Excitement mounts as the ‘Oscars’ of the Scottish traditional music world bring glamour and glitz to Inverness, writes Susan Welsh
The stage is built, the spotlights have been polished and the red carpet is being rolled out as Inverness prepares to welcome the most prestigious awards ceremony in the traditional music calendar, the MG ALBA Scots Trad Music Awards.
It’s a huge coup for the city to be hosting the glitzy all-star event which will see nearly 1,000 fans don their best party dresses and kilts before flocking to the Inverness Leisure Centre on Saturday, December 13. Demand for tickets is such that all 49 tables have been snapped up while tickets for the riser theatre-style seats are going fast. But these aren’t the only impressive figures connected to the awards show – last month, history was made when the nominations shortlist attracted more than 100,000 votes in just one week – a figure that lets you know how important these awards are.
Now in it’s 12th year, the success of the MG ALBA Scots Trad Music Awards, which honours Scotland’s best traditional musicians, has been nothing short of spectacular, and for that there’s one man to thank – event founder and Hands Up for Trad’s creative director, Simon Thoumire. Simon, 44, is himself an award-winning musician, a concertina player, composer and previous winner of the BBC Radio 2 Young Tradition Award and says he has been lucky enough to have performed all over the world and worked with many superb musicians.
Simon, who is eagerly awaiting Saturday night’s event, said: “We cannot believe the response we have had, the number of votes is completely unprecedented. The fact that we’re coming to Inverness definitely has effected this. The traditional music scene in the city is phenomenal and it’s been a great year for music and culture. Inverness is a great city for live music and the number of musicians who come through and play here is tremendous.
“It’s important to us to ensure that the awards ceremony doesn’t just stay in the central belt, so we’ve previously held it in Aberdeen and Fort William, but this one will be very special as there’s a marked musical community in the Highlands.”
The Inverness event has been possible thanks to a huge amount of support from Highland Council and its officers, plus money from the Common Good Fund.
“Seeing the hall made up and full of people is just amazing and we’re pulling out all the stops to make it a glamorous affair and a real celebration of traditional music from the length and breadth of Scotland.”
The Scots Trad Music Awards began in 2003 with the aim of highlighting Scotland’s wonderful traditional music in all forms. Since its inception, it has grown steadily in popularity.
“The public really understand award nights such as the Oscars and Baftas when everyone dresses up, and I wanted to do a similar event but one which put traditional music in the spotlight, although my wife Clare might argue that she was the one with the idea,” joked Simon. “At the first event we sold all 400 tickets straight away, so the following year doubled the size and since then it’s sold out every time with people travelling from all over the world to attend.”
MCs for the night will be Scottish singer and songwriter Mary Ann Kennedy, and River City actor Tom Kearney, and they will present the show in both English and Gaelic and introduce more than 10 live acts.
“Apart from the excitement of the actual awards, the entertainment on the night will be great as it includes acts such as Fiddlers Bid, from Shetland, St Roch’s Ceilidh Band and local fiddler Adam Sutherland and his band. Shooglenifty celebrate their 25th anniversary this year and all the original members are coming to play, which is really exciting,” said Simon.
The full line-up of guests playing live on the night includes Shooglenifty, Fiddlers Bid, Rura, Robyn Stapleton, Na h-Òganaich, Ceòl nam Fèis, St Roch’s Senior Ceili Band, Stuart Liddell, Cruinn, Adam Sutherland Band and Steele the Show. But for many, it’s the thrill of the awards that makes this event so special.
“For the awards, there’s a two-stage process. First, the public nominate musicians and events, then these go forward to panel which also takes into account musicians who have worked hard throughout the year. The criteria is that they either have to be Scottish or living in Scotland.
“The categories which people tend to get most excited about are Album of the Year and Live Act of the Year, but these awards are about supporting everybody from dance bands to Gaelic and Scottish song writers. One of the reasons it’s been a success is because we don’t just concentrate on one element of traditional music, but bring everybody onboard.”
Names to look out for this year include Robyn Stapleton, one of the nominees for Citty Finlayson Scots Singer of the Year, who gave a fantastic performance at The Commonwealth Games when singing the specially commissioned song, Here’s To All Our Common Wealth, as part of The Big Song Relay.
There are also a number of prominent nominees in this year’s Gaelic Singer of the Year category, including Angus MacLeod and Mischa Macpherson. Macpherson’s folk trio were among the hottest offerings at this year’s ever-popular Piping Live! Glasgow International Piping Festival. Folk group Barluath, nominated in the Up and Coming Artist of the Year category, will join Mischa Macpherson in showing that traditional music is increasingly popular with younger generations. Skerryvore, Skipinnish, Peatbog Faeries and Gavin Marwick’s Journeyman Spectacular will battle it out for the coveted Live Act of the Year award, while Julie Fowlis and The Scott Wood Band are among the Folk Band of the Year nominees this year.
Provost Alex Graham said: “It’s a great honour to welcome this high-profile national event to the capital of the Highlands. We are encouraged that the number of votes being cast this year during the last week is a record, and has exceeded the overall total cast in 2013. Traditional Scottish music has deep roots in Gaelic and Highland culture, and this confirms that interest in it is flourishing.”
Simon added: “We are excited to make this year our biggest and best year yet, so make sure you get your ticket and join in the celebrations on Saturday, December 13.”
The major highlight in the traditional music calendar, the event is supported by Highland Council, Creative Scotland, Glendfiddich and other sponsors. After the awards ceremony, there will be a late-night club in the Leisure Centre and Shooglenifty will perform. Tickets for the ceremony are available from Eden Court Box Office priced £20. Contact: 01463 234234.
The full shortlist for this year’s MG ALBA Scots Trad Music Awards:
ALBUM OF THE YEAR
Live at Celtic Connections (Duncan Chisholm)
Heirs and Graces (Adam Holmes)
Brightest Path (Patsy Reid)
Echoes (Emily Smith)
CLUB OF THE YEAR
Tin Hut Sessions
Acoustic Music Club
Folk at the Salmon Bothy
Coalburn Box and Fiddle Club
COMMUNITY PROJECT OF THE YEAR
Stirling Scots Song Project
The Big Song Relay
Summer Isles Festival
Inverness Gaelic Choir
COMPOSER OF THE YEAR
EVENT OF THE YEAR
GRIT: The Martyn Bennett Story
Girvan Folk Festival
GAELIC SINGER OF THE YEAR
TRAD MUSIC IN THE MEDIA AWARD
Hotchkiss Hotchpotch – Celtic Music Radio
Folk Radio UK
Living Tradition Magazine
INSTRUMENTALIST OF THE YEAR
LIVE ACT OF THE YEAR
Gavin Marwick’s Journeyman Spectacular
CITTY FINLAYSON SCOTS SINGER OF THE YEAR
SCOTTISH DANCE BAND OF THE YEAR
Jack Delaney Scottish Dance Band
Matthew MacLennan Scottish Dance Band
Burns Brothers Ceilidh Band
SCOTTISH FOLK BAND OF THE YEAR
Heidi Talbot Band
Scott Wood Band
PIPE BAND OF THE YEAR
Preston Lodge High School Pipe Band
West Lothian Schools Pipe Band
Inverary and District Pipe Band
Bleary and District Band
UP AND COMING ARTIST OF THE YEAR
The Elephant Sessions
MUSIC TUTOR OF THE YEAR
VENUE OF THE YEAR AWARD
Queen’s Hall (Edinburgh)
Ceilidh Place (Ullapool)
Perth Concert Hall