Dumfries singer takes BBC traditional music prize

Claire Hastings celebrates winning. Picture: Alan Peebles

Claire Hastings celebrates winning. Picture: Alan Peebles

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A SINGER has claimed one of the Scottish music industry’s biggest honours - days after losing her voice.

Claire Hastings, from Dumfries, was crowned BBC Scotland Young Traditional Musician of the Year despite recovering from a viral infection.

After fending off competition from five other finalists at the City Halls in Glasgow, revealed that if the event had been staged a week earlier she would have had to pull out of the competition.

The 25-year-old is the second female singer in a row to win the title, which offers a huge platform for the winner to make a name for themselves. The event was broadcast live on Radio Scotland and was also filmed by BBC ALBA for a two-hour highlights show.

She sings in a duo with the 2014 winner Robyn Stapleton, who also hails from Dumfriesshire, performs in a folk band, Top Floor Taivers, with another of the award finalists, clarsach player Heather Downie, and is involved with several teaching projects across Scotland.

Ms Hastings, who has been singing since she was at primary school, graduating with a first class honours degree in Scottish music from the RSAMD in Glasgow in 2011.

She told The Scotsman: “I am absolutely astounded and overwhelmed to have won, I just can’t believe it. “I wouldn’t really have had money on anybody because they were all so good.

“I’ve been ill for the last 10 days and I actually thought it had blown my chances. I lost my voice and if the competition had been a week ago I would have had to pull out. My voice still isn’t quite back yet, although it’s been better in the last couple of days.

“I was absolutely gutted when I fell as it’s been a dream for years to be in the final of this competition, as I’ve come to so many of them in the past. I thought my chance had gone when I lost my voice.

“I actually enjoyed performing. I tried to focus on the audience and ignored the TV cameras and the judges, whose faces I could actually see lit up at the back of the room.

“I’ve been singing with Robyn for about three years now so she was able to gave me an idea of what to expect in the competition. But after winning, I’m quite scared by it all, it’s quite overwhelming. The one thing I am really looking forward to is making an album, that’s been my ultimate ambition.”

The concert and awards ceremony, which also acts as the finale of Celtic Connections music festival, was being staged for the 15th time.

The prestigious prize includes a recording session with BBC Scotland and the chance to performance at the annual Scots Trad Music Awards ceremony.

Previous winners include some of the best-known names in the Scottish traditional music world, including Anna Massie, Emily Smith, Stuart Cassells, Paddy Callaghan and Ewan Robertson.

Jeff Zycinski, head of radio for BBC Scotland, said: “Our six finalists have been outstanding tonight, displaying an amazing musical skillset and also the confidence and ability to make their pieces their own.

“We hope that this recording session takes this year’s winner on to the national and, ultimately, international stage.”

Simon Thoumire, creative director of traditional music promoters Hands Up for Trad, who organise the event with BBC Scotland, said “This has been yet another fabulous year for Scottish traditional music.

“It gets harder and harder to choose between the young musicians entering the young trad award. The future of trad music is so exciting.”

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