With the annual Scots Trad Music Awards once again on the horizon, ahead of a certain other voting event, it’s time to cast our eyes over the ‘Trads’ shortlist and get our votes in!
Known affectionately by musicians as ‘the office party’, the annual awards night of the Scottish folk and traditional music world is a glitzy affair of sparkly gowns, tuxedos and champagne, where performers, teachers and others promoting our nation’s culture are hailed for their work that year or, in the case of Lifetime Achievement and Hall of Fame inductees, for their contribution over decades.
Long gone are the woolly jumpers of old folkie stereotypes, and in are sharp suits and glamour, reflecting just how much the scene has changed and developed. The average age of attendees seems to tend towards young over old, which, again, is a healthy state of affairs for the future of folk music.
So, who are the candidates hoping to win our votes? Well, I hope you don’t mind but I’m going to take the liberty of highlighting several local, Highland shortlisted nominees who truly deserve your vote.
First up, the incredible team at Sutherland Sessions, a group of volunteers (yes, you read that right…volunteers) who put on a fantastic year-round programme of music across Sutherland. This tiny group of music-loving friends do a massive amount of leg-work in applying for funding, booking bands, liasing and organising, marketing, and they’re there on the night putting out chairs, manning the bar, cooking, cleaning up afterwards and ensuring it’s a great night for all.
Using village halls and hotels, they spread their events around to many small communities, keeping venues used and active, and sharing the music and economic benefit to as many as possible. I know from experience that none of what they’re doing is easy, particularly over and above a day job, families and other commitments, so I take my hat off to these ladies who have been shortlisted in Club Of The Year category.
Likewise doing amazing work to promote traditional music in our communities, Fèis Rois is shortlisted in no less than three categories. From a small nerve-centre in Dingwall, a vast number of innovative projects are devised and delivered, enabling many thousands of all ages to access, participate in and enjoy music.
Their Under Canvas project over the summer months, in partnership with Eden Court Theatre, was hugely successful, offering daily performances by folk bands and artistes in an outdoor stretch-tent, free to all, and with workshops and participatory events also featuring, enabling maximum use of the facility.
Our band, Dorec-a-belle, played a gig at Under Canvas and it was such fun, in a relaxed down-home atmosphere of straw bales and wooden benches. Shortlisted in the Event Of The Year category, this was a seven-week event that was innovative, accessible and superb promotion of Scottish music. Note that Fèis Rois features twice in this category, the other nomination being for their project taking Scottish musicians to showcase at Brittany’s Lorient Festival!
It’s not surprising that Fèis Rois is also shortlisted in the Community Project Of The Year for Kin and the Community. Led by fiddler and composer Duncan Chisolm, Kin offers young people the chance to develop skills in cultural research, ethnology, composition and film making, telling the stories of ordinary folk who have led extraordinary lives. The resulting films and projects have gone on to be performed at numerous festivals and venues.
And what about individual performers? One of my favourite Gaelic singers, Inverness’s Brian O hEadhra, is deservedly shortlisted in the Gaelic Singer Of The Year. Brian, also an acclaimed songwriter and musician, has a voice of rich warmth and beautiful tone, and if you get the chance to hear him sing, grab it!
Superb fiddler and composer, Adam Sutherland from Errogie, just outside Inverness, is shortlisted in the Musician Of The Year category, and again, Adam is a musician of many talents and so deserving of recognition.
Many more of course to check out but with a calibre of nominee like these, the Trad Awards is sure to be another fabulous evening.
(First published by SCottish Provincial Press 15th November 2019)