Thomas Fraser Memorial Festival

The name Thomas Fraser has become famous worldwide for his musical talents. A local fisherman, Thomas kept a low profile and recorded his songs on a reel-to-reel recorder in his small croft house.

The next Thomas Fraser Memorial Festival will be held between Thursday 8 November to Sunday 11th 2018.

Thomas Fraser died in 1978 aged 50. A fishermand and crofter from Burra, Shetland, he kept a low profile. Although a uniquely talented musician, he was also incredibly shy and kept his talent hidden from all but a few close friends and family members.

His extraordinary talent and a passion for music drove him to painstakingly record thousands of his unique takes of favourite blues, country, jazz and traditional tunes of the era on a reel-to-reel recorder in his small croft house. Twenty five years after his death in 1978, the tapes were discovered by Thomas' grandson, who has since compiled 6 CDs, allowing his grandfather's name to be recognised across the globe.

To coincide with the release of the first Thomas Fraser CD Long Gone Lonesome Blues in 2002, the Fraser family decided to host a special Thomas Fraser Tribute Concert. This was such a success that the festival has since been a regular event in the Shetland music calendar.

There are some folk who might think that Thomas Fraser must be ‘turning in his grave’. The Burra Isle fisherman Now, ironically, the festival held in his name celebrates his talent loud and long. His skills as a singer, guitarist and re-imaginer of songs are discussed, dissected and praised to the heavens. And somewhere up in those heavens poor Thomas looks over the edge of a cloud, blushing at all the attention.

See the Shetland News for information on the line up of this year's festival.

If I hadn’t had uncles in the Merchant Navy…if they hadn’t crossed the Atlantic…if they hadn’t brought back those first 78s by Jimmie Rodgers and Hank Snow… If my brother hadn’t given me a fiddle, and then an old guitar… Most of all, if electricity had never arrived in Burra to power up that reel-to-reel tape recorder… Well, if none of that had happened, then thousands of folk across Shetland, and Scotland, and Europe and even – crazy, this – Nashville Tennessee would never have heard of me. And they certainly wouldn’t have descended on Hamnavoe on a cold, blustery November day to fill the hall. And they wouldn’t be singing the songs I sang, and playing guitars, and mandolins, steels and fiddles and more, their voices coming together in country harmony and bluesy growls…

Too late, Thomas. ‘The news is out, all over town…’ as Hank put it. In fact, it’s out all over the world. The combination of your story, and those precious recordings, and the weekend of good company and great music, draws folk to Burra year after year: a few who knew you intimately, some who were acquainted with you, but who never suspected that secret talent, and many from further afield who never met you – but wish they had.

Thomas Fraser’s talent was unique, and so is the festival that proudly bears his name. Times have changed: tastes have caught up with where Thomas was fifty years ago. In Hamnavoe, Burra hundreds gather to celebrate his legacy – and to create new memories, memories which will be treasured for many years to come, just as the songs Thomas performed will be sung again, from the heart, into the distant future. So we can assure you, he’s not turning in his grave: he’s dancing. Thomas: You Win Again.

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