All-female folk quartet Fara hailed from the Orkney Islands off the northeastern tip of Scotland, a close-knit community whose strong Norse heritage has produced a unique and rich culture and musical tradition. The five original members were childhood friends. Fiddlers Catriona Price, Jeana Leslie (who also sang), and Louise Bichan, and pianist Jennifer Austin, grew up in the capital Kirkwall and got their start in music in the high school fiddle ensemble Hadhirgaan, under the tutelage of Douglas Montgomery, a pivotal figure in Orkney's folk scene who founded the bands Saltfishforty and the Chair. Fiddler Kristan Harvey grew up on a farm in Birsay and attended the high school in the islands' second town, Stromness, where she played in Shoramere, a similar outfit set up by another of the islands' leading folkies, Jenny Keldie. Originally known as the Chairettes, they started performing as a backing band for the Chair. After they played a few sets on their own at one of the band's gigs, it was suggested that they form their own band, which they did, naming themselves after one of the archipelago's small, uninhabited islands.
The members eventually left Orkney to study separately in mainland Britain, receiving degrees from the distinguished likes of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, the Royal Northern College of Music, and the Royal Academy of Music. Each built a dizzying list of musical accomplishments: Austin played with Rachel Sermanni and Wildings; Harvey with Blazin' Fiddles; Price in Twelfth Day and the German band Nua; and Bichan in the rapturously acclaimed but short-lived Gria -- among many others. Price and Harvey were both finalists for the BBC Young Scottish Traditional Musician of the Year; Harvey won. Bichan was also an accomplished photographer. Between them, they played all over the world. Fara self-released their self-titled debut EP in 2014, an accomplished mix of fiery instrumental tunes and haunting songs featuring Leslie's beautiful voice. They played at the world-famous Celtic Connections and Hebridean Celtic festivals to widespread acclaim. Louise Bichan left the group in 2015 to study in the United States at Berklee College of Music, Boston. The following year she released her debut solo album, Out of My Own Light. The remaining members of Fara continued as a quartet. Through Kickstarter they crowd-funded their debut full-length album, Cross the Line, supporting its 2016 release with a U.K. tour. ~ John D. Buchanan
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