Paddy Callaghan entered the Young Traditional Musician of the Year competition again this year to prove that he wasn't a loser last time he appeared in the final – and to see if he could command the stage as a soloist rather than in his more usual role as a band player.
Well, I'm not sure this Glaswegian was a loser last time – the judges just preferred somebody else – and his performance in winning the 2013 title absolutely earned him the right to consider himself a solo artist, adding naturally entertaining chat to his expressive, supple melodeon playing, energetic dance tunes and neatly arranged interaction with his supporting musicians.
It's customary for the competition's judges to say that they had a difficult job choosing a winner. Chairman Jim Sutherland's repetition of this line was no empty gesture, however. This was as strong a final as there's been for some time, with each of the six finalists showing real talent across a wide range of musical approaches. The two fiddlers, Hannah Fisher from Dunkeld and Graham MacKenzie from Inverness produced imaginative sets, the former venturing into original material as well as honouring the tradition, and the latter playing with easy assurance and a lovely tone.
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Piper Scott Wood's Gaelic song interpretation achieved his aim of making his instrument sing. Accordionist Grant MacFarlane showed a delicate lyrical touch as well as a appealingly muscular way with dance measures, and Andrew Dunlop, in a rare if not unprecedented appearance in the competition for the piano, performed as both a sensitive accompanist and a creative soloist working at the traditional-classical-jazz interface.