BBC Radio Scotland’s Young Traditional Musician Award Celebrates 20 Years

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It’s just over a week until the 20th winner of BBC Radio Scotland’s Young Traditional Musician of the Year is announced on February 2nd.

To celebrate, the very first recipient, vocalist and fiddle player Gillian Frame, and the current title holder, fiddle player Benedict Morris, got together to talk about what winning the prestigious award has meant to them.

Gillian, 39, of Glasgow, says: “In a lot of ways it doesn’t feel like 20 years and it’s a huge honour to be the first winner of the title. It helped me meet lots of other fantastic musicians and I’m still really good friends with a lot of them 20 years later. It was a brilliant springboard for me at the start of my career.”

Gillian was 20 and had moved from her home island of Arran to study at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in Glasgow when she entered the competition back in 2000. She was stunned to be named the first recipient of the award in 2001 and says it helped cement her ambitions in music.

She adds: “Before the awards I wasn’t sure I was going to go down the performance route – I was leaning more towards a career in teaching. But winning the award really made me think about performing and pushed me to get our band, Back Of The Moon, off the ground, and make an album.

“We went on to tour for 10 years and performed all over the world. I’m really glad that winning the award lead to all those fantastic opportunities. I’ll always look back on it with really fond memories.”

Gillian has a new album coming out in Spring called The Ledger with musician husband Findlay Napier and Mike Vass.

Young Trad newcomer Benedict Morris says winning the title in 2019 was the highlight of what he describes as the biggest year of his life. After scooping the title in January 2019, he then graduated from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in June with an honours degree in classical violin and in September rounded off the year on a high note with a performance at BBC Proms in the Park Scotland at Glasgow Green.

Benedict, 22, of Airdrie, North Lanarkshire, says: “It’s been such an amazing year and winning Young Trad was a massive part of that. The competition really opens up a platform to go on and make music a career. It’s given me so many opportunities, including the once-in-a-lifetime chance I got in September to play at Proms in the Park backed by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra which was just mindblowing.”

As well as performing solo, Benedict also plays in a duo with Belfast-born guitarist Cormac Crummey and is looking forward to performing with his new band, Arkus, at this year’s Young Trad finals with bandmates Ryan Murphy, Pablo Lafuente and Greg Barry.

He adds: “To this year’s winner, I’d just say, enjoy it. Savour every moment and grab every opportunity with both hands because it’s incredible.”

Competing for the award this year are singers Josie Duncan, of Lewis, and Cameron Nixon, of Aberdeen, along with accordionist Pàdruig Morrison of Uist, whistle and pipes player Ali Levack of Dingwall, Perthshire fiddle player Mhairi Mackinnon and Aberdeenshire musician Calum McIlroy who sings, plays mandolin and guitar.

The finals, held at the City Halls in Glasgow, will be broadcast live simultaneously on BBC Radio Scotland and BBC Alba on February 2 from 5.05-8pm

There will also be highlights from the special BBC Radio Scotland Young Traditional Musician anniversary concert, part of Celtic Connections and featuring all the past winners, broadcast on BBC Radio Scotland’s Travelling Folk programme on January 29th.