A Sleat student is heading home to celebrate being one of Scotland’s finest young musicians.
Piper and fiddler Séamus Ó Baoighill, who has just turned 19, was a finalist in BBC Radio Scotland’s 2015 Young Traditional Musician of the Year and returns home with the finalists and winners for a concert on Tuesday 13 December, as part of the Traditional Music and Song Association’s national tour and cultural exchange programme.
The tour, which kicked off in Helensburgh in October, takes the young musicians back to their home towns as well as other parts of Scotland so they can inspire others and thank their communities for the support they have had over the years.
Séamus was a pupil of Sleat Primary School on Skye and has been learning to play the pipes and fiddle since the age of eight. He is currently in his first year of studying music at Queen’s University Belfast and says the encouragement he got from his teachers has inspired him to pursue a career in traditional music.
He said: “Early on in my tuition, I was fortunate enough to get to play in sessions at local bars with my first fiddle teacher Joe Brown and other local musicians. This exposure to public performance, together with the experience of playing alongside experienced musicians, pushed me into continuously improving my skills and gave me the foundation for my career in music."
Séamus said his primary school and music tutors encouraged him to compete in local mods and national competitions. His career highlights include being one of the youngest members to have entered Sgoil Chiùil na Gàidhealtachd (National Centre of Excellence in Traditional Music, Plockton) at age 11. Here he was under the tuition of Iain MacFadyen (pipes) and Iain MacFarlane (fiddle). He was selected for the Senior Band of the National Youth Pipe Band of Scotland at age 12, which has seen him play at Celtic Connections with them. He has recently played at the William Kennedy Festival and at the 2016 Fleadh in Ireland alongside various Gàidhlig/Gaeilge projects and also with Fèis an Earraich and Guth Nan Gàidheal. He has also supported Gàidhlig singer Anne Lorne Gillies. His playing has further taken him to Hong Kong where he played at the Rugby Sevens Tournament and Switzerland where he took part in the Basel Christmas Tattoo.
Now he is a finalist in one of the most prestigious young trad music awards in Scotland and is keen to play a part in keeping the traditional music and culture of Skye and the Western Highlands very much alive.
He explained: “I was brought up playing in the West Coast Highland traditional style. I am very interested in understanding the close similarities between the music and culture from the West and East of Ireland and the West of Scotland, so I decided studying at Queens University in Belfast would be a good place to further develop my understanding.
“In fact, the experience of coming to Queen’s has helped me decide music will be my career. It’s very important to me that I can help pass on these traditions to younger people, in the same way I was fortunate enough to experience myself.”
Joining Séamus on the stage is Robyn Stapleton, Dumfries and Galloway, song 2014 winner; Claire Hastings from Dumfries and Galloway, song 2015 winner; Ainsley Hamill, Glasgow, song; Gemma Donald, Shetland, fiddle; Heather Downie, Dunblane, clarsach; and Ryan Young, Glasgow, fiddle. They will be accompanied by one of Scotland’s foremost guitarists, Anna Massie.
Séamus explained he is really looking forward to coming back to Sabhal Mòr Ostaig and playing in front of his former teachers, friends and family.
He added: “I remember playing at the very same venue to everyone at my Primary 7 leaving concert. I played as a thank you for their support over the years and as a goodbye. It will be good to come back with a great set of musicians and play there again.”
Winner of the 2014 awards, Robyn Stapleton, is carving out an impressive career for herself as a highly sought-after traditional Scottish singer. Robyn, who has just released her second solo album, Songs of Robert Burns, is no stranger to the south Skye venue and is full of praise for Séamus.
She said: “Séamus is a very gifted musician and it is remarkable to see his professionalism and ease on stage, especially for someone so young.
“It will be wonderful to perform in Skye again and to perform at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig. My first visit there was with Ainsely and Claire, so it's really lovely to all be heading back to perform together alongside such talented instrumentalists.”
The TMSA musicians will perform in An Talla Mhòr on Tuesday, 13 December, at 7.30pm and is the last event organised by SEALL: Skye Events for All for 2016. Tickets and further information from www.seall.co.uk or telephone 01471 844207