The aim of the Hands Up for Trad Community Music awards is to showcase and celebrate the outstanding practice and great things going on in Scotland’s community music sector to the wider public and media.
Congratulations to Hamish Napier who have been nominated in the Community Music Composer of the Year category. We asked them the following questions.
Tell us more about yourself.
“Napier is one of the finest musicians in Scotland…his music is invigorating, passionate and steeped in tradition.” TMSA
I’m a pianist, flautist, singer and composer from Strathspey.
It’s an honour to be nominated for the Hands Up for Trad Community Music Composer of the Year.
Ever since I first began playing music I have been composing.
…And ever since I first began playing music I have been involved with community music projects – having been fortunate enough to be brought up among the Fèis movement (Fèis Spè !). Soon after I began my work as a junior music tuotr for several community music groups and projects.
It’s only in the last 5 years that ‘composing’ and ‘community’ have fused to become one thing in my life. I recently returned to live in my native Strathspey, composing two solo albums The River (2016) and The Railway (2018) in celebration my homeland.
For over a decade I have been an integral part of Glasgow’s vibrant folk music scene, touring in Europe and North America with folk quartet Back of the Moon (Folk Band of the Year 2005, Scots Trad Music Awards). After gaining two degrees, in Astronomy and Music, I was then awarded a year’s scholarship to study jazz piano and composition at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, USA. I now teach composition and music theory at Glasgow’s Royal Conservatoire of Scotland (RCS) and at music festivals internationally.
I work as an accompanist and co-arranger with a number of leading Scottish folk musicians, including Duncan Chisholm, Ross Ainslie, Jarlath Henderson, Gary Innes and Adam Sutherland.
As producer and co-arranger I’ve been fortune to be able to help shape several celebrated albums over the past few years, coproducing Gaelic singer Mairi MacInnes’ acclaimed 2014 album Gras, and co-writing tunes with Duncan Chisholm for his new Sandwood album. I worked as a co- arranger for Ross Ainslie’s Sanctuary, Jarlath Henderson’s Hearts Broken, Heads Turned, Adam Sutherland’s Some Other Land and Gary Innes’ ERA. I’ve recorded on over forty folk music albums to date, with leading Scottish musicians such as Donald Shaw, Mike Vass, Karen Matheson, Martyn Bennett, Treacherous Orchestra and Eddi Reader.
“Excellent flautist/whistle player…” The Guardian
How long have you or your group organisation been involved in this work and tell us a wee bit about how it all started?
Each city and region of Scotland has its own unique blend of musical styles, tastes and preferences, not to mention its local musical heroes – past, present and future! I find this fascinating: from the North East farming songs and Shetland fiddle legends, to the button accordions of the West Coast and ancient Border ballads. James Scott Skinner wrote about my native Strathspey, a place once renowned for its beauty as well as its wealth of outstanding local fiddlers, much like Shetland is today. My Great Great Great Great Grandfather was Peter Grant, a minister and composer of Gaelic Hymns who played his fiddle for his congregation every Sunday – very much against the conventions of the time!
My message is this: you can look inward to look outward. I urge everyone to learn about the music of their local area over the years: find out who, where, what, why and when. And then create more of it, with the knowledge ringing in their ears!
For three years I was the Musical Director of the Aberdeen International Youth Festival ‘Ceol Mor Big Band’. We celebrated the songs and local composers of the North East. It was an absolute joy researching the music with singer/guitarist Dave Francis and co-arranging all the music with all the brilliant, enthusiastic and highly creative young musicians of Ceol Mor.
3 years ago I decided to turn to home for inspiration for my first solo album, ‘The River’, which was commissioned by Celtic Connections festival as part of their acclaimed ‘New Voices’ series. It celebrates the myths, people and wildlife connected to the River Spey, which runs right by my childhood home. Since the premiere I have taken the piece further afield, performing at the 250th Anniversary of the town of Grantown-on-Spey, at ‘Trad Fest’ on the Isle of Man, in the RCS Concert Hall Glasgow and Perth Concert Hall. For each show I worked with local young musicians to create a first-half of music, entitled ‘From the Source’, which celebrates each region’s local music.
…And you’re asking how it all started? Well it all started with my mother! She is a harpist, composer and singer, and has shared her love of trad music (Scots, Gaelic and Irish) with me and my brother Findlay Napier (also a musician). We had damn good house ceilidhs at Cherryrgove while growing up – we still do actually!
What have you or your group/organisation got planned for the next 12 months?
‘FROM THE SOURCE – THE RIVER’
I will be taking my home-inspired compositions ‘The River’ and ‘The Railway’ to venues and audiences around Scotland and the UK, working with young people for my ‘From the Source’ show, and helping them to discover a pride in their own local music and community.
My new album ‘The Railway’ (to be released 1st August) doubles as a soundtrack. I was specially commissioned by the owners of ‘Grantown East: Highland Heritage & Cultural Centre‘ to compose music for their awesome new visitor attraction in my hometown of Grantown-on-Spey. The derelict Grantown East railway station has recently had a serious make-over and has been lovingly restored as a cultural centre. The grand opening is 2nd November 2018 – and I’ll be performing the music live there. My soundtrack seeks to capture the sounds, atmosphere and culture surrounding the old Speyside Line (the whisky line that served many of the world famous local whisky distilleries and it’s people).
Recently I ‘ve been performing with Duncan Chisholm’s ‘Gathering’, playing music from his acclaimed ‘Sandwood’ album (inspired by a remote beach near Cape Wrath). I am thrilled that the slow air Duncan closes the album with is one of my own. I also co-wrote and arranged six other tunes with Duncan for the project. ‘Sandwood’ is definitely the most beautiful album I’ve ever been involved with, with landscape and a strong sense of place at the heart of the music. Duncan is a masterful fiddler and landscape composer. He seems to possess a kind of musical sixth-sense, and has been a huge inspiration to me for as long as I can remember.
What has been the highlight of your or your group/organisation’s experience to date?
1. Returning to my old school to perform ‘The River’ and hearing the next generation of young local folk musicians. They were so inspired to learn that so many of their favourite tunes were created by human beings that lived only just along the road.
2. Performing on stage with The River band, which includes some of my very favourite folk musicians. When the young musicians join us at the end for the big finale it’s such a huge buzz – especially hearing the reaction from the local crowd.
3. Researching the music of each region was been a pure joy: the characters, stories and musicianship are pure gold.
How does it feel to be nominated for this award?
It’s an honour to be nominated for the Hands Up for Trad Community Music Composer of the Year. It gives me great encouragement and furthers my self-belief in how I approach my music. I will keep exploring, listening, recording, tutoring, arranging, composing and exploring regional music, and share it with communities and audiences throughout Scotland.
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