Grant Recipients

This page reports on some of the experiences and personal musical development our FoHM Grants have contributed towards.

Grant Recipients 2023

Croy Live - Alison Mackenzie

Croy Live ran an ambitious programme of events in 2023, only possible with funding from Friends of Highland Music. Artists who performed at the hall were Ross Ainsley and Tim Edey, Dallahan, Assynt, Graham Mackenzie, Anna Massie, Robbie Mackenzie, Mike Vass and Josie Duncan. Croy Live also hosted a Blast Festival concert. 

Audience numbers have grown slowly and, with the security of funding, the concerts were viable with appropriate fees paid to the musicians and sound engineer. The events have proved popular with local residents as well as the wider audience. This was very evident at the Celtic Christmas at Croy concerts with two capacity audiences enjoying a night of excellent music from both professional musicians and young musicians. The feedback has been very positive and it is heartening to get comments like these from the audience;

‘Thank you for bringing such quality live music to the area! My London friends are very impressed!’

‘Many thanks to you for all the hard work you put in to creating the opportunity for we the public to enjoy the talents of so many young musicians.’ 

I continue to be extremely grateful to Friends of Highland Music for their continued support of Croy Live without which it wouldn’t be possible to provide quality concerts in a rural setting. 


Feis Lochabair - Jane Douglas

The Fèis Lochabair Step Dancers were absolutely privileged to be part of the first performances of Jennifer Wrigly’s commission  ‘Catch the Rhythmic Orkney Tide and Ride’ which took place at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in March 2023. It was a fantastic show with amazing music from world class musicians including Tim Edey, Alyth McCormack and Luke Daniels alongside students from the RCS.

As part of the project dance tutor Jane Douglas worked with the Fèis dancers to choreograph a new piece of dance especially for the performance. The dancers who took part in the performance were aged between eleven and seventeen and they gave a fantastic, professional performance. Fèis Lochabair would like to thank Friends of Highland Music for their support which allowed the group to participate in the project at relatively short notice. Thanks also to Jennifer Wrigley, Mats Melin and Fèisean nan Gàidheal for getting us involved in the project.


Strathy Village Hall Association - Carol-Anne Farquhar

Rachel Walker and Aaron Jones were a delight to work with and it was a real pleasure to have them up in Strathy to work with our Fèis Ceilidh Trail musicians and to put on a show for us in Strathy Hall in the evening. 

The concert was hosted in collaboration with Highland Castle Entertainments and this helped with the advertising and social media aspect of that as well as online ticket sales.  It was also a great help financially towards the P/A costs.

Prior to the sound-checks, a song accompaniment workshop was delivered to our Ceilidh Trail musicians where the focus was on how to accompany a Gaelic song chosen by our singers.  Our accompanists felt this was a really worthwhile workshop and they were enthusiastic about the new skills they picked up as well as ideas they were given to try in song accompaniment in general.

Our Fèis air an Oir youngsters started the evening with some tunes and songs from participants aged 8-14 and then we had a 20 minute set from the Ceilidh Trail.  This was well received by the audience and gave the youngsters the experience of playing on a professional stage with lights and amplification. 

The performance from Rachel and Aaron was fantastic and the audience members were full of compliments at the end of the show.  There was a lovely atmosphere in the hall and it was hosted in true Highland style.  The young fèis participants helped some of the Ceilidh Trail members with the raffle and the rest of the Ceilidh Trail members were on duty with the hall committee to prepare and serve the teas! Everyone mucked in and helped tidy up at the end of the night! 

For Strathy, our audience numbers were good.  We had a good number of adults that bought tickets and the room did fill up with the fèis and ceilidh trail participants! 

The £300 we were awarded from FOHM was a great help to go make this event possible as well as additional funding we received from our local Community Council.

Thank you again to Friends of Highland Music for the support with this event.


Astar School of Traditional Music - Rachel Campbell
Hamish Napier & John Somerville. Groupwork Session, Abriachan Hall 

In November 2023 young musicians from Inverness and the surrounding area were joined by two of Scotland’s most inspiring traditional musicians for a fun day of musical creativity above the shores of Loch Ness. Starting off at the very reasonable time of 10.30am the group were welcomed by Hamish and John and invited to take a seat and get their instruments tuned up and ready. Hamish went round each musician to note down their names, what they played and get a rough idea of their level and experience. The tutors had prepared a couple of tunes for the group to learn and the sheet music was handed around. ‘Balchraggan’ written by John and ‘The House on Rose Valley’ written by Phil Cunningham. Hamish and John gave the group a blast of the tunes to show how they should sound and the enthusiasm to get started began to grow amongst the group. It was encouraged that they try to learn the notes by ear first and so to get a good grasp of the tunes, that’s what was done to start with. 

As the morning went by the group had learnt the tunes to a great standard and after lunch they worked on the musical arrangements and what parts each instrument would have to play. This part was most interesting with the tutors explaining how to put ‘swing’ into the melody and the effects of dynamics and having some instruments drop out and come in again. This encouraged the group to really listen to the music and to each other.

By the end of the session, it was incredible to listen to the group play the tunes together and the sound they created was equal to a professional standard. This gave them a great sense of achievement and they now had these tunes to take home with them as well as new friendships made. 

The Hall and the tutors had organised a concert for the evening and the group were able to perform what they had learned during the day. 

Many thanks (to FoHM) for providing Astar with the funds necessary to run the groupwork sessions and also for the making of the Astar Books which have 70 pages of Ceilidh Dance sets and Listening Sets suitable for all the levels of the members.   


Grant Recipients 2022

FoHM were pleased to have our first Grant recipient of '22 in Clarsach player Fraya Thomsen. Fraya began learning traditional music in 1993 and performed with the Clarsach duo 'The Duplets' worldwide from 2004 - 2015. Fraya's Grant Award will be utilised for funding the completion of her forthcoming CD Album 'Community and Stardust'. Completion will involve graphic design, mastering, artwork, CD duplication and media promotion. With the completion work commencing in March, we look forward to hearing and seeing the result when the Album is realised later this year.

Having been awarded his FoHM Grant in 2020, Graham Mackenzie was able to complete his Album 'The Dawning' after the inevotable delay caused by the Covid 19 Pandemic. In a detailed report to FoHM, Graham said that the journey to produce the album was a most fulfilling one and that the launch night at Celtic Connections early in 2023 was one of the best evenigns of his career highlights.

The Band Harta were also able to successfully produce their CD Album of the same name after a Covid delay. The Album has received excellent reviews from many many musical sources and Ross Calderwood of Harta reports that the Album would not have been possible without the grant assistance from FoHM.

FoHM were also delighted to be able to assist Croy Live with the production of concerts held in Croy Village Hall. The grant funding was specifically aimed at assisting live music regaing its feet after the Covid epidemic and to help encourage audiences to venture out and about again. Through the hard work of Alison Mackenzie and her team, we are pleased to say that a succession of well-attended and enjoyable concerts were held.   

Grant Recipients 2021

FoHM have been in the process of awarding Grant assistance to some for this year. Our latest financial support has been given towards the production of a Bagpipe-related CD project by well known piper Brighde Chaimbeul. This project also incorporates the input of some well-known up and coming traditional musicians and will concentrate on old traditional Scottish and Gaelic tunes which Brighde says will celebrate the heavy drone sound of the pipes accentuated by other wind and bellows instruments. We look forward to hearing the end result in due course!

Grant Recipients 2020

With the onging impact of Covid-19, FoHM were pleased to be able to continue to assist some young musicians in 2020. Local fiddler Graham Mackenzie was assisted with funds to progress production of his latest album. Inevtiably the Pandemic situation has got in the way somewhat, but Graham reports that things are moving along and that he has sent out guide tracks to the musicians involved to work on from home, has booked the studio for dates in the next few months, and despite the current challenges hopes to have an end product available before the end of the year.

Piping was again supported with Grants in 2020, with worthy recipients in Hamish Drennan and Oliver Kinghorn. Oliver reports that he has been making considerable progress under the tuition of Scott Hay and is enjoying learning new Sets of music and exposure to the small pipes.

Hamish has also been progressing well under the tution of David Sheddon. This assisted him in submitting Sets to the Royal Conservatoire of Music in Glasgow as part of the selection process for a BMus in Traditional Music (Piping) Course and also for some of the requirements for his BA in Applied Music through the University of the Highlands & Islands (UHI). Hamish learned late last year that he has been susscessful in gaining entry to the Royal Conservatoire of Music for his Piping-related Degree Course which is wonderful news.

Video footage of Hamish performing some Sets recently and celebrating the NHS can be seen by clicking on the the images shown below;


Friends of Highland Music wish all our worthy 2020 Grant recipients every success with their ongoing endeavours. 


Kyle Cameron Piping 2019

With Grant assistance from FoHM up to 2019, young Kyle Cameron from Rosemarkie has been developing his already outstanding piping skills during the last two years. Below, extracts from a report to FoHM, describe Kyle's recent progress. 

Kyle achieved his target in the last 5 years since he started competing at the age of 10, which was winning all the classes for his age at the Northern Meeting, a World Class Piping Competition in Inverness. Under 15 March-Strathspey-Reel 1st, Under 15 Piobaireachd 1st, Best Aggregate in Under 15 and Best Performance: Highlands and Moray. 

Trophies from the Nortern Meeting Piping Competition

This year he qualified to compete in the MacGregor Memorial Piobaireachd Competition as part of Argyllshire Gathering (Oban Games), for young pipers aged under 22, which is one of the most important such competitions in world piping. For this he learned in just over a year four new tunes of “piobaireachd” the classical music of the Great Highland Bagpipe of which another name for it is “Ceol Mor” meaning the Big Music. Kyle was the youngest competitor and it was a challenging competition for a 14-year-old but he says he really enjoyed the experience and received positive comments from the adjudicators. He will continue to learn Piobaireachd to the high standard to meet the entry requirements for the competition and aim to win the title.

Other recent achievements/prizes include: 

- Came 2nd in U16 events (MSR & Piobaireachd) out of 42 entries at Shotts and Dykehead Junior Championship in December 2019. 

- Won U15 Piobaireachd Scots Guards Junior Championship (Army School of Bagpipe Music and Highland Drumming) in Edinburgh in December 2019.

This year, Kyle took part in the competitive auditions and gained a place within the Senior Band of the National Youth Pipe Band of Scotland (NYPBoS). Kyle was lucky to be selected to perform as a member of the Senior Band of the NYPBoS in the Belfast international Tattoo 2019 from 3rd to 8th September 2019. 

Belfast International Tattoo

He was also given a great opportunity by the National Piping Centre Glasgow to take a leading part in the “Piping Live!” Charity Fund Raising event for Heart Research UK on 13th August 2019. 

A wet and windy Oban Highland Games

Kyle piped a tune of Lament (Piobaireachd) for the Hiroshima and Nagasaki Memorial Event organized by the local people in Cromarty and donated the fund which he raised at the event to Hiroshima city for it to use for the preservation project of the Atomic Bomb Dome (Hiroshima Peace Memorial). He also piped for the local communities such as Armistice Day, a local Clan Memorial Gathering. 

The FoHM Committee wish Kyle all the best with his ongoing piping development.


Clava & Càirdean Visit to Donegal 2019

With the support of Friends of Highland Music, the youth traditional music groups Clava and Càirdean from Inverness set off for Donegal in July 2019. The planned week there would provide the group members with the experience of playing with otehrs and working with established local musicians in organised workshops. A total of 10 young players set off on the tour, accompanied by Alison and Robbie Mackenzie as Leaders. Below is some material from their final Report on the tours along with some quotes from the paricipants.

"The Donegal Wild Atlantic Marathon finished at Glencomcille Folk Village and the bands had been invited to play at the finish line. Following the performance the bands were given a guided tour to witness life through the ages in Ireland.

On the journey back a performance at the famous Leo’s Tavern was scheduled. Band members saw the many awards won by Enya and Clannad as Leo’s is their family home.

The session on Monday night in Hudie Beag in Bunbeg is not to be missed. It is a magnet for musicians and the quality of music is always high making it one of the best sessions to experience. A late night but a happy bus on the home journey with a beautiful sunset.

An important part of the Donegal visit was to meet with musicians and tutors to learn and play Irish music. A workshop with Theresa Kavanagh (fiddle) and Martin Crossin (whistle/pipes) was organised. The band members worked on a set of Irish tunes with Theresa and Martin and spent some time on ornamentation used in Irish traditional music. Theresa and Martin finished the day by playing a set of tunes to the bands. 

On the Wednesday night the main performance at Leo’s was scheduled, and the bands had noticeably improved over the few days of playing together in Donegal. The bands performed for an hour and were given a warm welcome from Bartley Brennan, owner of Leo’s, and the folk in the Tavern.

The final performance was in Gortahork along with members of the local Comhaltas branch of musicians. This gave the band members an opportunity to hear and play with musicians of their own age. They were also able to see some excellent dancing as well."

“My highlight of the trip would have been when the group performed at Gortahork

and we played with a group of young local musicians.”

"The Donegal visit for Clava and Càirdean was made possible due to the support from Friends of Highland Music, Highland Music Trust and the many businesses and individuals that supported the bands at their fundraising events. Grateful thanks to them all."

“I think this trip has helped us all become closer and get to know each other better

which helps us play better together as a group.”

“This trip was such a great experience and I have gained so much from it.”

“I loved going to Ireland as I learnt so much with my instrument.”

“I really enjoyed our time in Ireland. It was so much fun and I feel it brought

everyone a lot closer.”

“Ireland was a fantastic opportunity that has helped me further develop my skills in


Workshop with Scott Wood and Mhairi Mackinnon


Clava and Càirdean are two youth traditional bands which were formed in late 2014 and organised by Alison Mackenzie.  The bands rehearse weekly and this dedication resulted in success at several festivals in 2015.  It is important for youth bands to have the opportunity to work with professional musicians who can inspire them with their passion and enthusiasm for the development of traditional music. 

In 2015, a grant from the Friends of Highland Music gave the bands the opportunity to work on arranging a set of tunes with two members of the Scott Wood Band prior to their concert in the Inverness area.  Scott Wood is an innovative young piper and has just released his first CD to great acclaim. Mhairi Mackinnon plays fiddle in the band and is an accomplished musician.  This gave the band members a chance to discuss their ideas and contribute to the final arrangement.  The tunes which formed the set were: Mo Ghaol ’s mo Ghràdh ’s m’ Eudail thu, a slow Gaelic Air, followed by two jigs, and unnamed Irish jig followed by I have It Somewhere.

The finished set took into consideration the different levels of ability of band members and allowed everyone to contribute to the overall performance.

It was an extremely valuable experience for the bands.  Their performance at the concert a week later was a credit to them and to the teaching and encouragement they had received from Scott and Mhairi.  Scott remarked on how quickly the bands learned the arrangement and the high standard of their performance.  He left some other pieces for the bands to work on which will used for a future performance.


Belladrum Tartan Heart Festival 2015

Friends of Highland Music sponsored a small Traditional Music Marquee at the Festival to allow tutors to offer Come and Try Sessions for children and parents attending the Festival.

Irene Fraser tutored fiddle, Iain H Ross bodhran and Jeff Maclean mandolin and guitar along with Lorna Maclean (bodhran) and Ann Marie Downie (guitar).  100 students attended on Friday and 131 on Saturday.  The event was considered a great success and hopefully can be repeated in the future.




Glasgow College of Piping Highland School

In April 2015, Kerr Macdonald from Gollanfield near Nairn attended this week long residential course at Drumnadrochit. Kerr was in the advanced group which included a pipe band from Belgium. There was a mixture of band and individual practice with a selection of new tunes taught such as The Banjo Breakdown, Tug Argan Gap,The Hills of Perth and The Glenfinnan Highland Gathering. There was an opportunity to take part in a workshop showing pupils how to build reeds for pipes, and another class to learn a Piobaireachd.

Kerr gained much experience from the piping week, not only from learning a number of new tunes in the regular and Piobaireachd classes, but also the whole week raised his confidence and he made new contacts.

The College held a Closing Concert at the local hall on the final evening which all friends and family were invited to – it was a most enjoyable evening with pipers of all ages, the youngest piper was 10 years old. Kerr was presented with a certificate to confirm that he had completed the Highland School Course 2015 (below right).



The Buddy McMaster School of Fiddling

In October 2014, brothers and fiddlers Graham and Robbie Mackenzie from Inverness travelled to Cape Breton to attend the Buddy McMaster School of Fiddling.  It is a famous and prestiguous event and Robbie and Graham did well to be accepted on it.

Robbie said

Over the five days, I received tuition from ten of Cape Breton’s finest fiddle players: Shelly Campbell, Wendy MacIsaac, Kimberley Fraser, Mairi Rankin from Beolach, JJ Chaisson, Glenn Graham, Andrea Beaton from the Panache Quartet, Rachel Davis and Colin Grant from Còig and one of my favourite fiddle players, Troy MacGillivray.

Each of the tutors offered something different to one another and hailing from all over the eastern side of Canada they brought their own styles and unique musical backgrounds and influences to the teaching of their selected tunes. The ten tutors all taught a variety of tunes and ornaments, such as warbles, turns and cuts.

The tutors played a twenty-minute set each at lunchtime, in the restaurant. These lunchtime performances gave me my first taste of the Cape Breton style of piano accompaniment, which takes a heavy influence from the walking bass line of Swing and the syncopation found in Ragtime piano music, whilst using the full range of the piano, varying greatly from the style found here in Scotland.

Graham added:-

Two different tutors were assigned every day and they would take it in turn to take each class. I attended the advanced class for the week which on the whole was taught by ear. This is certainly the preferred way of teaching traditional tunes as it is easier to memorise the tune as opposed to learning it from the sheet music. All of the repertoire we learnt throughout the week were either traditional Cape Breton tunes or the tutor's own compositions. Often the traditional Cape Breton tunes that were taught had a link to Buddy MacMaster, whether it was tunes he loved playing or had recorded on CD. As the class was fairly advanced, we were collectively able to learn as many as five tunes by ear in the two hour class.

Once the classes were finished for the day, the students got the opportunity to showcase their talents. I played on several occasions. The tutors remarked on my playing and were interested to see the differences and similarities between the Scottish and Cape Breton fiddle styles.


Harp Trip to Lancut, Poland  Summer 2014

Clarsach player Abigail Miller Todd attended the 12 day International Music Course in Lancut accompanied by her Mum Mari.

We began with a road trip to Edinburgh Airport, all ready for an early (3:30am) start the next morning. It felt surreal to be wandering around the airport in the simmer dim in the quiet pre dawn.

Arriving in Krakow, we were horrified to see monsoon conditions instead of the promised hot weather, leading to a swift change of plan and a taxi to the railway station, happily housed in a large subterranean shopping centre. We were astonished when an early 20th Century train clanked its way up to the platform. Once aboard we quickly realised the train had a maximum speed of about 20miles an hour and stopped at every remote and rural rail platform between Krakow and Rzsezow.  We missed our rendezvous time but it was now hot and sunny so we waited for an hour hoping a lift might materialise. Eventually we conceded defeat and hailed a taxi. A swift drive through the countryside and we found ourselves at the front gates of the impressively beautiful Lancut Castle (above): think Dunrobin with additional wings and parkland surrounding the formal gardens.

Some local girls kindly escorted us to the music school headquarters (right) where we were registered and taken to a beautiful nearby hotel where we immediately bumped in to Professor Mazurek, newly arrived from across Poland, who arranged a pre-course lesson for Abigail first thing in the morning.

The first full day in Lancut began with our first lesson with the wonderful Professor Mazurek and concluded with our first big event in Poland: the opening concert. All music school participants were bussed to Rzsezow for the opening evening gala concert. We discovered that, in Poland, music trumps food, as we left at 5:00pm and didn’t arrive back until about 10pm - at no point was there any opportunity for food, and nobody seemed to mind! The concert had an electrifying programme of music where winners of international music competitions played for the enraptured audience. They were all stunning.

Our days settled into a pattern: a walk across the park to the community centre where the harp teaching was based. Abigail was the first student of the day, with the lesson usually lasting for about an hour and a half (left). The lesson times were not rigidly adhered to: Professor Mazurek would keep going with a student until she was satisfied. Those waiting would come and sit at the back which gave the lessons a feel of a masterclass. Professor Mazurek taught all day until about 7pm, with a break for lunch. She often called Abigail back for lesson in the afternoon to check on progress. Although she is well advanced in years I have never come across such a committed and open hearted teacher.

Her teaching was very visual, with vivid descriptions being used to help students understand the type of movement she was looking for: “Imagine you are chomping on your favourite cake each time you pluck a string” being one of our favourites.  The first lesson began with thinking about posture and positioning. We were instructed to practice hugging a tree (below) to have a lovely cuddling shape with shoulders and arms when setting up for playing the harp. Then it was centre yourself and bring your forehead to the harp, before bringing the harp back. It shouldn’t rest on the shoulder but more balance on the breastbone as the shoulder needs to be relaxed and free to move.

Once individual finger movements had been looked at and corrected, we moved on to hand movements (relaxation being key) and arm and then shoulders. Shoulders to remain down at all times! At all stages Professor Mazurek used touch to check on muscle tension and also to demonstrate what she was looking for. Professor Mazurek is a world expert on harp technique, having used physiology and help from her old swimming coaches to get over an injury from harp playing in her early twenties. She has looked at every aspect of anatomy and used that to develop a technique which will put the least strain on the body over time.

She was also hugely entertaining and inspiring to Abigail: on our last night in Poland we joined her for dinner and she regaled Abigail with stories about the golden age of harp in Paris in the 1960’s with the most famous players of all time. These kind of insights are invaluable and immensely precious as they help to develop Abigail’s love and understanding of the harp and it’s history. When we left, Professor Mazurek gathered all the other harp players to say farewell and to present Abigail with a gift and a certificate. She also offered Abigail a chance to play a harp concerto with the orchestra if she returns next summer.

Overall, the whole experience was fascinating: the seriousness and commitment to music was beyond anything imagined and the teaching exemplary. Nightly concerts in the castle ballroom castle, all free to music school participants, provided a great opportunity to hear some amazing professional musicians perform.Most interesting was the agreement across musical disciplines that all instrumentalists need fluid and looseness in their playing if they wish to produce the sweetest sounds.

Beyond the music, Lancut is beautiful, the park and castle are national treasures worth a visit in their own right. It was in Lancut Castle that Poland was signed over to the Soviet Army at the end of WWII! It is very cheap to visit Poland, food is much cheaper there than in Scotland, so it was possible to have plenty of fresh fruit and ice creams! We would strongly recommend others to consider this music summer school if the opportunity arises and would certainly love to go back if Abigail’s orchestral commitments in Scotland allow it. Thank you very much for making this opportunity possible: it has been invaluable.

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