Donald Shaw

Donald Shaw

Brought up in Taynuilt, Argyll, a part of the world steeped in Gaelic song and traditional music, Donald Shaw was involved in all styles of music from an early age. Originally taught the accordion by his father, at 16 he won the All-Britain accordion championship performing ‘Paganiniana’, Hans Brehme’s renowned adaptation of Paganini’s ‘Theme and Variations’. A year later, whilst still at Oban High School, returning to his love of roots music he co-founded Capercaillie, with whom he still writes, produces and performs.

Throughout his musical life Donald has been involved in composing for film and TV, most recently composing the music for the Bafta nominated film, ‘American Cousins’, directed by Don Coutts (starring Shirley Henderson and Dan Hidaya). The film won numerous awards including best film at Milan film festival. He also scored ‘One Last Chance’, a feature film written and directed by Stewart Svaasand for Dougray Scott’s Production company Hero Films. For the soundtrack of ‘One Last Chance’, Donald recorded with Louisiana musician Dirk Powell (‘Brother Where Art Thou’) to create a score influenced by early American folk music.

In 2002 he was rewarded with two Royal Television Society awards for Best Soundtrack and Best Theme in UK television. The RTS awards were for the acclaimed drama ‘Crowdie and Cream’ (co-composed with Charlie McKerron) and involved bringing over 20 musicians together from around the world, together with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra. His expansive 70 minute score for the feature film ‘Transition’ (released in 2000) was also BAFTA nominated for best soundtrack.

As well as film music, in the last 10 years he has produced and recorded on more than 50 albums for artists in all areas of music, and collaborated with high profile artists as diverse as Nanci Griffith, Peter Gabriel, Ornette Coleman, Dulce Pontes, Dan ar Braz, Bonnie Raitt and James Grant. He was musical director for the BAFTA winning BBC arts show ‘Tacsi’, in which he produced collaborations with more than 200 of the finest musicians working in Scotland as diverse as jazz maestro Tommy Smith, piping guru Martyn Bennett and the BT Ensemble. It was with this vast experience that he launched the independent label ‘Vertical Records’ in 2000, which has gone on to release many critically acclaimed albums by artists.

In January 2004 he composed ‘Harvest’, a commission for the opening night of Celtic Connections festival involving 100 musicians from all Celtic regions of Europe. Also involved where some of the finest young traditional musicians from throughout Scotland from the ages of 13 to 18. ‘Harvest’ was also performed at the 2006 Celtic Connections Festival

In 2006 Donald was appointed Artistic Director of Celtic Connections 2007, he also won the Scots Trad Musicc Composer of the Year Award in December 2006.