Saturday 13th December saw the 12th year of the MG ALBA Scots Trad Awards. Held at the Inverness Leisure centre in the Highlands of Scotland, the prestigious award ceremony recognised the best in current Scottish traditional music. The awards covered a breadth of categories for artists, venues and events and included a tribute to Margaret Bennett and her late son Martyn for their contribution to the Scottish traditional music scene.
The event was organised by the Hands Up for Trad development agency and was supported by a host of sponsors in the music industry and the Highland Council. Founding director of Hands Up, Simon Thoumire, was delighted to see how the event has grown and developed in its 12 year history and encouraged the continuing strong emerging revival of Scottish traditional music and culture.
2014 was a year in which global attention focused on Scotland and the event was a fitting display of the rich and spirited culture of music alive in the country. As Stuart Fleming, Senior Manager of PRS for Music observed, ‘this year, more than any in living memory, our Scottish members have showcased their music to the world with passion and energy.’ With live performances between presentations including Fiddlers Bid and Shooglenifty, the packed out audience celebrated the legacy of Sottish traditional music.
The winners of the awards were decided by public vote, and this year a record of over 100,000 were cast across the 16 categories to decide who would be recognised.
Julie Fowlis picked up the award for Scottish Folk band of the year. This follows her recent landmark achievement in becoming the first Gaelic solo artist to receive a Scottish music award. Unfortunately Fowlis could not attend the ceremony but recorded a message thanking her performing musicians and paying tribute to the many musicians and singers touring and representing Scottish Traditional music around the world, acknowledging ‘it’s a really great thing to feel like a small part of that great bunch of inspiring and creative people. Julie Fowlis has released four albums, recorded a song for Disney Pixar’s film ‘Brave’ and also appears on The Rough Guide to Scottish Folk.
Julie Fowlis released her most recent album Gach Sgeul- Every Story in 2014 and will be performing at Shakespeare’s Globe theatre in London on 22nd May 2015.
Emily Smith was presented with the Citty Finlayson Scots Singer of the Year, stating it was ‘a real honour to accept this award,’ adding, ‘I’m just a tiny wee slice of a much bigger cake of singers who are passionate and excited and continue to be inspired by our Scots song tradition.’ Smith is no stranger to being presented with awards having received Singer of the Year at the Scots Trad Music Awards in 2008 and being named BBC Radio Scotland’s Young Traditional Musician of the Year back in 2002. Since then Smith has toured the world and released five albums whilst exploring what she calls ‘a new Scottish Sound.’
Emily Smith’s most recent release Echoes will be toured in New Zealand over six dates in February 2015.
Perhaps the most innovative artist to receive an award was Jim Sutherland, as Composer of the Year. On accepting the award, Sutherland paid tribute to his fellow composers, acknowledging the quality of the current music being created. An accomplished song writer, producer and world class percussionist, Sutherland has a vast catalogue of compositions, having written music for TV. His most recent endeavours include composing music for the production Children of the Smoke, part of the Struileag/Shore to Shore project, mapping the Gaelic diaspora across the world.
With innovation in mind, the prize for Up and Coming Artist featured an intriguing array of nominees, with Highland five-piece The Elephant Sessions declared the winners. The award is presented to artists who are part of the ‘new world’ of traditional music and have ‘the potential to go all the way.’ The band were shocked and delighted by the result, as fiddle player Euan Smillie observed, they had ‘only prepared a loser face.’ The group blend their traditional roots of searing fiddle melodies with guitar driven influences such as funk, ska and blues. The Elephant Sessions are hoping for a busy summer in 2015 and are looking forward to taking their self-released debut album The Elusive Highland Beauty to new audiences. Guitarist Mark Bruce said the band ‘hopes the award will enable us to go to more places and see more cool things’, adding that their favourite part of being a band is ‘travelling and getting to meet new people.’ The Elephant Sessions played their final show of 2014 on 31st December at Bogmanay, on Bogbain Farm, Inverness.
Album of the Year– Live at Celtic Connections by Duncan Chisholm
Club of the Year - Tin Hut Sessions
Composer of the Year– Jim Sutherland
Community Project of the Year– Summer Isles Festival
Event of the Year– GRIT: The Martyn Bennett Story
Gaelic Singer of the Year – Mischa Macpherson
Instrumentalist of the Year– Catriona McKay
Live Act of the Year– Skipinnish
Citty Finlayson Scots Singer of the Year– Emily Smith
Scottish Dance Band of the Year– Da Fustra
Scottish Folk Band of the Year – Julie Fowlis
Pipe Band of the Year– West Lothian Schools pipe band
Trad Music in the Media– Isles FM
Music Tutor of the Year– Douglas Montgomery
Up and Coming Artist of the Year– The Elephant Sessions
Venue of the Year Award – The Ceilidh Place
Next year’s Scots Trad Music Awards will be held in Dundee on December 5th 2015.
For audiences in the UK, the awards ceremony is available to view on BBC iPlayer until 10th January 2015.
Photos by Louis DeCarlo