Catriona Macdonald is a proud bearer of one of the world's great fiddle traditions, that of the Shetland Isles. A star pupil of the late Dr Tom Anderson MBE, Catriona at once embodies the strength and spirit of her heritage with the freshness and diversity of a thoroughly modern performer. Her superb playing and great charisma have established her a worldwide reputation.
Catriona began playing as a child back in 1981 under Tammy's masterful musical tutelage. Less than two years later, she took both the title of Young Fiddler of the Year in the annual Shetland Folk Society competition and the deputy leadership of a new fiddle group, Shetland's Young Heritage, set up to help preserve Shetland traditional music and to help Tammy teaching Shetland traditional fiddle to local school children.
In 1991 her dexterity and presence became acknowledged on a wider stage, when she won the prestigious BBC Radio Two Young Tradition Award, a high profile competition featuring the cream of Britain's young traditional players. However, fiddle playing was not her only talent and at the age of eighteen, Catriona found herself studying voice at the Royal College of Music in London (where she met former playing partner accordionist Ian Lowthian). After graduating from four years study it was time to focus on Catriona's first love the Shetland fiddle so she returned to Scotland and started her professional career.
Currently her new album bold (peerie angel productions PAP001) sees her flourishing as a progressive solo performer, offering a wealth of exciting, original musical ideas whilst still firmly holding hands with the past, as part of the ever-evolving tradition. Playing music with many great instrumentalists, largely based in Scotland, also inspires her.
Macdonald`s main project at the moment is with her trio based around her work with bass player Conrad Ivitsky and pianist David Milligan. Conrad is currently a member of popular international touring "acid-croft" outfit Shooglenifty, and formerly a member of the groundbreaking act Swamptrash. David is heavily involved in the Scottish jazz scene, having studied at Leeds University, taking their acclaimed jazz music course. The trio plan to tour in 2001 to support the release of bold.
Other guests featured on the CD include top percussionist James Mackintosh, also a member of Shooglenifty, in addition to his regular high-profile appearances with Capercaillie and the Afro-Celts Sound System. Much sought-after Norwegian church organist Iver Kleive, a Winter Olympian musician and cornerstone of the renowned Kirklige Kulturverkstad label, is also involved. As is former musical partner Ian Lowthian, whose wizard piano accordion playing offers continuity in sound from 'opus blue', Catriona's previous album. The CD also features Scottish guitarist Tony McManus, Greentrax top artist and one of the most distinctive guitarists of this age, and there is also a cameo appearance from ex-Anam bodhran player Aimee Leonard.
Previous to the bold project, Catriona was probably best known for her splendid duo with piano accordionist Ian Lowthian. The superb technical mastery and beautiful evocative arrangements for which they were critically acclaimed (amongst their fans is Mark Knopfler, former front man of Dire Straits!) led them to play for audiences throughout the world, from Malaysia to America, and Germany to Galway. Always purveying a unique spirit, enjoyment and charisma on any stage.
Catriona is also behind a fantastic project String Sisters premiered at Celtic Connections in January 2000, bringing together six of the most exciting female fiddle players in the world. String Sisters features a stellar international line up comprising Liz Carroll (USA), Liz Knowles (USA), Annbjorg Lien (Norway), Natalie MacMaster (Canada) and Altan's Mairead ni Mhaonaigh (Ireland). Each of the six also brought along one of their regular collaborators to make up an equally exciting band. The project was such a success that it returned for 2001 to be the hit of the festival with more concerts planned for the future.
Catriona is also a member of Blazin Fiddles(Featuring Iain McFarlane,Allan Henderson,Aidan O'Rourke,Bruce MacGregor,Duncan Chisholm,Andy Thorburn and Marc Clements) They were hugely successful at the 200 Cambridge and Sidmouth festivals, going on to amaze international audiences at the Celtic Colours festival in Cape Breton, Canada. Another of Catriona's higlights was to work with rock legend Mark Knopfler on the sound track to the soon to be released film 'Road to Glory@ starring |Robert Duval.
Catriona's commitment to the promotion of her island's heritage through education is also an important part of her work; from helping in 1987 to negotiate for the inclusion of Shetland Traditional Fiddle Music into the Scottish Certificate '0' Grade Music on behalf of Tom Anderson and seeing its fruition and success. She has also been invited as a visiting tutor as part of the Scottish Music Degree at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Dance in Glasgow and also the Universities of Limerick and Stirling. Catriona also teaches Shetland fiddle at many of the country's main summer schools: Folkworks, Burwell House, Adult Learning Project, Edinburgh and her own Fiddle School in Vementry, Shetland as well as workshops at the many of her festival performances.
One of the highlights of 2000 was her involvement in the "On The Line" Project. A millennium project run by Oxfam and Channel 4, which enabled her to travel from her native Shetland with other musicians who live on the meridian line. Together they visited communities along the line, bringing them to Newcastle, England on to Bordeaux, France, then Burkina Faso, Africa and finally Barcelona, Catalonia teaching musical multicultural workshops in each place along the way.
You can listen to short samples from some of the tracks from this artist using the player below.
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