Hannah Rarity named BBC Young Musician of the Year

A singer who dropped out of a film and television course to concentrate on a musical career she started when she was just eight has picked up the most prestigious honour at Glasgow's Celtic Connections festival.
Hannah RarityHannah Rarity
Hannah Rarity

Hannah Rarity, from West Lothian, was crowned BBC Radio Scotland Young Musician of the Year at the finale of the 18th annual competition.

The 25-year-old spent 14 years performing with the National Youth Choir of Scotland (NYCoS), but decided to abandon a film and TV course at Glasgow University in favour of applying to the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in the city. She trained there under renowned singers like Rod Paterson and Fiona Hunter before graduating two years ago.

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Rarity has already worked with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, toured with the Irish-American band Cherish the Ladies and appeared on the BBC’s Hogmanay Live programme.

She is the third singer in five years to win the award, which is organised by the BBC and promoters Hands Up For Trad, following Claire Hastings and Robyn Stapleton.

Rarity was competing at the City Halls in Glasgow against fellow singer Amy Papiransky, whistle player and piper Ali Levack, bagpiper David Shedden and pianist Rory Matheson.

She won a recording session with Radio Scotland and a coveted slot at the Scots Trad Music Awards.

Rarity said: “I was shocked, but delighted when I heard I’d won. I hope it’ll really help me go forward with my career.

“I know all the other finalists personally. The standard was so high and everyone was so different and unique.

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“When I was younger my mum and dad would always sing along in the house to people like Barbara Streisand and Judy Garland.

“One of my biggest influences were the MGM musicals. I’ve been singing for as long as I can remember.

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“When I was eight, one of my teachers recommended I go for an audition and I went through the ranks at NYCoS.

“I dropped out of the film and TV course after a couple of years as I knew that I wanted to pursue a career in music by then. I think it sometimes feels at high school like the only option is to go to university. I wasn’t quite aware that I could have taken a bit more time to decide what I want do to.

“This is the first time I’ve entered for this award. It’s very highly regarded and a lot of friends who are musicians have gone through it.

“I felt it would be good to meet new musicians, but also really push myself and take stock of what I wanted to do with my career.”

The awards ceremony was bittersweet for Rarity as her regular duo partner Luc McNally lost his chance to compete alongside her after an accident in his kitchen just days before the event.

The Glasgow-based singer and guitarist shattered his elbow after slipping in his kitchen while he was cooking rice.

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Rarity added: “It did put a real dampener on things when I found out he wasn’t able to compete. But he is in such high demand and is involved in so many projects that I know that once he has recovered he will be fine.”