickets in advance is a real step of faith at the moment... "what if I test positive on the morning of the concert?" is never far from anyone's minds when they're parting with their hard-earned cash. And yet, advance sales are the MOST IMPORTANT thing for small venues like Downend Folk Club.


So we've decided to do what we can to make it a bit more comfortable for you, and add a little bit of flexibility to our "no refunds" rule for the short-term. If you have tickets for an event and are not able to use them because you test positive for Covid-19, you will be able to transfer those tickets to any future concert at Downend Folk Club. You can keep these in reserve for as long as you need to, so you can wait until there's something else that tickles your fancy.


We hope that this will give you a bit more confidence to buy in advance... starting with this month's concert, as we welcome Mairearad and Anna on Friday 22nd April.


More info HERE.

We welcome to two of Scotland’s most revered multi-instrumentalists this month as MAIREARAD GREEN & ANNA MASSIE return to the club for a long-awaited second time, after first captivating the audience way back in 2016. 

Having played alongside each other for over ten years, the pair revel in an intuitive approach to each other’s musical ideas and interpretations, and an “almost telepathic communication” on stage (Hi-Arts), effortlessly showcasing the fruits of duo partnership to the highest level, creating “music more than the sum of just two parts” (The Scotsman).

Mairearad and Anna both grew up in the Scottish Highlands amidst very similar musical backgrounds (most notably, mandolin playing Dads!), and so share an innate understanding of Scottish culture and music. As a duo they have enjoyed many successes, including five stars in The Scotsman and high praise from KT Tunstall, becoming a much-loved live act.

The duo’s fourth album, called Farran which is the Scots word for the starboard side of a boat, is to represent exactly how this virtuosic duo perform live.

Opening the evening’s entertainment will be CHRIS ELLIOTT & CAITLIN JONES. Described by Bright Young Folk as "experienced storytellers" who bring "timeless quality" to their music, Chris and Cait have been playing music together since they met in 2014. They have recently released their debut album, Carry Me Home. Both proudly from Staffordshire, they bring a mix of traditional and self-penned ballads about place, identity, old and new. 

Driving guitar and bouzouki accompany haunting whistles and harmonium along with intricate and warm vocal harmonies.  Expect to hear songs written for and collected from all around the Midlands and beyond, accompanied by the heartfelt human stories that inspired them. With their charming storytelling and warm Midlands humour, the pair love to take audiences to "an area of diverse landscapes, history and traditions, a patchwork of Staffordshire and beyond".

Tickets for the event, which takes place at CHRIST CHURCH DOWNEND on Friday 22nd April 2022, are available online HERE and from MELANIE'S KITCHEN in Downend (cash only). They are priced at £14 each in advance or £16 on the door.

There will be a bar, stocking cider, soft drinks, wine, hot drinks and locally-brewed real ale from Hambrook-based HOP UNION BREWERY (formerly GWB). Audience members are encouraged to bring their own glass/mug/tankard/bucket, as well as reusable bottles for water, as part of the club’s drive to be more environmentally aware. There is a 50p discount for those bringing their own receptacles. There will also be sweet treats available at the bar courtesy of THE GREAT CAKE COMPANY (run by our former sound engineer Chris Webster and his partner), as well as the 'stealth raffle' which helps to fund the support artists.

Please support live music and buy your tickets in advance. It really makes a difference, especially in these times as we try to restart the live grass roots music scene.