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Michael Biggins Wins BBC Radio Scotland Young Traditional Musician 2021

The winner of the BBC Radio Scotland Young Traditional Musician of the Year 2021
Michael Biggins
(Photo by Alan Peebles)

Pianist Michael Biggins has been named BBC Radio Scotland Young Traditional Musician for 2021.

The 23 year-old, originally from Newcastle but now living in Glasgow, accepted the award from Gareth Hydes, Commissioning Editor, BBC Scotland, in a year that saw a very different finale to the prestigious competition. Instead of the usual performances in front of a capacity audience at Glasgow’s City Halls, Covid restrictions saw the event moved to a socially-distanced setting at BBC Scotland’s HQ at the city’s Pacific Quay.

Presented by Bruce McGregor and Joy Dunlop, the event was broadcast on BBC Radio Scotland and BBC ALBA. Although a scaled down event, the performances were first-class, and judges were enthralled by Michael’s stage presence.

Winner Michael said: “The other finalists and I were delighted that the competition could go ahead this year because so many other events have had to be cancelled. It’s been a difficult year to be a performer, so winning this title has given me such a boost and a hope for better things to come. I know it’s been a springboard for many past winners, so I’d love to follow in their footsteps.”

Previous winners of the award include piper and whistle player Ali Levack, who took the title last year and performed during this year’s event and Hannah Rarity who had the honour of singing Auld Lang Syne earlier this month on BBC Scotland’s Hogmanay 2020.

Each of the six finalists turned in stunning performances, broadcast on BBC Radio Scotland and BBC ALBA, but Michael had the edge during an evening of superb entertainment. Gareth Hydes, Commissioning Editor, BBC Scotland, said: “A lot of extra effort had to be made this year to make sure that the event could go ahead in such challenging circumstances, but we’re delighted we could make it happen to celebrate the 21st anniversary of the competition.

“As ever, we were blown away by the sheer talent on the stage and it’s always very difficult to choose just one winner. Michael’s performance was breath-taking, an absolute celebration of the rich and vibrant traditional music scene we’re so lucky to enjoy in Scotland.

“I want to join all the other judges in congratulating him, and hope that in the coming months we’ll see some signs that we can once again fully embrace our nation’s fantastic live traditional music scene.”

Michael studied at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, splitting his time between the classical and traditional music courses. He currently performs with bands TRIP, The Canny Band and Northern Company but has also made appearances with Eabhal, Kathryn Tickell and the Jarlath Henderson Band.

Michael wins a recording session with BBC Scotland, he will perform at the Scots Trad Music Awards to be held in December 2021 and be given a one-year membership to the Musicians Union.

All finalists get a one-year membership to the Traditional Music and Song Association of Scotland (TMSA) plus the opportunity to take part in the TMSA’s annual Young Trad Tour scheduled for 2022.

Organised by BBC Radio Scotland, the Young Traditional Musician competition has been increasing the profile of Scottish traditional music and recognising rising talent in the genre since 2001.

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The other 2021 finalists were:

Ellie Beaton – Voice (Aberdeenshire) Ellie has been interested in traditional music from a young up with Traditional and Bothy Ballads alike. She studied Classical Voice at Aberdeen City Music School and having performed alongside Malinky, has been described as ‘a singer to be reckoned with’ by Hands up for Trad. Throughout 2020 Ellie qualified for the Bothy Ballad Champion of Champions competition at Elgin where she competed against the best Bothy Ballad singers in the country. Now attending the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland studying Classical Vocal Studies, Ellie hopes to graduate then progress onto becoming a full time musician.

Iona Fyfe – Voice (Huntly) Iona grew up going to sing-a-rounds, folk clubs and folk festivals in the North East where she met tradition bearers and younger exponents of the tradition such as Janice Clark and Shona Donaldson. Whilst a lot of Iona’s influences comes from revivalist singers she found great inspiration in online archive recordings from sites such as the National Library of Congress and Kist of Riches. She gained an FLCM in Traditional Voice from London College of Music and graduated from The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland with a first class honours degree in Traditional Music in 2019. Iona has performed all over the world including Folk Alliance International, New Orleans, Czech Republic, Fergus Grand Theatre, Ontario and Festival Interceltique de Lorient.

Lucie Hendry – Lever Harp (Aberdeenshire) Lucie became hooked on traditional music during her early childhood as a result of her Dad’s interest in the music. Artists and bands such as Afro Celt Sound System, Caperceilidh, Lau and Catriona McKay were key influences which drove her passion for music. After studying at Plockton’s National Centre of Excellence in Traditional Music, Lucie graduated from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in 2018 with a first class honours degree in traditional music. Notable performances include premier receptions for film productions Mary Queen of Scots and Outlaw King, as well as a reception at Holyrood Palace in the presence of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. Lucie currently performs in fiddle and Scottish harp duo, Aves o’ May.

Bradley Parker – Bagpipes (County Down, Northern Ireland) Bradley began playing the Highland Bagpipes 19 years ago and won the ‘Young Musician of the Year’ award in Northern Ireland, 2011. He has been lucky to perform at a variety of venues such as; The House of Commons, Glastonbury Music Festival, as well as solo performances at Glasgow Royal Concert Hall and Avenches Tattoo in Switzerland. Bradley now studies at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and is a 3x World Pipe Band Champion.

Graham Rorie – Fiddle (Orkney) Graham is an Orcadian fiddle and mandolin player based in Glasgow. In 2018 he graduated from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland with honours of the first class. Before moving to Glasgow I was taught by Douglas Montgomery (Saltfishforty/The Chair). Graham is a founding member of quartet ‘Gnoss’ who released their album ‘Drawn From Deep Water’ in April 2019. Graham has appeared at a range of festivals including Celtic Colours (Canada) and Festival Interceltique de Lorient (France)