MORE details have emerged about the American TV show West Side singer Jillian Isbister is to star in.
The Shetland Times revealed in June that she had been chosen to perform along with a group of Scottish singers in the music special to be made in Glasgow next week and screened coast-to-coast on the PBS network in the United States. Jillian will then join the others an an extensive tour of the country next year.
Produced by singer and broadcaster Fiona Kennedy, the show, Highland Heartbeat, will be narrated by the award-winning actor Brian Cox.
Jillian, 20, who started performing in 2003, is one of the best young performers in Shetland and has performed at over 100 events. She is a regular at the Shetland Folk Festival and has provided support for many top artists including Aly Bain, Phil Cunningham and Michael Marra and recently performed with Eddi Reader.
By day, she is a full-time clerical assistant at the Clickimin Leisure Centre in Lerwick, where she is a qualified gym instructor.
Cox, an accomplished Shakespearean actor and Hollywood A-lister who has starred in The Bourne Supremacy and Braveheart among a list of cinema film credits, added his support to the project.
He said: “I am delighted to be involved with Highland Heartbeat. There has never been a more important time for Scotland to be showing the world its wealth of music and its heritage.
“Highland Heartbeat will be broadcast in the States during Homecoming Scotland 2009 and we should all be playing our part in encouraging talent within the Scottish arts and wearing our cultural heritage with pride.”
Led by Kennedy, the cast will include singers and musicians already familiar to Scottish and international audiences. In a departure from writing songs for Faith Hill, Shania Twain and Bonnie Raitt, American singer-songwriter Beth Nielsen Chapman has co-written The Kist, a song reflecting the mass emigration of the Scots to the new world.
Kennedy said: “Scotland is brimful of talent and this is a very exciting opportunity for the young outstanding singers and musicians who will feature in this TV special and then tour in North America. It’s wonderful to have Brian Cox’s involvement and also to include music by Phil Cunningham and Beth Neilson Chapman.
“This is all about connecting with an international audience who have a love of good music and who will enjoy the glorious landscape of our country on film.”
Cunningham said: “I am thrilled that I was able to contribute to a project which will take the best of Scotland’s music and talent to a wider audience. It is very exciting to be able to discover new talent right here on our doorstep.”
In an interview with the Shetland Times in June, Jillian said she could hardly believe what she had done. “I’m in total shock. An ordinary West Side lass like me. . . “
Now a 20-year-old veteran of the performing scene, Jillian started gigging just over five years ago when she was 14.
Her version of Imagine, on a Shetland Arts Trust recording, was one of the songs she sang for the first audition for the American TV show. She was also required to sing a traditional unaccompanied song, for which she chose Wild Mountain Thyme.
Then came the phone call that she had reached the final audition. Again she had to sing a contemporary and a traditional song, and this time she chose Time is a Healer and Willie Stewart.
The TV company then told her the news that she had been selected – and filmed her receiving the phone call. “I howled and gret with joy – I just didn’t believe it.”