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Isla Ratcliffe Trio

22nd August 2024 - 8pm

Fiddle player, singer and composer Isla Ratcliff is a passionate and inventive musician from Edinburgh, Scotland.

Since releasing her debut album The Castalia in 2021, Isla has been receiving increasing attention for her fiery fiddle playing and her rich singing voice. She was a Semi-Finalist in the BBC Young Traditional Musician of the Year 2022 competition, and she was nominated for Up and Coming Artist of the Year 2022 at the MG Alba Scots Trad Music Awards. She has performed across Scotland, the UK and Europe, including at Celtic Connections, Cambridge Folk Festival, Sidmouth FolkWeek, the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Seall Festival of Small Halls, the BBC Proms, and festivals in France, Germany and Denmark.

Isla’s debut album The Castalia features traditional and self-composed tunes inspired by the 4 months that she spent in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, Canada in 2019. Described as ‘quite the best debut album that has come this way in a long time’ (The Living Tradition), her album expresses her love for the tradition, its ethos of community, and the power of music to bring people together.

Inspired by landscape, people and experiences, Isla aims to create music that excites, soothes and challenges the listener to think. Her work is underpinned by her interests in tradition, community, cultural politics, the environment, and music’s positive impact on our wellbeing.

Isla’s compositions include fiddle tunes, songs, ensemble arrangements, theatre scores and short film scores. Aged 16, she won the lyrics category of Amnesty International’s Power of Our Voices protest songwriting competition with her song ‘Death Row’. In 2019 she devised a musical-theatrical production A Reawakened Monument of Antiquity, inspired by the music and cultural-political context of A Collection of Highland Vocal Airs (1784). She is currently composing a fiddle tune for every Munro that she climbs (172 to date!).

Isla is a graduate of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland (MMus Scottish Music, 2020) and the University of Oxford (BA Music, 2017). As a child, she received her musical education first through the Suzuki Method and then at the City of Edinburgh Music School at Broughton High School. Aged 13, she played a trad duet with Nicola Benedetti in Edinburgh’s Usher Hall.

As well as a performer and a composer, Isla is a fun and inspiring violin/fiddle teacher. She teaches classical violin through the Suzuki Method, both privately and in schools, and she teaches a weekly adult group fiddle class at the Scots Music Group. She holds a DipABRSM Teaching Diploma with Distinction. As a community music practitioner, Isla has worked with early years, primary school children, young parents, people with disabilities, and people with dementia, delivering songwriting workshops, teaching violin and supporting music rehearsals.

When she is not playing music, Isla enjoys hillwalking, cycling, cross-country skiing and reading. She speaks Russian, having learned by immersion at the Russian Embassy School in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia aged 10-11, and she is now learning Scottish Gaelic and Norwegian.

  • Quite the best debut album that has come this way in a long time. … Isla’s playing here echoes much of past masters like Jerry Holland and Buddy MacMaster.’ – The Living Tradition


  • A fine debut album … showcasing her bright, articulate playing’ – The Scotsman, ****

  • Isla Ratcliff’s superb fiddle-playing, crisply toned, fiery or tender as the tune demands… Of course, for me the star was Isla’s voice which is as pure, clear and natural as spring water.’ – Sheena Wellington, Friends of Wighton

  • Ms Ratcliff has assembled almost an hour of excellent hard core fiddle music, most of it bearing the energetic stamp of Cape Breton Island. … The crunchy triplets and driven bow of Cape Breton fiddling are to the fore here, but Ratcliff’s skills extend far beyond that. … The Castalia should ensure that Isla Ratcliff is held in equally high regard on this side of the ocean.’ – Folk World

  • A refreshingly lively new take on trad. … This recording is a vigorous new interpretation of the sometimes overly worthy school of (largely) solo fiddle recordings.’ – At The Barrier

  • A beautifully crafted debut’ – Shire Folk

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