Isla Ratcliff’s debut album The Castalia is inspired by the 4 months that she spent in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia in 2019. She also travelled to New Brunswick to meet the descendants of her ancestors who emigrated from Glen Clova, Scotland to South Tilley, New Brunswick in 1873 on the ship The Castalia.
Isla’s album is an expression of what she collected in Canada: new tunes, inspiration for new compositions, deep friendships, a fresh approach to interpreting tunes, realisations about herself as a musician, and an appreciation for kindness and community. Featuring traditional and self-composed tunes, Isla’s album expresses her love for the tradition, its ethos of community, and the power of music to bring people together.
The Castalia is a remote recording project. Isla and cellist Ellen Gira recorded in Scotland, pianist Adam Young recorded in Cape Breton, and stepdancer Annabelle Bugay recorded in the USA. The album was produced by Marie Fielding, and was mixed and mastered by Stuart Hamilton at Castlesound Studios.
Isla Ratcliff is a fiddle player, singer and composer from Edinburgh, with a background in classical violin and piano. She has a deep interest in tradition, cultural politics, the environment, and music’s positive impact on our wellbeing. Isla was a Semi-Finalist in the BBC Young Traditional Musician of the Year 2022 competition. She graduated with an MMus Scottish Music degree from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in 2020.