Rachel Hair is one of one of Scotland’s finest players of the clarsach, the Scottish harp. Originally from the Highland village of Ullapool, Rachel was introduced to the clarsach through the work of the Feis movement. She has since graduated with a first class honors degree in Music from the University of Strathclyde where she was also awarded the Alexander Stone Prize for Outstanding Performance in her solo clarsach recital.
Rachel has been going from strength to strength as a professional musician and has steadily begun to gain recognition as a performer and a composer. Over the past year she has played several times throughout Europe India toured twice throughout the USA as well as playing regularly throughout Scotland and the UK. She has also performed on the infamous BBC Hogmanay Live show with top musicians Eddi Reader, Phil Cunningham, Karen Matheson, Michael McGoldrick, John McCusker and Aly Bain as a soloist at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and the much coveted Edinburgh International Harp Festival.
Rachel is a member of the harp trio Starlit 3 (Rachel Hair, Jennifer Port and Rachel Newton) whose exciting new approach to traditional music on the Scottish harp has gained critical recognition. Their debut album came out in early 2006.
Her debut solo album, Hubcaps and Potholes, was released in 2006. In 2009, Rachel released her second album, The Lucky Smile, with a trio format, featuring jazz musicians Paul Tracey on guitar and Andy Sharkey on bass.
No More Wings, released in 2012 include original compositions together with traditional and contemporary pieces from Scotland, Ireland, Brittany (France), Asturias (Spain) and Sweden.
Accordionist Phil Cunningham was born in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1960. His musical career began with accordion lessons at the age of three and violin a few years later. His initial training was in classical music with a deep interest and love of the traditional music of his homeland developing simultaneously. In 1976 he joined his brother Johnny Cunningham in the highly acclaimed Scottish band Silly Wizard and was a full-time member until 1983. Phil contributed many of his own compositions to their mostly traditional repertoire adding to the musical heritage of Scotland and keeping the tradition alive.
Phil left Silly Wizard in 1983 to pursue a solo career as he found himself in demand as a composer and performer for television, radio, film and stage. Between 1985 and 1987 he toured and recorded with supergroup Relativity with his brother Johnny and Irish brother and sister Michael and Triona O’Domnaill.
Phil and fiddler Aly Bain formed one of the most celebrated acts on the Scottish traditional scene. The duo first worked together on a television series in 1988 and embarked on their first tour shortly after. They were so well received that they have been touring Scotland annually ever since in addition to frequent performances in Europe and North America.
Phil has produced albums for many popular traditional artists including Dolores Keane and Altan. In 1990 he wrote the music for Bill Bryden’s spectacular theater productions “The Ship” (1990) and “The Big Picnic” (1994). He has worked as music director and composer for various BBC Scotland series and also wrote The Highlands &Islands Suite, an orchestral work which was performed at The Glasgow Royal Concert Hall. He has also toured with Bonnie Raitt and Kepa Junkera in addition to running CAP recording studios with his partner Donna.
In 2002 Phil was awarded the MBE for services to Scottish Music and was voted Best Instrumentalist in the inaugural Scottish Traditional Music Awards in 2003.
His compositions are covered by musicians the world over and he continues to write and add to his prolific repertoire. His proudest moments have been the premiers of his two orchestral suites for Symphony orchestra and Celtic instruments. His piece Ceilidh was written for and performed by acclaimed Scots percussionist Evelyn Glennie and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra.
Pete Clark is regarded as one of Scotland’s greatest fiddlers. Pete now lives in Perthshire not far from the birth places of Niel Gow and Robert Mackintosh.
The beautiful Perthshire landscape has been the inspiration for many of Pete’s compositions. Adding to his busy schedule of performing both in solo concerts and bands such as the Benachally Ceilidh Band and composing” Pete is also an instructor at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama in Glasgow.
Now & Then (INVER226 2006) is a collection from Pete Clark featuring some of his own compositions alongside a few gems from those of the great Scottish fiddle composers Niel Gow, Willam Marshall and James Scott Skinner.
Over the years Old Blind Dogs have evolved and grown into one of Scotland’s favorite folk bands. In the early days, Dave Francis was involved on percussion and Carmen Higgins on fiddle. In 1992 Davie Cattenach joined the band and they toured as a four piece and recorded four great CDs with Scotland’s record label KRL – New Tricks, Close to the Bone, Tall Tails and Legacy.
In 1996 Fraser Fifield became the fifth member of the Old Blind Dogs adding to the bands cutting edge sound with his tasty jazz licks on the sax and his superb playing of the small pipes. Their first album as a quintet titled Five aptly enough and released in 1997 – completed their five-album deal with KRL. Then in early 1997 Graham ‘Mop’ Youngson (ex – Wolfstone) replaced Davie Cattenach with his funky hard-hitting rhythm kit. The band was busy in 1998 touring in the United States of America, Germany, Spain, Denmark and the UK.
1999 saw the Old Blind Dogs embracing the New Year with a new and evolved line up. Ian Benzie retired from the band in January. Ian was the lead singer with OBD since the band was born in 1990 and was soon missed by the band members and fans. Fraser Fifield also moved on to develop other musical projects. The Old Blind Dogs continue on with the introduction of another great Scottish singer and songwriter Jim Malcolm and Rory Campbell (Deaf Sheppard) on small pipes and whistles.
Jim Malcolm is a performer of traditional Scots music and song with particular strong links to the ballads of Perthshire and Angus. In addition he is a fine exponent of simultaneous guitar and harmonica playing. His debut album Sconeward was well received by critics both at home and abroad. A new album Rohallion went straight to the top of Greentraxs best seller’s list.
Piper Rory Campbell will be most recognized through his contributions in another great Scottish Folk band – Deaf Sheppard.
The World’s Room was released with Green Linnet Records in October 1999.
The lineup of the band has changed frequently with only Jonny Hardie (Fiddle mandolin and backing vocals) remaining from the original group.
New Tricks (KRL 1992) Close to the Bone (KRL 1993)
Tall Tails (KRL 1994)
Legacy (KRL 1995)
The World’s Room (Green Linnet Records 1999) Fit (Green Linnet Records 2001) The Gab o Mey (Green Linnet Records 2003)
Play Live (Green Linnet Records 2004) Four On The Floor (Compass Records 2007)
Wherever Yet May Be (Compass Records 2010)
Na h-Oganaich (pronounced “na hawkanich” and means Young Blood) are widely credited with reviving interest in Gaelic music in the 1970s for a younger generation and influencing many musicians who followed in their footsteps, including Capercaillie.
Founding members Margaret and Donnie MacLeod were brought up in Edinburgh and Peterhead (Gaelic was always spoken in their home as their parents came from the Isle of Lewis). Following many musical and Mod successes Margaret won the Gold Medal at the 1970 Mod and the following year she formed Na h-Oganaich with Donnie and friend Noel Eadie. Na h-Oganaich went on to win the folksong competition at the National Mod in 1971 and the Celtavision Song Contest at Pan-Celtic week in Killarney in 1972.
Over the following years they breathed new life into Gaelic music with their three part harmonies accompanied by guitars bodhran and whistles. Their youth and energy combined with the inspiring words of Murdo Macfarlane the Melbost Bard successfully took the Gaelic world by storm. Gradually their appearances onstage and television spread through the Celtic nations Europe Canada and the USA earning them the cult status that they now enjoy.
Na h-Oganaich disbanded in 1976 and went on to enjoy individual success as musicians and broadcasters but their huge fan base from the 1970s haven’t forgotten them.
Through perceptive experimentation and with undeniable confidence, Mouth Music combined the ancient puirt-a-beul vocal tradition of Gaelic Scotland with the powerful rhythms of Africa and cutting edge electronica. Puirt-a-beul is the vocalization of instrumental music.
The Edinburgh-based group’s haunting and sensual compositions seamlessly combined vocals and acoustic instrumentation with synths and samples.
On Mouth’s Music debut album, fiddler Martin Swan and vocalist Talitha MacKenzie developed their distinctive mix of “mouth music.” Swan and MacKenzie based Mouth Music on traditional Gaelic source materials much of which MacKenzie first discovered when she traveled to Edinburgh to study Scottish and Gaelic culture in depth. “There’s something about ancient Gaelic songs that’s different….straight from the heart and very intense,” said MacKenzie.
Jackie Joyce replaced Talitha MacKenzie in 1994.
Mouth Music’s third release, 1995’s Shorelife, which reached #1 on Billboard’s World Music Chart, was powered by the ever-evolving musical vision of founder Martin Swan and the passionate voice of Jackie Joyce.
Although Mouth Music sound delved deeply into sounds with dance floor pleasing beats, Seafaring Man returned the group to a more primal state with passionate vocals. Seafaring Man vocalists included Michaela Rowan and Gaelic singers Ishbel McCaskill and Martin Furey.
Mary Ann Kennedy, daughter of singer Kenna Campbell was born and brought up in Glasgow in a house where Gaelic was the language of the home and in a community where speaking two languages was the norm even if not everyone spoke the same second language.
Mary Ann trained as a classical musician alongside Radio Scotland ‘Grace Notes’ presenter Jamie MacDougall and remembers accompanying him on the clarsach on many occasions while he was still a sweet-voiced angelic boy soprano. Her first love though is the traditional music that has surrounded her all her life and after several years in the BBC newsrooms she has returned to freelance broadcasting and performing choosing to base herself in the Highland capital city of Inverness.
One of a select number of singers to have won both Gold Medals at the National Mod, she is also twice winner of the International Celtic Harp competition in Lorient Brittany. Mary Ann was given a Saltire Award for Lasair Dhe the finale of the 1999 Highland Festival involving Cliar and Gaelic choirs from all over the Highlands and Islands. She is a member of the band Cliar hailed as ‘one of the most beautiful sounds in 21st Century Scotland’ and is a partner in the Skye-based record label Macmeanmna (Gaelic for imagination).
Malinky were Danny Kyle Open Stage winners at Celtic Connections in 1999. Their song-centered repertoire combines a deep appreciation of tradition with a vibrant freshness of approach taking in both classic ballads and outstanding original songwriting alongside sparkling instrumental sets.
Malinky’s current line-up features founding members Steve Byrne (vocals/bouzouki/guitar) Mark Dunlop (whistles/bodhran/vocals) Jon Bews (fiddle/vocals) and new members since 25 — Fiona Hunter (vocals/cello) Ewan MacPherson (mandolin/guitar/octave mandolin/tenor banjo/jaw harp/vocals).
A year on from winning the Danny Award Malinky released their debut CD Last Leaves to widespread acclaim. The album spent six months in the US Celtic Radio Chart Top 1. This success paved the way for a steadily accelerating tour schedule that has since taken Malinky throughout the UK and Europe with headline gigs including the Tonder, Lorient, Cambridge and Sidmouth folk festivals as well as several return visits to Celtic Connections and the prestigious Scottish Folk Festival tour of Germany where the band now tour annually in their own right.
Their 2002 album 3 Ravens earned the Scots/Irish five-piece rave reviews all-round. Malinky headed into the studio in summer 25 to record their third album once again on leading Scottish independent label Greentrax Recordings; Unseen Hours was released on 1st November 2005 and asserted their continuing position as Scotland’s leading young folk group.
Last Leaves (Greentrax, 2000)
3 Ravens (GreenTrax, 2002)
The Unseen Hours (Mad River Records, 2005)
Flower & Iron (Mad River Records, 2008)
Far Better Days (2015)
Maggie MacInnes sings and plays the clarsach. She was born in Glasgow and now lives in Ayrshire. She comes from a long line of Gaelic singers from the small island of Barra in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland and learns most of her songs from her mother the highly acclaimed traditional singer Flora MacNeil, M.B.E.
Maggie has been involved in various groups over the years such as Ossian Fuaim and Eclipse First and has traveled widely with her music touring in many parts of Europe U.S.A. and Canada. She also appears frequently on Radio and Television and has made various recordings over the years.
Autumn 1998 saw the release of Maggie’s first solo CD Eilean Mara on Dunkeld Records which was co-produced by Dougie MacLean and received great critical acclaim. In 2001 Maggie released her second solo CD which is called Spiorad Beatha – The Spirit of Life and features some of Scotland’s finest musicians such as Charlie McKerron (of Capercaillie) Brian McAlpine (formerly of Iron Horse) Sean O’Rourke (formerly of JSD Band) Marie Fielding Paul Jennings and Keith Easdale along with her mother Flora on backing vocals.
Maggie followed up the release of the record by performing at various festivals at home in Ireland and in Italy as well as being invited to Russia for the 1st International Festival of Celtic Music and Dance of Moscow where she was accompanied by the flute and saxophone player Sean O’Rourke and the percussion player Frank MacGuire.
In 2002 Maggie performed at the Celtic Connections Festival and The Edinburgh International Harp Festival and she was one of those chosen to take part in a two week tour of Scotland with Scottish Women which involved Scots and Gaelic singers coming together to showcase some of the finest songs from the two traditions with a backing band of some of the finest Scottish musicians under the musical direction of Brian McNeill Head of Scottish Music in the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama.
Maggie also produced and directed a new show/concert called Burns and the Gaels which looked at the links between the works of Robert Burns and Gaelic music and poetry. This event combined music poetry and song and featured Maggie along with Sheena Wellington Rod Paterson Ishbel MacAskill and Finlay MacDonald amongst others. Burns and the Gaels and Scottish Women were both performed at Celtic Connections Festival in January 2003.
Maggie was chosen by the voting public as Best Gaelic Singer of the Year at the 2004 Scots Trad Music Awards.
Brought up in the Black Isle and now based in Glasgow, Lauren MacColl is the holder of the prestigious BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Award 2004.
Immersed in the rich culture of the Highlands, Lauren learned fiddle through the Feisean movement of Gaelic arts in Ross-Shire and it was at the Feis annual summer-schools that she was taught by the some of the Highland’s leading musicians: Iain MacFarlane, Allan Henderson and Alpha Munro. Her repertoire reflects her northern background and is greatly influenced by visiting tutor Aonghas Grant of Lochaber.
In the past few years her playing has taken her to Montana (USA), Italy France, Norway, Galway, Co. Mayo and across Britain and has given her various radio and television opportunities including Radio Scotland’s Travelling Folk Radio nan Gaidheal MNE’s Beolach on BBC 2 Alba and as part of Donald Shaw’s Harvest commission on 24s BBC Hogmanay Live Show.
Her win of the Radio 2 award will this year see her play Cambridge Festival and Towersay Festival and record a session for the Mike Harding Show. Currently playing solo in duos and with the Tom Orr Dance Band Lauren combines her studies and performance with a passion for teaching as a resident tutor for Glasgow Fiddle Workshop RSAMD Youthworks.