Lanarkshire fiddler named Scotland's young musician of the year

A Lanarkshire fiddler who tours with one of the world’s leading Irish dancers has been named Scotland’s young musician of the year at Glasgow’s annual Celtic Connections festival.

Benedict Morris was crowned BBC Scotland Young Traditional Musician of the Year at the Celtic Connections festival in Glasgow.

Benedict Morris, from Airdrie, won the prestigious title at the 19th annual ceremony at the City Halls.

The 21-year-old, one of the rising stars of Glasgow’s thriving traditional music scene, fought off competition from five other contenders for the BBC Scotland Young Traditional Music of the Year title.

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Part of his performance was dedicated to his father Charlie, who suffered a stroke several months ago, but recovered in time to make the awards ceremony.

Morris, who started learning the fiddle from the age of five at an Irish traditional music group based in Coatbridge, starting playing Glasgow music pubs like the Flying Duck and the Ben Nevis from the age of 16 .

Morris, who is in the final year of his studies at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in Glasgow, has already performed around Europe playing in the band accompanying five times world champion Irish dancer David Geaney in his hit show Velocity, which has recently transferred to Broadway.

He also performs in a Glasgow-based folk pop outfit, The Hur, and released his first album last year with Belfast guitarist Cormac Crumney.

Morris is the second fiddler in three years to win the award, following in the footsteps of Charlie Stewart in 2017. the other finalists were fiddler Cameron Ross, Gaelic singer Catherine Tinney, singer and guitarist Luc McNally, flute player Sarah Market and bagpiper Ross Miller.

His prize includes a recording session with BBC Scotland, a slot to perform at the annual Scots Trad Music Awards in December and a one-year Musicians’ Union membership.

Morris said: “Making a career out of playing the fiddle is absolutely my dream. I’ve known for a long time that I’ve wanted to do concentrate on music. This competition was a great opportunity for me to be able to put myself in a position to do that.

“I was totally amazed and flummoxed when I heard I’d won. All six finalists are lucky enough to be very good mates. But you never think that you’re going to win.

"I've already been fortunate enough to play at several festivals around Scotland and abroad but hopefully I'll be able to play as many events as possible and share my music with as many people as possible. That's the dream, really."

Morris combines his studies in classical and traditional music at the RCS in Glasgow with teaching fiddle at the Comhaltas Irish music group in Coatbridge where he first picked up the fiddle.

He added: “My family have been amazingly supportive, from when I first started playing when I was five, when they made me get up early to practice before I went to school and practice when I came home when I didn’t feel like it.

"The music scene in Glasgow is amazing. It's growing all the time, but it is also so close and tight-knit. It's really encouraged me to keep playing.

"I'm not any good at anything else so I thought I may as well try to pursue this."

Sharon Mair, music events editor at BBC Scotland, said: “It was an exceptionally difficult decision – all of our finalists this year were simply superb. Benedict, however, particularly stood out.

“His stage presence was magnificent and absolutely captivated the audience from the second he stepped on the stage at the City Halls.

“Every year we’re amazed at the high standard of young musicians who reach the finals. Benedict’s performance showed exactly the kind of skill and flair we were looking for. He has a very bright future ahead and we wish him huge success.”

Previous winners of the award, which is organised by BBC Scotland and the music group Hands Up For Trad, have included singers Hannah Rarity, Claire Hastings, Robyn Stapleton, Catriona Watt, Emily Smith and James Graham, as well as musicians Mohsen Amini, Paddy Callaghan, Anna Massie and Stuart Cassells.