The 29th Young Fiddler of the Year competition, which brings together some of the best young exponents of Shetland’s most popular instrument, kicks off tonight.
The competition, supported financially by Shetland Charitable Trust, is considered one of most important musical and educational events in the isles, and since 1982 has featured a veritable “who’s who” of traditional local music.
This year will prove no exception when 134 young musicians take to the stage over two days at the Garrison Theatre in Lerwick.
Shetland Folk Society president Douglas Sinclair said the event was originally inspired by the work of legendary fiddle teacher Tom Anderson, but the driving force behind setting up the competition had been former Anderson High School head teacher John Graham with help from pianist Billy Kay.
Mr Sinclair said: “The event has gone from strength to strength. Winners from the early years are now either teachers who have pupils at the competition or are prepared to act as adjudicators.
“It really is a who’s who of Shetland fiddlers if you consider who has actually won it, including Catriona Macdonald, Chris Stout, Jenna Reid and Maggie Adamson.”
The first ever winner was Margaret Scollay, now one of Shetland’s most prominent fiddle teachers who has once again supplied many of this year’s contestants.
She said: “It is more than just learning how to play the tunes, it is also about performing them. It takes it that step further.
“Winning the event threw me into the social side of playing the fiddle. I was asked to play a lot of concerts, so it meant that I visited communities in Shetland that I previously – at the age of 15 – had not been to.
“You were expected to do a good performance and to me, as a musician at that age, it meant that you couldn’t risk letting yourself down, you had to make sure that you performed at your best.”
Shetland Charitable Trust contributes around one third of the competition’s annual costs of about £2,300, with the rest coming from a Shetland Musical Heritage Trust grant and the sale of programmes and tickets to the gala concert.
Principal accountant Mary Anderson said: “Everyone at the trust is extremely proud to be supporting such an important cultural event in Shetland’s musical calendar that has changed the lives of many young islanders.
“Our contribution towards the Young Fiddler of the Year competition might be relatively small, but its impact on maintaining the standard of Shetland’s musical heritage should not be under-estimated.”