Published: 27/02/2014 12:45 - Updated: 26/02/2014 14:12

North trio have a busy year ahead after Radio 2 Folk Award success

Written byMargaret Chrystall

The Mischa Macpherson Trio at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards
The Mischa Macpherson Trio at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards

THE family and friends of new Radio Two Young Folk Award winners The Mischa Macpherson Trio could have missed their big moment in London – if they’d taken the group’s advice.

"We’d told them to stay at home because we’d absolutely no expectation of winning," laughed Mischa from Sandwick, Lewis.

"It was really nice to have them there and I felt really pleased that we won because they’d come all the way down to see us.

"They’d have been kicking themselves if they had stayed at home!"

Along with the trio’s Conal McDonagh from Poolewe who plays pipes and whistles and guitarist Innes White from Dingwall, Mischa picked up the top award from the stage of the Royal Albert Hall on Wednesday night.

Mischa revealed that the group could see their parents in a box at the back of the hall - Mischa’s mum Roseanne Macpherson, Conal’s mum and dad, Alison and Strav McDonagh, plus Innes’s parents, Paul and Sheila White.

It was the first year the awards had been held at the hall.

"To accept it there was just totally amazing," said Mischa. "Standing on the stage accepting the award was totally amazing, though I’m not entirely sure what I said because I wasn’t prepared for it and I was a bit shaken. And the boys were as well!"

After submitting a demo back in October, the trio were chosen by the award judges to join nine other groups aged 16 to 21 for a weekend in Kendal in Cumbria.

With sessions and workshops topped by a concert where each act played for 10 minutes, four finalists were chosen and of those four, the winner was also chosen.

The judges panel of industry experts and professional musicians was: Kellie While (Smooth Operations’ head of programmes), Steve Heap (Mrs Casey Music, Towersey Festival), Pete Lawrence (The Big Chill, Cooking Vinyl), John Spiers (Bellowhead, Spiers & Boden) and Rachael McShane (Bellowhead).

But the result was only announced at Wednesday’s ceremony, hosted by Ross-shire singer and musician Julie Fowlis and BBC presenter Mark Radcliffe.

A delighted Mischa spoke about the experience as she returned to her studies.

"The trophy was made specially for us and it’s got a clarsach, a guitar and a whistle.

"Apparently they hand-make every single trophy for everyone.

"The boys have the trophy with them just now because the two of them are both in Glasgow and they’ve told me that the wee strings on the clarsach actually make notes!"

The group first got together through Feis Rois back in 2011 and all went to the National Centre of Excellence in Traditional Music in Plockton.

"We spent almost every summer with Feis Rois since then playing music and going on the Feis Rois ceilidh trails together.

"The first year we did the ceilidh trail, Feis Rois took us over to an island in Germany called Amrum and we met so many great people there.

"The next year we went over and arranged the whole trip by ourselves so we’ve been doing things in little steps all the way. And we’re going back to Amrun this summer again."

Mischa also revealed how valuable Feis Rois has been to the trio’s development – including giving them their Royal Albert Hall debut!

Mischa in performance.
Mischa in performance.

"We played there two years ago with Feis Rois," Mischa said.

"As part of our prize we get to play at some really great English folk festivals like the Cambridge Folk Festival, but we had already played there – I’ve played there three times before with Feis Rois.

"So we’ve met the festival director and everyone there before. I was speaking to him on the phone today and saying how nice it is that we’ve played there and grown up there.

"But to have won this award and be going back is really, really nice and we’ll get to play on a bigger stage to bigger audiences this time."

The trio will also be playing in a lot of other places in the next year, Mischa reeled off a host of events including Geiteberg Folk Festival in Norway, the HebCelt Festival in Stornoway, the Cambridge Folk Festival, Fairport’s Cropredy Convention Folk Festival, the Stonehaven Folk Festival, the Green Note Folk Club in Camden and they’ll also be playing live on Radio 2 in July.

They already won a Danny Kyle Award at Celtic Connections last month — one of six awarded to recognise young talent.

Now the Young Folk Award will open many more doors for the young musicians.

Mischa explained: "I didn’t realise how much it would change things till we won it. From that moment it’s been a bit mad already.

"There have been lots of nice emails and we’ve had some wonderful gig offers and I think we are going to have the best summer we could ever have dreamed of at our favourite festivals.

"We are going to get to travel a lot this year which is wonderful — I really love travelling.

"We were very lucky to be awarded the Danny Kyle Award and that gave us a big publicity boost and we’ve already got so much from that. And to have this right afterwards is really perfect."

For their award-winning performance, the trio played a song from Lewis, Leonabh an Oir (Child of Gold), Cha D’fhuair Mi’n Cadal (I Got No Sleep) and puirt a beul or mouth music. Soon there will be a chance to hear more of the group’s music.

Mischa said: "We have just had an offer from a record label and are about to confirm that. We’ll record an EP to sell at summer gigs, but an album will be ready at the end of the year."

And the group were pleased to be able to share their celebrations on the night with another familiar name to Highland traditional music fans Aidan O’Rourke who won the best musician award.

"When I was in second or third year of high school, I did a project called Harvest with Donald Shaw as part of the Blas festival and he had lots of professional musicians — from Capercaillie and people like Aidan – working on this massive project.

"So I’d met Aidan at things like that and had admired him along the way. It was so nice that two lots of Scottish people won at the awards and we had a massive celebration with him at the backstage party upstairs in the Royal Albert Hall afterwards."

Mischa summed up the whole event: "It was totally magical, probably the best night of my life."


For more about the trio, go to their website:


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