TMSA Young Trad Tour
The Waterside, Inverness, Friday 17 September 2004
THE TMSA YOUNG TRAD TOUR should have featured the six finalists from annual Young Scottish Traditional Musician Awards at Celtic Connections in January. In the event, Skye-based fiddler Sarah Naylor was unwell, and missed the opening part of the tour in Shetland and Inverness, although she was expected to join the rest for the remainder of the tour.
That meant some re-jigging of the planned sets between the five remaining finalists and their two special guests for the tour, 2003 award winner Anna Massie, and Hamish Napier, the keyboard player with Back of the Moon, who was also featured on whistle.
Anna Massie acted as compere for the concert as well as contributing her admirable fiddle and guitar playing and backing vocals. The running order allowed each of the five finalists a solo slot, interspersed with various combinations from duo to full ensemble, a strategy that both gave everyone a chance to shine and ensured plenty of variety.
The opportunity was seized in convincing fashion. Gaelic singer James Graham from Lochinver is the current holder of the award, and opened proceedings with a demonstration of the qualities that brought him the title. He possesses a beautiful and highly expressive voice, and combined that natural gift with precision intonation and sensitive interpretation of the songs, whether Gaelic love songs or energised puirt a beul (the last of these was accompanied by Hamish Napier’s skilful stepdancing).
Shona Donaldson from Huntly is another gifted singer as well as a fine fiddler. Her material is usually drawn from the rich heritage of songs and bothy ballads of her native North East, but she also threw in a less expected selection, a version of Tom Waits’ “Old Shoes and Picture Postcards” (although without any attempt at impersonating the vocal delivery of the idiosyncratic American singer). Having taken lunch at her mum’s house en route back from Shetland, the band were able to confirm that Shona’s mum makes great soup.
“The full ensemble sets were particularly impressive, both for the high standard of playing and the excellent harmony singing.”
Shetland’s Jenna Reid is already firmly established as one of the handful of leading young fiddle players in Scotland through her work with Deaf Shepherd, Dóchas and Filska. Her expressive treatment of slow airs and sure-fingered virtuosity in fiery up-tempo reels and jigs readily confirmed her standing.
Clarsach player Rosie Morton from Edinburgh was distracted by wayward tuning and lost her way a little in her opening song, but she recovered her vocal poise and tamed her instrument. The youngest of the finalists, Tom Orr from Lanark, has clearly taken on the accordionist’s mantle of telling dodgy jokes á la Phil Cunningham, and is developing into an impressive exponent of his instrument.
The full ensemble sets were particularly impressive, both for the high standard of playing and the excellent harmony singing. They provided a pleasing contrast with the various solo features, and helped make this a very enjoyable evening. All of the musicians played their part, and did not allow a very disappointing attendance to dim their enthusiasm.
This is the first time that the tour has gone out under the auspices of the TMSA (Traditional Music and Song Association), and they must have been disappointed with the poor turnout in the Highland capital. Even allowing for the clash with the local Friends of Highland Music Rising Stars concert scheduled for Eden Court the following night, it was a sorry reception for a concert that was much better supported last year.
The TMSA Trad Tour will visit the following venues in the remainder of the tour:
Eastgate Theatre & Arts Centre, Peebles, Tuesday 28 September 2004
Village Hall, Lochinver, Saturday 2 October 2004
Village Hall, Strachur, Sunday 3 October 2004
© Kenny Mathieson, 2004