Julie Fowlis honoured for role as ‘Gaelic ambassador’ at music awards

IT WAS heard during the US Superbowl, the Oscars and on millions of movie screens around the world.

Now a watershed year for the Gaelic language has been capped by Brave singer Julie Fowlis, who was last night honoured for her efforts to promote Scotland’s native tongue at home and abroad at the MG Alba Scots Trad Music Awards.

Fowlis, who sang two songs in English in the Disney/Pixar film as well as a Gaelic song in the film’s trailer – which was screened during the American Superbowl – was awarded the Trad Music in the Media award at the ceremony in Fort William last night.

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In a recorded message played at the event, she said: “I’ve had a really busy year. It’s been a real privilege to work with such a talented and creative team in the US.

“The whole experience has been wonderful and exciting and I feel that Scotland and Scottish culture have really been put on the map with the film. I’m really proud.”

Speaking of her achievement, awards founder and Hands Up For Trad creative director Simon Thoumire said: “Julie is a great ambassador for Gaelic music and Scots music in general.

“She’s done a great job and she projects a brilliant image to the world. Julie this year has done an amazing job of raising the profile of Scots song right across the world. That’s why the public has taken to her and her music so well.”

Fowlis, who is a supporter of Scotland on Sunday’s Let The Children Play campaign, sings mainly in Gaelic. Brought up on South Uist, she has gained a huge profile in the US following her hit songs in Brave, and will tour the US next spring.

Dr William Lamb, lecturer in Celtic and Scottish studies at Edinburgh University, said Fowlis had made a major impact on the understanding and awareness of the Gaelic language, both in Scotland and abroad.

“She’s a young talented singer who speaks well and is a fantastic ambassador for Gaelic language and culture,” he said. “It’s great that it’s her face and her personality that’s behind all this on the global stage. As a person she has the potential to have significant influence in the awareness of the Gaelic language.”

In a successful night for Gaelic singers, which was broadcast live on BBC Alba, Kathleen MacInnes also took home the award for album of the year for her latest release, Cille Bhride (Kilbride), ahead of Scottish folk singer Karine Polwart. MacInnes provided Gaelic vocals for another film soundtrack, Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood, in 2010. Riona Whyte, meanwhile, was named Gaelic Singer of the Year.

Other winners included Paul McKenna, who was named Citty Finlayson Scots Singer of the Year; Deoch ’n’ Dorus who were named Scottish Dance Band of the Year; and Breabach, who were awarded Scottish Folk Band of the Year.

Thoumire said: “We’re so pleased that the Scots Trad Music Awards has continued to grow over the last ten years. Huge congratulations to all tonight’s winners and nominees. It’s been a fantastic year for trad music.

“The thing Scots music has going for it is we’re a real community and it’s all about sharing, so when anybody across the world hears it they can relate to it and be affected by it. The thing I loved about Brave is that it took a lot of our signature sounds and launched it on a global audience.”

Professor Boyd Robertson, principal of Sabhal Mòr Ostaig on the Isle of Skye, said Brave had helped to change perceptions of the Gaelic language abroad.

“It has certainly heightened awareness,” he said. “Julie Fowlis’s contribution to Brave has brought recognition to the language and status in the same way that BBC Alba going on Freeview has given the language increased exposure in Scotland and beyond.”

However, he said there is still “a long way to go”.

“One of the issues for Gaelic is that there is still a lack of awareness of the part that Celts and Gaels played in the history of Scotland, which is why Scottish studies in schools is so important,” he said.

Prof Robertson also complimented the rise of the Gaelic music Fèisean movement, which promotes traditional and Gaelic music amongst schoolchildren in the Highlands and Islands.

“The Fèisean movement has exploded in recent years and been a significant contributor when it comes to appreciation and use of the Gaelic language,” he said.

“A lot of parents who aren’t Gaelic speakers themselves get their children involved because they appreciate the value of bilingualism and realise that these are increasingly valued traits within the global environment.”

Attendees at last night’s awards ceremony were also treated to live performances by Karine Polwart, the Inveraray and District Pipe Band, and Deacon Blue’s Ricky Ross.

Donald Campbell, chief executive of event sponsors MG Alba, said: “The Trad Awards recognise excellence and MG Alba is pleased to have been able to support the awards again this year and proud to be associated with such talent.

“We congratulate not only the winners but also all those who were shortlisted across the various categories.”

Winners: MG Alba Scots Trad Music Awards 2012

Album of the Year Cillebhride (Kilbride) – Kathleen MacInnes

Club of the Year - Falkirk Folk Club

Composer of the Year - Mike Vass

Community Project of the Year - Feis Rois Ceilidh Trail 2012

Event of the Year - Scots Fiddle Festival

Gaelic Singer of the Year - Riona Whyte

Instrumentalist of the Year - Duncan Chisholm

Live Act of the Year - Session A9

Scots Singer of the Year - Paul McKenna

Scottish Dance Band of the Year - Deoch ‘’n” Dorus

Scottish Folk Band of the Year - Breabach

Pipe Band of the Year - George Watson’s College Pipes and Drums

Trad Music in the Media - Julie Fowlis for Brave

Music Tutor of the Year - Gillian Frame

Up and Coming Artist of the Year - Niteworks

Venue of the Year Award - Bogbain Farm, Inverness

Services to Gaelic Music - Rory and Calum MacDonald of Runrig

Hamish Henderson Services to Traditional Music Award - Isobel Mieras

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