Gria wow Celtic Connections to win prestigious prize

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Niseach songbird Ceitlin L R Smith has spoken of her pride, and surprise, at seeing her new band winning a prestigious award at the Danny Kyle open stage competition at Celtic Connections – especially as it was her band’s first EVER live gig as a group.

Gria are a Glasgow-based folk group made up with a blend of tastes and talents from Lewis, Shetland, Orkney and Northumberland with big hopes and ambitions which have been fuelled by being honoured so early on.

Singer Ceitlin, originally from Ness, is a student at Glasgow’s Royal Conservatoire has only been working with bandmates; Gemma Telfer on accordion, Louise Bichan on fiddle, Lana Elaine on piano and accordion, for a few months in what she admits is her first real band.

But the Gaelic Singing student is already preparing to head into the studio to record a first EP with her band mates while Gria area also hoping to head to the continent for a series of festival dates although a festival closer to home would be a dream diary date for Ceitlin.

“I would absolutely love to get the chance to play at the Hebridean Celtic Festival,” she began, “as it is one of my favourite festivals and we would like to try and visit, and play a gig, in each of our own home towns.”

Gria were one of six winners from a pool of 73 entries at the Celtic Connections festival and each winning group has also landed a return ticket to next year’s festival as a support act.

“I was quite shocked but really, really chuffed when it was announced that we had won,” continued Ceitlin.

“Especially as we haven’t been together for very long and this was our first gig. It has been difficult for us to get a lot of practice done as we all live in different parts of the country.

“The next thing for us is to get into the recording studio to record an EP and get it out there but first we need to get as many gigs as possible. The more performing we can do the better.”

Gria are hoping to set the Celtic music heather on fire but where did their name come from?

“It actually doesn’t mean anything,” laughs Ceitlin.

“We liked Grian (Gaelic for sun) but there is already a Grian Recordings company so we didn’t want to use that and decided just to drop the ‘n’ of it and we liked the sound of Gria.”