Celtic Connections

Young Traditional Musician of the Year 2018

City Halls


Rob Adams

Three stars

Hannah Rarity, from West Lothian, became the 18th winner of Hands up for Trad’s Young Traditional Musician of the Year title, overcoming strong opposition from a field that was reduced to five after an elbow injury forced guitarist-singer Luc McNally’s withdrawal.

A graduate of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland’s Scottish music course, at twenty-five Rarity has already gained onstage experience through touring with Cherish the Ladies, among other projects, and her confident presentation, always a significant factor in this final, helped her to stand apart from the others. She chose a good variety of songs, singing the beauty and the beast ballad Alison Gross with clarity and energy, “telling” the unaccompanied humorous song Good Looking Widow well and delivering Lady Nairne’s The Land o’ the Leal pleasantly.

Her fellow finalists all had strong musical personalities. Sutherland-born pianist Rory Matheson showed a lovely pearly touch on his slow air, A Journey Just Begun, and introduced elements of blues and jazz in his phrasing, occasionally sounding a little like Bruce Hornsby on his closing set of boogie-ing reels.

The Doric singing tradition’s future is in good hands with the likeably gallus Amy Papiransky, from Keith, whose own song, Mair Fish in the Sea, showed a talent for writing wittily in her own tongue and offered the possibility of Twitter and Instagram entering Doric lore.

Pipers Alexander Levack and David Shedden made particularly favourable impressions with their musicianship, the former playing whistle also with superb mobility, expression and inventiveness – I loved his Roland Kirk-esque way of vocalising notes – and the latter producing a powerhouse performance on the Highland pipes.