Accordionist wins a spot at top music event

Gria are (left to right) Lana Elaine, Louise Bichan, Ceitlin LR Smith'and Gemma Telfer.
Gria are (left to right) Lana Elaine, Louise Bichan, Ceitlin LR Smith'and Gemma Telfer.
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A YOUNG musician has been given a special birthday present with a slot at a top summer festival.

Accordionist Gemma Telfer will take to the stage of the Hebridean Celtic Festival after winning a talent competition as part of quartet Gria.

The festival, which takes place in Stornoway in July, will be headlined by Van Morrison, Dougie MacLean, Capercaillie, The Battlefield Band and the Red Hot Chilli Pipers.

Gria, who played their first gig in February, won their spot after coming top of 17 entries in HebCelt’s One Step Further contest, which was open to performers aged 18 to 25.

The opportunity is all the more exciting for Gemma as the festival falls on her birthday.

The 18-year-old, who is from Rothley Crag near Scots Gap, said: “I was absolutely delighted to hear we had won the One Step Further competition. July can’t come quick enough. It’s my first time visiting HebCelt and the Isle of Lewis — I can’t wait.

“It’s my birthday the weekend of the festival so I couldn’t ask for a better present, getting to perform with Gria at such a fabulous event.”

Gemma has been playing the accordion since the age of ten and has a passion for Scottish and Irish music. She has played in many bands and spent two weeks on tour in New York and Boston.

She has won numerous accordion competitions in Northumberland and in 2010 won the Christopher Meade Scholarship from the Tyneside Irish Centre for Youth Achievement, enabling her to study at The Meitheal Summer School in Ireland. She has also been awarded three Trinity Guildhall Performance Certificates.

Since moving to Glasgow to study she has played at the Celtic Connections Festival for two years running.

Gria, which takes its name from the Gaelic word for sun, was formed last year by Gemma and fellow students at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland singer Ceitlin LR Smith and pianist Lana Elaine, along with Lana’s former bandmate Louise Bichan on fiddle.

Their first gig was at Celtic Connections, when they won the Danny Kyle Open Stage award, and last month they played for the Scottish Government.

HebCelt runs from July 17 to 20.