Catriona MacDonald began playing as a child back in 1981. Less than two years later, she took both the title of Young Fiddler of the Year in the annual Shetland Folk Society competition and the deputy leadership of a new fiddle group, Shetland’s Young Heritage, set up to help preserve Shetland traditional music and to help teach Shetland traditional fiddle to local school children. In 1991 her dexterity and presence became acknowledged on a wider stage, when she won the prestigious BBC Radio Two Young Tradition Award, a high profile competition featuring the cream of Britain’s young traditional players.
However, fiddle playing was not her only talent and at the age of eighteen, Catriona found herself studying voice at the Royal College of Music in London (where she met former playing partner accordionist Ian Lowthian). After graduating from four years study it was time to focus on Catriona’s first love the Shetland fiddle so she returned to Scotland and started her professional career.
Catriona has worked closely with accordionist Ian Lowthian and was behind a fantastic project the String Sisters premiered at Celtic Connections in January 2000, bringing together six of the most exciting female fiddle players in the world. String Sisters features a stellar international line up comprising Liz Carroll (USA), Liz Knowles (USA), Annbjorg Lien (Norway), Natalie MacMaster (Canada) and Altan’s Mairead ni Mhaonaigh (Ireland). Catriona was also a member of Blazin’ Fiddles.
Bruce MacGregor hails from Inverness and is a player equally at home with the rugged strathspey or the tender slow air. He has combined the qualities of both East and West coast styles in an invigorating and expressive individualistic style. Bruce was originally taught by the late, great, Donald Riddell CBE. He has since gone on to develop a style that captures the very essence of Highland fiddle music.
As well as being the founder of Blazin’ Fiddles, Bruce plays with the Gaelic group Cliar. He also worked as a producer and presenter for BBC Radio Scotland. His programs on early 19th century Highland fiddler Captain Simon Fraser and “The Strathspey King” – James Scott Skinner won him two awards at the international Celtic Film and TV Festival in 2000 and 2001.
His debut solo CD, Loch Ness, contains a mixture of his own compositions and those of his mentor, Donald Riddell and was received with much critical acclaim.
Take five of the hottest young contemporary fiddle players from the various regions of the highlands and islands of Scotland and you’ve got Blazin’ Fiddles on your hands. Having grown from a showcase tour of individual fiddlers highlighting the distinctive flavors of Highlands and Islands fiddle music, the Blazers have gone on to become a fully fledged band with a world-wide following.
With the original fiddlers in the band hailing from Mallaig (Allan Henderson) Shetland (Catriona Macdonald), Glenfinnan (Iain MacFarlane), Inverness (Bruce MacGregor) and Oban (Aidan O’Rourke), it’s fair to say that Blazin’ Fiddles embodies the spirit of today’s Highland fiddle music. Add to the mix, inventive guitar and piano (Marc Clement and Andy Thorburn) accompaniment underpinning the fiddle melodies with exhilarating drive and vigor. Since their inception in 1998, the band has thrilled audiences from Canada and the US, through Europe, to the Middle East.
The current line-up features Bruce MacGregor from Inverness on fiddle; Allan Henderson from Mallaig on fiddle; Iain MacFarlane from Glenfinnan on fiddle; Jenna Reid from Shetland on fiddle; Anna Massie from Fortrose on guitar and fiddle; and Angus Lyon on piano.