Grant McFarlane’s reflections on BBC Radio Scotland Young Traditional Musician Award

Grant McFarlane (far left). Photo BBC Scotland

I first entered the competition in 2011 after successfully getting through to the semi-finals. Had a great time over the semi-finals weekend with all the other musicians and the concert was loads of fun. Sadly, I didn’t get through to the finals that year and was pretty disheartened afterwards but was still at university and had plenty of other things to be getting on with…

Fast forward a year and I was accepted again for the semi-finals! I was much more laid back about it this time and again, really enjoyed the weekend away and meeting so many fantastic musicians. On the night of the semi-finals, everyone was amazing and the standard was so high. After my performance, I wasn’t very happy with how I had played or at least knew I could have played better. I pretty much gave up on the idea of getting through to the finals at that point.

A couple of days later (and a whole morning of waiting anxiously for the phone to ring) I received a call from Simon Thoumire to say I had made it to the finals! I couldn’t believe it!

The wait between the semi-finals and the finals was extensive – we had around 4 months to wait. For the semi-finals, my set was chosen only a few weeks prior to it as this allowed me to keep things fresh and interesting for myself and the audience. With that in mind, I didn’t want to make any decisions on my set for the finals until closer to the time. As it was going out on radio/tv, the BBC needed to know what we were playing at the beginning of January (with the competition being held at the beginning of February). This meant that I spent a fair bit of time over Christmas coming up with ideas and suggestions for tunes and it wasn’t until the day before I had to let them know that I finally decided what I was going to play. I’m glad that I had this deadline as I could have easily spent another month changing my mind about what to play.

Having submitted my tune choices, this gave me a month to really knuckle down on practising and coming up with arrangements for my sets. When trying to arrange my sets, I had plenty of ideas but through experience, I knew that whatever I came up with would ultimately change as rehearsing with others gives you totally new ideas.

Finals weekend came and as well as lots of food with the other finalists, rehearsals were taking place over the two days prior to the concert. Playing with the house band (Mhairi Hall, Mike Bryan & Martin O’Neill) was what I was most looking forward to over the weekend and working with them on my sets was an absolute pleasure. These musicians are total pros and as much as we stuck to most of my arrangement, they had some great ideas and tweaks that took it to another level.

Another part of the weekend was doing TV interviews for BBC Alba. This involved standing against a green screen and answering questions to do with your influences and musical background. I wasn’t entirely comfortable when staring in to the camera and answering the questions but after seeing it on TV, realised it wasn’t as bad as I imagined. They also had me playing my accordion while staring down the camera – now THAT was awkward!

On the night of the concert, I was first on. I was quite happy about this as it meant that it was over quite quickly and I didn’t have to hear the other finalists performances before mine. Before going on stage, I was quite nervous as it was going out live on radio and then on TV the night after – I didn’t want to mess it up. However, as soon as I got on stage I just embraced it and really enjoyed playing. My focus was entirely on getting my tunes right initially but as I got through the tunes and the house band were playing with me, I settled in to it.

As we all know, Paddy was announced the winner (after an absolutely awesome couple of sets) and it couldn’t have went to a more humble, deserving guy! There may be a smidge of disappointment at not winning but getting to play with amazing musicians and sharing the stage with 5 such talented finalists made the whole experience an absolute pleasure! And we get to go on tour – woo :)

Grant performs with band CherryGrove. Have a listen to them here

Parliament Motion Congratulates 2013 Winner Paddy Callaghan

“A wee motion from the Scottish Parliament :) Motion S4M-05580: Bob Doris, Glasgow, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: That the Parliament congratulates the 26-year-old Glasgow accordionist, Paddy Callaghan, on being named the BBC Radio Young Traditional Musician of the Year; understands that the award is traditionally presented as the finale of the Celtic Connections music festival; recognises that Paddy learned the instrument under Frank McArdle and the St Roch’s Ceilidh Band, and has been playing for 18 years; commends his success as a DJ and radio presenter and development worker for Comhaltas Ceoltoírí Éireann, a non-profit group that aims to preserve and promote Irish traditional music; notes that previous winners include the singer, Emily Smith, guitarist, Anna Massie, and Stuart Cassells of the Red Hot Chilli Pipers; acknowledges the impact that Paddy has had on what it considers the rich cultural contribution that Scotland’s Irish diaspora continues to make in Glasgow and throughout Scotland, and wishes him all the best for his future musical endeavours. Supported by: Jamie Hepburn, Dennis Robertson, John Finnie”

What is a Scottish traditional musician?

Picture: Donald MacLeod, The Scotsman

After the fantastic night that was the BBC Radio Scotland Young Traditional Musician Finals (winner Paddy Callaghan) the question is often asked ‘what is a Scottish traditional musician?’ Is it a musician who plays music from their own culture who is also from Scotland or is it a musician that plays the indigenous music of Scotland?

It’s a difficult question. Paddy Callaghan is from Glasgow, has an Irish heritage and has been brought up playing Irish music. He played Irish polkas on the night which rocked the house.

We’ve always taken the tack at the Young Traditional Award that the competition is about the musician and not his or hers heritage. We feel that it is totally valid for the musician to play music from their own culture and we actively celebrate it. But is this only because the Irish and Scottish traditions are very related and there are several crossing points? What would we do if a Scottish musician of Asian heritage entered the Award? It’s another difficult question but I think we would embrace the musician as would the other participants.

It’s an exciting time for the Award with BBC Radio Scotland’s continues support and now we have BBC ALBA involved bringing it to a ‘Freeview’ audience. Our reach is extending and a lot more people are hearing these fantastic young musicians and word will spread to other cultures. Let’s see what happens :-)

You can watch last night’s final on the iPlayer.

Paddy Callaghan hits the high note to win title of BBC Radio Scotland Young Traditional Musician of the Year 2013

Photo from BBC Scotland

Paddy Callaghan was tonight (Sunday, 3 February) named BBC Radio Scotland Young Traditional Musician of the Year 2013 following an outstanding performance at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in Glasgow.
He won the prestigious accolade at the end of a fantastic evening’s entertainment which was broadcast live on BBC Radio Scotland.

Paddy, 26, from Glasgow, who has previously been a runner up, overcame competition from five other contestants to win a prize which has proven to be a stepping stone to greater success for previous winners.
He said: “It’s frightening. The whole weekend has been a blur. I am used to playing with other people and I decided to enter again to prove to myself that I can go on stage on my own.”

Jeff Zycinski, Head of Radio, BBC Scotland, said: “Many congratulations to Paddy. Once again the audience was treated to a series of compelling performances from outstanding young musicians.
“This annual showcase of emerging talent has again delivered some fantastic highlights.”

Paddy secured the title against competition from Andrew Dunlop, from Connel, piano, Graham McKenzie, (Inverness ) fiddle, Grant McFarlane, (Paisley), accordion, Hannah Fisher, (Dunkeld), fiddle, and Scott Wood, (Erskine), pipes.

Mary Ann Kennedy presented the grand final live on BBC Radio Scotland and the programme is available for the next seven days on BBC i-player. Highlights of the event will be broadcast on BBC ALBA on Monday, 4 February at 9.00 pm.

On there are galleries, winner’s video and on-demand content, including a link to again to the Radio Scotland programme.

Further information:
Jim Gough
0141 422 6376