Band makes a good start in contest

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A BAND featuring a Northumberland teenager made a great first impression at music talent competition in Scotland.

Gemma Telfer, who grew up in Rothley Crag and attended King Edward VI School in Morpeth, is the accordion player for the band Gria, which was among the winners at the Danny Kyle Open Stage competition run by Celtic Connections.

She was studying for her AS-Levels when she received the opportunity to audition for the prestigious Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in Glasgow. On the strength of her performance, she was selected for the Scottish Traditional Music degree programme.

Now in her second year, the 18-year-old formed Gria with singer Ceitlin LR Smith, fiddler Louise Bichan and pianist Lana Elaine (two of whom also study at the institution) in the autumn.

They put together a few compositions and sent along a demo CD to the Danny Kyle Open Stage organisers.

The quartet got through to the performance section and despite it being the first time they had played live in front of an audience – they did two songs and one tune set in the 20 minutes allotted – they were chosen as one of the six best acts out of the 60 that took to the stage during a two-week period.

As well as getting an award, they returned to play on the final night of the contest and have been given a support slot at next year’s Celtic Connections festival.

Gemma said: “I’ve loved this music since about the age of 10 and I enjoy playing a few different instruments, particularly the accordion because it’s very versatile which means I can play a range of styles.

“I was thrilled to be offered a place at the Royal Conservatoire as Glasgow is the place to be for traditional music and I could develop under the guidance of Artistic Director of Scottish Music Phil Cunningham, who has been one of my heroes since I started playing the accordion.

“We started Gria in September and by the time the Danny Kyle competition came around, we had practised together quite a lot and felt it was worth entering.

“We were a bit anxious as to how we would be received, but the reaction was very positive and it gave us confidence that we’re going in the right direction.

“We got a phonecall saying we were one of the winners and we were asked to perform the next day in the evening.

“Even though we played in a university concert during the afternoon that day, we were still raring to go and it was a great occasion.My mum and dad were able to make it along despite the short notice and we were live on the radio.

“Following the contest, we have been approached to be part of festivals and concerts and we’re trying to fit in as many performances as we can around our exams.”

She thanked her former music teacher at Chantry

Middle School and Technology College, Veronica Gilbert, for giving her the opportunity to try a range of instruments and the Tyneside Irish Centre in Newcastle for providing her with a platform to play and develop her skills.

The Danny Kyle Open Stage competition for up-and-coming musicians is named after a Scottish folk singer who was known for supporting fresh talent.

on the music scene.