There’s no doubt about it, the MG Alba Scots Trad Music Awards is the event of the year on the Scottish music calendar. On Saturday night at the Caird Hall in Dundee the very best of the thriving and diverse Scots trad music scene gathered for an incredible evening of music and celebration. Organised with style and precision, as always, by Simon Thoumire and his team at Hands Up for Trad, the awards celebrated the incredible pool of talented singers, musicians, composers and broadcasters of Scottish traditional music. And as the nominations and results show, that’s a very broad church. Supported by MG Alba, Creative Scotland and Glenfiddich, this year’s event was not only broadcast live on BBC ALBA and BBC Radio Scotland but, for the first time, streamed live world-wide through the BBC ALBA website. Alex Gallacher and I were more than willing to brave the winter weather and attend the Awards for the second time on behalf of Folk Radio UK.
Award highlights (full details below) included a double celebration for gifted piper Ross Ainslie, who won Composer of the Year and returned to the stage along with Treacherous Orchestra to pick up their Album of the Year award (Grind). Gaelic Singer of the Year winner Griogair Labhruidh (pictured left) couldn’t have been more delighted, and celebrated the win with a heartfelt rap that went down a storm (see below); and following her ground-breaking project, Pulse, Mairi Campbell received the award for Instrumentalist of the Year.
In one of the most popular successes of the night, the tireless work that goes on to promote and develop the legacy of Martyn Bennett was given due recognition for the second year running, when Composer Greg Lawson accepted the Event of the Year award after his astounding work in orchestrating Martyn’s masterpiece, Grit for the Celtic Connections 2015 opening concert – Nae Regrets. In addition to praising the efforts of The Martyn Bennett Trust, Celtic Connections and BBC Scotland in helping develop the event, Greg also hinted at even more projects in the future…
“We can now look for more performances for Grit, start writing Bothy Culture and take on Martyn Bennett’s embryonic concept of creating a landscape of music which goes beyond borders and just brings in everyone together.”
Of course, Na Trads just wouldn’t be the same without live music and the celebrations included a string of performances from the very best in the business, as exemplified by Aly Bain, Phil Cunningham & Violet Tulloch. Skye based electronic/trad fusion band Niteworks opened the proceedings, closely followed by Peatbog Faeries, who also closed the show. The lads performed two typically lively and engaging sets. Innovative clarsach player Catriona MacKay joined fiddler Chris Stout (fresh from bringing Hirda, Shetland’s first ever opera to the stage), and newcomers Dosca thrilled the audience with their unique blend of jazz and folk.
If, however, I was asked to choose the most memorable performance of the evening it would have to be when Duncan Chisholm took to the stage with an ensemble that included Greg Lawson, Su-a Lee, Jarlath Henderson and Innes Watson in some utterly enthralling selections from Duncan’s Strathglass Trilogy.
There were also some truly memorable vocal performances, among them BBC Radio Scotland Young Traditional Musician of the Year 2015, Clare Hastings, with a haunting performance of Song For No One. Renowned Gaelic singers Cathy Ann MacPhee and Maggie MacInnes took to the stage in honour of Maggie’s mother, Flora MacNeil, who passed away this year.
Other awards presented on Saturday recognise important contributions to the Scottish music and culture. The recipient of the annual Hamish Henderson Services to Traditional Music Award for 2015 was traditional singer, activist, songwriter, author, storyteller and publisher Ewan McVicar. There was also a Services to Gaelic Award for Dr John MacInnes. For over 50 years John MacInnes has collected Gaelic song and folklore and he’s widely regarded as the world’s leading authority in his field. It was a pleasure and a privilege to hear this great man speak of his love for his native culture.
“When all else is at an end, it’s love of music that endures”.
The awards are pretty much regarded by everyone involved as the industry’s annual Christmas night out, and this is where the sense of fun, friendship and community that’s a vital ingredient of the Scottish scene shines through. Immediately after Peatbog Faeries closed the show there was a lively ceilidh, giving everyone a chance to catch up and begin to unwind, and this lot certainly know how to unwind! The fun didn’t stop there, of course, and there were lively, impromptu bar sessions around the city into the early hours.
Next year’s celebration will again be staged at The Caird Hall in Dundee. Given the warm welcome the city extended to this weekend’s lively visitors, the skill of the organisers in producing such a complex yet flawless event; and, most importantly, the seemingly endless supply of creativity that exists in Scotland; it’s sure to be an equally memorable event.
MG Alba Scots Trad Music Awards – The Winners
Here’s a list of all the award winners. From Folk Radio UK, congratulations to all nominees and award winners on being recognised in this incredible pool of talent. Also, a huge thank you to Simon Thoumire and Hands Up For Trad for another unforgettable occasion.
As Phil Cunningham remarked when announcing The League Of Highland Gentlemen as winners of the Up and Coming Artist of the Year
“The future of our past is in very safe hands”
The full winners list for this year’s MG ALBA Scots Trad Music Awards:
Album of the Year sponsored by Birnam CD – Grind by Treacherous Orchestra
Club of the Year sponsored by Traditional Arts and Culture Scotland – Orkney Accordion and Fiddle Club
Composer of the Year sponsored by PRS for Music – Ross Ainslie
Community Project of the Year sponsored by Gordon Duncan Memorial Trust – Live Music Now Scotland
Event of the Year sponsored by VisitScotland – GRIT: Celtic Connections Opening Concert
Gaelic Singer of the Year sponsored by Macmeanmna – Griogair Labhruidh
Instrumentalist of the Year sponsored by Royal Scottish Country Dance Society – Mairi Campbell
Live Act of the Year sponsored by Greentrax Recordings – Rura
Citty Finlayson Scots Singer of the Year sponsored by Traditional Music and Song Association – Fiona Hunter
Scottish Dance Band of the Year sponsored by National Association of Accordion and Fiddle Clubs – Simon Howie
Scottish Folk Band of the Year sponsored by Threads of Music – Dàimh
Pipe Band of the Year sponsored by The National Piping Centre – Shotts and Dykehead Caledonia Pipe Band
Trad Music in the Media sponsored by Skipinnish – Port, BBC ALBA
Music Tutor of the Year sponsored by Creative Scotland’s Youth Music Initiative – Jenn Butterworth
Up and Coming Artist of the Year sponsored by the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland – League of Highland Gentlemen
Venue of the Year Award – SEALL at Sabhal Mor Ostaig
If you missed the event, or you’d love to see it again, you can watch here via the BBC iPlayer: http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b06r83dq/na-trads-2015
Review by: Neil McFadyen