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Young Huntly musician Kitty Sykes selected for pioneering traditional music programme and tour

By Kyle Ritchie

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A Huntly musician has been selected to be part of a pioneering traditional music programme.

Twenty-five years ago young Highland musicians took to the road for the first time in what would become a popular traditional music scheme across Scotland and this summer, musicians go on tour once again for three weeks of musical performances the length and breadth of Scotland, with special performances to mark the major milestone.

The Fèis Rois Cèilidh Trail will see young musicians from all over the country, plus a musician nominated by Cambridge Folk Festival, come together to form three outstanding bands to perform at a variety of venues throughout the Highlands, Borders, Angus, Dundee, Fife, Dumfries and Galloway, and Glasgow.

Kitty Sykes from Huntly, who plays the fiddle and ukulele, has been chosen to be part of the programme.

Kitty Sykes from Huntly has been chosen to be part of the Fèis Rois Cèilidh Trail.
Kitty Sykes from Huntly has been chosen to be part of the Fèis Rois Cèilidh Trail.

With more than 40 performances planned, these will take the form of everything from family ceilidhs in village halls to concerts in theatres and castles, and informal sessions in museums, castles and cafes.

The Cèilidh Trail, which was established by Dingwall-based arts organisation Fèis Rois in 2000, is a professional development opportunity for outstanding young traditional musicians, providing them with the chance to participate in a summer tour, with support from a team of professional musicians and specialist tutors.

Over the years former Fèis Rois Ceilidh Trail musicians have gone on to carve out successful music careers including Gaelic singer, Mischa Macpherson, piper Brìghde Chaimbeul, singer and harpist, Rachel Newton, Kim Carnie (Mànran), Conal McDonagh (Breabach), and Ali Levack (Project Smok).

The very first Cèilidh Trail in 2000 was coordinated by multi award-winning Gaelic singer Julie Fowlis, who provided the theme song for Disney Pixar’s Brave, and Fèis Rois chief executive, Fiona Dalgetty is a former participant and coordinator of the project.

This year’s musicians will meet during their training week which is spent rehearsing and participating in workshops, including performance skills, sound engineering and dance calling, while also preparing for life on the road.

There will be a finale concert at Eden Court, Inverness on Saturday, August 3 and then all of the young musicians will travel to Edinburgh for a special performance at Edinburgh International Festival on Saturday, August 10, where they will be joined by former Ceilidh Trail participants including Rachel Newton and Mairearad Green, who were on the first Ceilidh Trail, as well as Mischa Macpherson and Innes White who both participated on the project for several years.

Participants this year include Eoin Cumming (Laide), Kirsty Harrison (Orkney), Catriona Kane (Dunblane), Peter Macpherson (Inverness), Ruby Smith (Newcastle), Emma Racionzer (Invergordon), Kitty Sykes (Huntly), Lucy Robertson (Dornoch), Anja MacLennan (Dingwall), Anndra Cumming (Laide), Magnus Turpie (Edinburgh), Ester Strachan (Isle of Skye), Dean Munro (Invergordon) and Debi Hutchison (Croy).

Ruby Smith is joining the trail as part of the Cambridge Folk Festival’s continued partnership with Fèis Rois. Ten musicians who took part in last year’s Ceilidh Trail will also be making some appearances at international festivals this summer including Sidmouth Folk Festival in England, Festival interceltique de Lorient in Brittany and the Olympics in Paris.

Christian Gamauf, Fèis Rois creative producer and former Ceilidh Trail participant, said: “We are incredibly proud of our Ceilidh Trail programme which has now been adopted by fèisean across the country and offers young musicians a fantastic opportunity to develop their performance and musical skills whilst giving them a taste of what being a professional musician is really like.

As well as being the launch pad for many young musicians’ careers, the Ceilidh Trail has become a key cultural initiative, introducing a high quality example of our musical culture and traditions to tourists in sometimes unusual places, like garden centres or art galleries.”

After a successful pilot in 2023, and as part of Fèis Rois’ commitment to equalities, diversity and inclusion, the arts organisation will also have an inclusive Cèilidh Trail for young adults with additional support needs.

Young musicians, who are passionate about traditional music, will participate in the training week before joining the other musicians as guest artists at several performances this summer.

A full programme of this year’s Cèilidh Trail performances can be found on the Fèis Rois website, www.feisrois.org which also has more information.

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