Reviews / Emma Leask is Young Fiddler of the Year

Emma Leask - 2018 Young Fiddler of the Year. Photo: Melvyn Leask

THERE was a full house at Mareel on Saturday night as Shetland Folk Society celebrated another record-breaking year for their Young Fiddler of the Year competition with 175 entries from 100 young fiddlers, writes Christine Laurenson.

Fourteen year old Emma Leask, from Gulberwick, was eventually named the overall winner for 2018.

The evening started with a wonderful performance by local stalwarts Violet Tulloch, Debbie Scott and Bryan Gear, who played the winning entries from the Shetland Folk Society Tune competition.


These well-loved local musicians also had the task of judging the contest, which must have been difficult given the standard of the entrants.

In the senior competition six finalists appeared in both the traditional and the open competitions, demonstrating their abilities across the board. These were Anya Johnston (Lerwick), Bernie Saunders (Girlsta). Emma Leask (Gulberwick), Mia Clark (Scalloway), Rhiannon Thomason (Burra) and Tamzin Leask (Lerwick).

This must have been a nerve-wracking experience for them, but they managed to overcome this and every single one of them played beautifully.


There are countless Italian terms describing music, such as glissando, vibrato and bravura, all of which were evident, but the most appropriate term for their performances has to be sprezzatura, which roughly translates as ‘the art of appearing artless’ or ‘looking effortless’.

It can only be imagined the long hours of practice it must have taken to achieve that effect and no one listening envied the judges having to choose between them. The musician’s obvious dedication and skill left the audience in no doubt that the future of Shetland’s music scene is in very safe and capable hands.


The next treat was the winners and runners-up in the junior section, whose accomplished efforts greatly impressed the audience.

Congratulations for their performances go to these talented musicians: Evie Williamson (Whalsay), Ellie Nicolson (Lerwick), Maria Robertson (Eshaness), Merin Smith (Quarff) and Kristie Williamson (Hamnavoe).

Following the juniors onto the stage was Ella Adamson, Young Musician of the Year, who gave a brilliant performance on the piano. It was refreshing to hear a different instrument at this stage, a sort of musical cleansing of the palate before the next group of young fiddlers.

The winners and runners up of the intermediate section included great performances from Magnus Williamson (Whalsay), Ashley Hay (Vidlin), Ewan Hutcheson (Nesting) and Emily Laurenson (Bigton). All four played beautifully, and showed great range and sensitivity.

As a first-timer at this event, it’s fascinating to see the differences between the three groups, in terms of skill, range and confidence, although, unsurprisingly given the talent on display, those lines were often blurred and sometimes disappeared altogether.

Young Fiddler of the Year for 2017, George Spence, then took to the stage and gave a dazzling performance, demonstrating why he won the title last year.


Our host for the night, Valerie Watt, (who was ably assisted throughout the night by Catrina Hughson, a sixth form student from Brae High School), came on stage to offer thanks to everyone who made this event possible, including venue staff, funding organisations and competition judges Iain Williamson, Linda Gair and Jennifer Wrigley.

When the overall winner was announced the crowd erupted into roars of approval – an appropriate end to a wonderful night.

Full results:

Tune competition (Juniors)
Winner of the Curly Jamieson Memorial Cup: Emma Leask
Second: Ashley Hay
Third: Yelena Anderson

Tune competition (Seniors)
Joint winners of the John Pottinger Memorial Shield: Margaret Robertson & Michael Philip
Second: Jenny Henry
Third: Steven Spence

Best Reel in the Shetland Style
David Hall Memorial Shield: Margaret Robertson

Traditional (Junior)
Winner of the Tom Anderson Memorial Trophy: Kristie Williamson
Second: Evie Williamson
Third: Maria Robertson

Young Fiddler (Junior)
Winner of the Shetland School of Music Trophy: Kristie Williamson
Joint Second: Ellie Nicolson and Merin Smith
Joint Third: Evie Williamson and Maria Robertson

Traditional (Intermediate)
Winner of Heritage Trust Cup: Ashley Hay
Second: Magnus Williamson
Third: Liam Slater

Young Fiddler (Intermediate)
Winner of the Ian Burns Memorial Trophy: Emily Laurenson
Second: Ewan Hutcheson
Joint Third: Amber Thomson and Yelena Anderson

YFI Best Played Waltz
Lell Robertson Memorial Trophy: Ewan Hutcheson

Traditional (Senior)
Winner of the Fiddler’s Society Cup: Mia Clark
Second: Emma Leask
Third: Tamzin Leask

Open (Senior)
Winner of the Hjaltibonhoga Silver Salver: Emma Leask
Second: Anya Johnston
Third: Rhiannon Thomason

Best Played Slow Air
Winner of the Martin Laurenson Memorial Trophy: Rhiannon Thomason

Best Played Reel
Winner The Cat Gut and Ivory Trophy: Tamzin Leask

Shetland Young Fiddler of the Year 2018
Winner of the Frank Jamieson Memorial Trophy & Folk Society Trophy: Emma Leask