Hurrah for Ho-Ro as young group wins HebCelt Talent Contest

HebCelt Talent Contest winners Ho-Ro -  (left to right) Lucy Doogan, Sean Cousins, Calum MacPhail and Crisdean MacDonald
HebCelt Talent Contest winners Ho-Ro - (left to right) Lucy Doogan, Sean Cousins, Calum MacPhail and Crisdean MacDonald

A young band formed by chance just over a year ago is to play on the same festival stage as some international stars this summer after winning an annual contest to find new talent.

Hò-rò, based in Inverness, beat competition from all over the UK to win the One Step Further contest which is held annually by the Hebridean Celtic Festival to find the best young acts.

The group will now perform on Saturday, July 19th, on the main festival stage which will also host headliners Levellers, Big Country and Donnie Munro.

It comes after the four-piece, described as a contemporary trad/Gaelic and Celtic group, won a Danny Kyle Open Stage at Celtic Connections award in January.

The band has also recently secured slots at two Celtic music festivals in Italy.

Hò-rò, which takes its name from the sound often heard in Gaelic songs, comprises Sean Cousins (guitar/percussion); Calum MacPhail, (accordion); Lucy Doogan, (vocals/fiddle); and Crisdean MacDonald, (Border pipes/ Highland pipes/bodhran).

Sean, 21, from Inverness, is a self-taught pianist, drummer and guitarist who works as a full-time musician and producer.

Calum, 16, from Fort William, has been playing accordion since the age of seven and is also an accomplished composer. He is currently a pupil at Inverness High School.

Lucy, 21, from Ballachulish, is a critically-acclaimed singer who joined the band earlier this year.

She is combining her musical career with studies in Gaelic and traditional music at the Gaelic college Sabhal Mòr Ostaig.

And Crisdean, 20, from South Uist, is also studying at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig.

A former pupil of the National Centre of Excellence in Traditional Music at Plockton, he is well known in traditional music circles and a sought after session musician.

At HebCelt the line-up will also include 15-year-old drummer Rory Grindlay, from West Calder, who has been making a name for himself on YouTube after posting drum covers from a range of different music styles.

Sean said: “Winning the One Step Further competition is a huge deal for us because this Festival has hosted so many amazing bands/ musicians over the years, some of which are idols of ours.

“It gives us the opportunity to show what we are about to a large audience and we are so grateful that we are able to do this.

“The Festival has always received amazing reviews and has always been at the top of our list of places we want to play.”

Hò-rò, was formed as a three-piece last March when Sean was working as a waiter in a hotel and his boss needed entertainment for a dinner party. Sean was asked to get a few friends together for what was expected to be a one-off concert.

“But the feedback we received was amazing so we couldn’t just leave it”, he said. “We started arranging a few tune sets and songs and, before we knew it, we were playing full time as Hò-rò.”

The One Step Further contest for young artists is now an annual feature of the award-winning Hebridean Celtic Festival which attracts an international audience of more than 16,000 to Stornoway in the island of Lewis.

Glasgow-based trio Muran won the 2012 competition just six months after forming, while female quartet Gria took the prize last year, three months after playing their first gig.

The contest is supported by internationally-renowned fiddler Duncan Chisholm, who said it not only creates a huge opportunity for emerging talent but also gives the HebCelt audience the chance to hear fresh and exciting sounds.

HebCelt director Caroline Maclennan said: “Hò-rò is a worthy winner of the contest. The standard this year was again extremely high, but the group’s energy and musicianship stood out and I think it will be a big hit with our audience.”