Isles fiddle player reaches semi-finals of BBC young musician contest

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Isles fiddler Gemma Donald is one of the 12 semi-finalists in BBC Radio Scotland’s Young Traditional Musician competition for next year.

Five other fidders are among the line-up, including Catriona Price from Orkney, and they are joined by two accordionists, a piper and three singers.

The semi-finalists will each perform a 10-minute slot on Saturday 1st October at Coulter Hall in South Lanarkshire, during a residential weekend including workshops and advice on all aspects of working in the traditional music business.

The semi-final concert at begins at 7.30pm and tickets (£8 and £6 concessions) are available on the door. The performers will be judged by a panel drawn from professional traditional musicians and festival organisers among others.

From that concert six musicians will be chosen to go through to the grand final on 5th February 2012 at Glasgow’s Celtic Connections festival.

The finalists will perform for 15 minutes in a concert setting and can be accompanied by a professional traditional musician of their choice (from a group provided).

The eventual winner will be awarded a recording session with BBC Scotland, performance at the Scots Trad Music Awards and one year’s membership of the Musicians Union. All finalists get one year’s membership of TMSA plus the opportunity to take part in the TMSA’s annual Young Trad Tour.

Gemma, now 22, was Shetland’s Young Fiddler of the Year in 2002 at the age of just 13. Two years later she won four trophies at the annual Festival of Scottish Music in Banchory, and in 2006 she triumphed at the prestigious Glenfiddich Scottish Fiddle Championships at Blair Castle. The following year she got the chance to play at the renowned Cannes Film Festival in the south of France.

Her more recent accolade came for her composing ability when last November she won the Amber Fiddle Award in the Perthshire Amber Festival with her tune Birlin’ in Blair Atholl.

Born and brought up in Whiteness, she has also been influenced by other types of music including jazz, swing, country and bluegrass.

Apart from regularly performing Scottish dance music Gemma has proved her versatility by appearing with other bands, most notably when adding her skills to country stalwarts May and Mackie. She has become something of a fixture at the annual Thomas Fraser Festival in Burra where her playing has received much praise.


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