By ROSALIND GRIFFITHS
NEXT year will be busy for singer Jillian Isbister. The 20-year-old, who was chosen from hundreds of hopefuls to appear in a US television series on Scottish music, is now preparing to go to America.
Her first ever trip abroad will come in mid-January when she flies out to Florida. There she will take part in a conference of 400 executives from the PBS channel which will be screening the series, to be called Highland Heartbeat.
The executives will come from the various US states and they will each make a decision as to whether or not to buy the series for their area.
Some states, including New York State, have already bought the show, which is to be produced by singer-broadcaster Fiona Kennedy and narrated by actor Brian Cox.
Now Jillian, along with the other performers is going to try to “flog it to the whole of America”. The “ordinary West Side lass” who works as a gym instructor at Clickimin, said: “We’re going to try to make a good impression.”
One month later, at the end of February, she will be back to the USA to do a promotional tour in New York and surrounding states to coincide with the launch of the show. Most of Highland Heartbeat will feature a stage show – an extravaganza with dancers and pipers – with a number of Scottish singers performing well-loved songs. There will also be new material such as The Kist, a song co-written by American singer-songwriter Beth Nielsen Chapman about the mass emigration of Scots to the new world.
The stage show will cut to location filming, which comprises about a quarter of the show.
These scenes were filmed in the summer at beauty spots such as Eilean Donan Castle. One of Jillian’s solo performances, her rendition of Bridge Over Troubled Water, was filmed there: “I felt like a pop star.”
This impression was reinforced by the TV crews filming her, veterans of shows such as Strictly Come Dancing, and who had worked with Riverdance and at T in the Park. Jillian herself had a make-up artist from Hollyoaks.
But along with the glamour comes a lot of hard work – Jillian has been putting in 12-hour days of rehearsals: “It’s very full-on.”
Her work and talent has already led to a taste of the celebrity lifestyle. She was recently invited to sing at the 60th birthday party held at Ackergill Tower in Wick (a 15th century castle described as one of the world’s most exculsive retreats) for the wife of the head of Tesco, and three weeks ago she was singing at the Scottish Tourism Awards: “We all wore posh dresses, it was so weird.”
Highland Heartbeat will be screened in the USA during Homecoming Scotland 2009 and an album featuring the music will be released in the spring.