The Road Ahead


Brighton Fringe
28th May – 27th June


For today’s hour at the Brighton Fringe we were met with two musicians sitting in a meadow with guitars and mandolins surrounded by pine trees on the sky line. This set was called very aptly ‘The Road Ahead’ a title they came up with after being asked for by the festival. They came up with it almost on the spot but it suited the nuances of the twos music very well.

They were called ‘Glorieta Pines’ and their show was presented by ‘flying solo presents.’ On fiddle & mandolin was Lindsay Taylor and on guitar and harmonica was the enthusiastic Brian Nelson. Coming from the hills of New Mexico the sweet and tender music of Glorieta was fit for the pine trees around them.

Their songs and musical styles were strongly country but Brian in his wisdom called it folk music. Their warmth and friendly perspectives helped the stringent styles become unified by bond ship. As in their music it was clear that they had practiced well, having formed together for a long while.

The songs had the feeling of the nature of birds on hills and buffalo in the fields. And in a worldly concept they sang freely and outspokenly about life’s more precarious aspects. They sang with joy together; harmonising to make the sounds of their voices become so emotionally complete at least for a moment.

The style of lyric was of storytelling as is with folk music, but also played around with their positive outlooks and even giving advice as if for the road. They began with a wonderful song to sing with the lyric “love don’t come this way anymore.” As to her harmony with “will we ever see the sun?” and “love comes once, twice…slipped away again”. We felt the release coming from the music as it celebrated its forthcoming naturalness, especially with the surroundings. It was nothing less than a picture of happiness.

Their desire to be serious came from their abilities on their instruments. They swapped those instruments to suit the music that was folk music in its finest senses. Owning as they did themselves and their style, their original songs worked so well and had the strength and will to carry on; even if we may be stuck. The two were companions; they levelled each other off and with their music delved into the beyond that so well expressed their capability of living brightly, as their songs reflected.

They were both easy, even loving, and had a feeling of togetherness and knowingness that was of something special, relevant and in love with music. Singing for old age and whisky, it was a scene inside of a scene making music of such compassion as to change a world. Very relaxing like visiting a spa, the footage from America fitted in and set the scene with some truly great music.

Daniel Donnelly


Watch: The Road Ahead

Area Of A Circle



Dundee Rep
Fri 28th May, 2021


A big Hello from the Dundee Rep, for which this evening’s entertainment compiled a two hour session for friends and loved ones. The camera angle revealed a large space with 4 round tables seating four or five people a space for the set and a large screen for the film footage of special Dundee conversations between Kathryn and her respective acts. At first things seemed unorganised and speedily done.

Kathryn Joseph

But after a short introduction by Kathryn she introduced the first act by interviewing (very personally) with stories and experience’s taken in by friend and compatriot Andrew Wasylyk. They took a stroll through Balgay Park talking about childhood, memories and of course good times. sharing blossom, flowers, nature and its great healing qualities.

The piano/ violin that were the first act performed by Andrew were very slow and melodic. And in a certain way sounded lament like, with see through visuals of water. Then taken up was the trumpet that always creates an instant third dimension but still held to the music of the piano. And as the cello, joined the footage changed to scenes of mass gatherings, with the very soft music turned to visuals of tugs of war and children’s see saws.

It was an extended song telling its own soulful story, as we were guided by the footage of birds and crying. When the ongoing song held a single note it really claimed the performance. As each note passed we also felt the sense that each one had meaning for the artist something like conceptual.

Strolling around the Ferry with Sion Parkinson whom Kathryn got on well with was in a very relaxed manner; an encounter of deep friendship. He selflessly told us of his diagnosis of epilepsy he had been given during lock down in 2020. He was speedily diagnosed and put on medication that he said changed his life.

Sion Parkinson

His songs spoke of the inner experiences of suffering the condition, explaining the overpowering smells and noises he will have to live with. He was upright and accepting of these things coming from this change of life. He played his instances on his piano and what came out took us to the heart of the problems that come with his different world. He wore a mask like/helmet like which was made of shredded paper. I don’t think it was really to hide himself away, more like it was another root of his outlandish performance. It was so accomplished in being able to strikingly control the music to inform us of the outlandish experience. Notes that held strange and gruelling passages and screams like torture again strikingly composed for the very toughest of reality.

The structure of the evening was now in full flow in a momentum of story and song. There was a feeling of tradition but in no way was the music constrained to that. As Kathryn interviewed Lu Shaw otherwise known as SHHE, they took a walk down memory lane (literally) where her album has been done, it was an introduction compelling and familiar.

It was Kathryn’s night, she was the ring master of idea and thought but she would also go very deeply into the overall evening before the end. There were layers and depths created in an extraordinary way through closeness and to reiterate love.

SHHE

For SHHE the sound was sparse and star like, it was enthroned and uneasy. Using a synth to create the least possible notes to the completion of what music is itself. For a while no speaking or talking only vibe notes held to the greatest possible length and seeming distance. And when singing she attuned to the notes being expressed. She had the gig in her hands with the sound of widened expression. The room was darker with only two lights on so she loomed there as the small audience silently took it in. There were tones like a phone dial or a soft siren to leave us compelled.

Kathryn told us of her nervous anticipation at the thought of doing what she loved, and how she felt was most important for music the aspect of making it live. She relaxed took her seat for a solo performance. Her songs were short and included lyrics that would overwhelm you if you thought about them for too long. We could see her capability for the much experienced live act she has to go on. Her voice had shrills, whispers, passion and heartbreak.

Her styles transposed her story like lyrics with the cool thump of the piano keys. She in her time as an artist had won awards in the world of music. She simply sits with a telling smile and a content frown keeping us up with her well travelled world, her love for life and her song making. Sharing disparaging comments on the great and highly personal music of the poignant, playful precision sound of the human voice and its companion the piano.

We were just getting used to the number of songs when she would finish and take it away from us. Then she was soon to restart another pain ridden, love strong song from the heart of the artist’s life. “You do not know me, and never will”, “You don’t want me”, “It sounds like…blood has spilled.”, were words of seeming torture for the enchanted works of every song.

She played her songs that could only be as an entrance to living in her playful, deductive sincere and wrought (at least in idea) self. Bringing a presence to the stage of open and real time music with untold and forthcoming stories. Powerful styles that through her song invited us to be pulled alongside her. She was inclusive and strikingly not so, truthful, unbearing. It was a venue where music is the encounter it should be like magic and fire yet dowsing that fire with completeness. We felt gratitude and even blessing in her informal yet decisive performance.

Reviewer: Daniel Donnelly

Preview: The Skaparis At Easter Promo


SR Shindigs LTD

presents

Saturday 3rd April, 2021


The timing could not be better for this Easter’s performance by the internationally acclaimed Skaparis, a Manchester based orchestra, in a global livestream filmed at the Lighthouse in Salford and going online on the 3rd April.

Using the Old Norse word meaning to create, the ensemble was formed in 2016 by the highly thought of Simon Robertshaw. The group were soon to become much admired in the public arena. In November 2018, only 2 years since its inception, they performed with another titan of the music world, Gary Numan. Skaparis received acclaim from critic and fan alike.

The April 3rd global livestream will involve the performance of 3 pieces that are set to cheer up a claustrophobic public who are in as much need of being entertained as the performers and organisers are to putting it on in this event.

First to perform will be ‘Les Elemens’ by Jean Fery Rebel, originally a Symphony whose world premier was in 1737. His writing has become popular again in recent decades. Les Elemens was a piece written about the 4 elements of the universe; earth, water, air and fire. Then there will be a violin sonata in G by Mozart from the 1700’s consisting of 2 movements, 1. Allegro con Spirito (cheerful in spirit), and 2. Allegro (a straight forward happiness).

The third piece will be the 13th century Christian Hymn ‘Stabat mater’ all about the saddest of occurrence of Mary suffering the crucifixion of her beloved son. Called ‘Sabat Mater’ brought to us by Battista Pergolesi. The evening is a set of Robertshaw’s orchestra that will show the capability of a modern orchestra who are so well accomplished that they can showcase any genre of music. It will be yet another chapter in the progress of a phenomenal group who are flying through the world of music with unstoppable momentum.


Date: Saturday 3rd April 2021 – 19:00 – 21:00 (introduction and interviews from 19:00)

Tickets: Global livestream tickets are available at www.skaparis.uk
Super Early Bird – £18* (from 23rd February to 5th March)
Early Bird – £24* (from 6th March to 19th March)
Standard – £28* (from 20th March to 3rd April)
VIP – £60* (from 23rd February to 3rd April)
*including VAT

Performers:
Conductor and Musical Director – Simon Robertshaw
Soprano – Madeleine Pierard (The Royal Opera, Convent Garden)
Mezzo-Soprano – Sarah Castle (Zurich and New Zealand Opera)

Party In The Park: New Dates Confirmed

For the first time in many years, Perth and Kinross will once again play host to a major music festival and this one is right in the heart of the city.


Party at The Park was due to take place on the South Inch in June this year after its postponement in June 2020 due to the ongoing pandemic, but organisers have announced today that the long awaited new festival to Perth will take place on 21 st and 22 nd August 2021 instead. The weekend will feature fantastic live performances from The Charlatans, Kaiser Chiefs, Embrace, Ash, Fun Loving Criminals, Gun, Tide Lines, Callum Beattie, Skerryvore, Toploader, Lightning Seeds, Be Charlotte and many more.

With more than 50 live performances, there will be something for everyone’s musical tastes. With a dedicated kids zone, it won’t just be for the adults either as there is loads for the younger audience also. 

The team behind the event have already been running a successful multiaward event in West Lothian – Party at The Palace – and they were keen to bring the award winning event north.  Peter Ferguson (PATP Director) said “The recent news of an improving situation has given us a real boost over the last few days.

“We are more hopeful than ever of having our party on the South Inch this summer. Moving it back a few weeks to 21 st and 22 nd August certainly gives it a great chance.

“All our bands were able to confirm they will be available on
the new date which is great news.”

Celtic Connections 2021: Elephant Sessions – A Lockdown Special

Ironworks, Inverness
30th Jan, 2021

———————

The intro to this evening’s musical offering was the 1977 hit from the Spanish act Baccara ‘Yes Sir I can Boogie’. A lively disco number which set the scene nicely for tonight’s concert entitled Elephant Sessions. The gig was recorded at the Ironworks Venue in Inverness and felt like a ‘you had to be there’ event. A violin played its dramatic tones as we were led in to the venue by film, on and into the room for tonight’s no vocal performance.

The Elephants were at first in the dark then dimly lit by green light giving viewers the pleasurable feeling of being there with them. This young act of merry making music commenced with a single violin (Euan) plucking a traditional melody which then loudened as we were introduced to the music that soon became a fusion of traditional and experimental. It was giddy with their talent and with their first gig like that in too long a time.
By the end of their first song the spotlight had hit the stage that was surrounded by neon light. This band are very well liked and critically acclaimed. With their second song they called ‘Wet Field Day’ the thumping of the drum came to fore. It was an amalgamation of styles that they played, from jazzy base to really booming the music from the drums.

Their mastery was obvious and each variety of song passed by with a genuine feeling of satisfaction that poured out of them in the dim images on the screen. They were able to create all sorts of rhymes and speeds with a most effortless interaction especially for them being such a young act, but very well experienced, for live and recorded music and for indulging in the sweeping act of folk, funk and electronic music.
Their coverage of themes is very well known now and very popular. Never missing a trick and including their seductive talent for traditional and synthesiser going together while calling a song; Loft Crofter and keeping a disco speed that the violin was happily involved with. Their songs; ‘Tiagarra’ which is a Museum in Australia, ‘Doofer’ where you can’t think of a name, just showed the trajectory the Elephants are able to work with and master a great amount of work.

For ‘Doofer’ they had a heavy overdrive on the guitar, which along with the thumping drum had a kind of ecstatic effect that blew you away and while that was happening you were reminded that another sound was the violin or the mandolin. The 6 or 7 performances were the same set up throughout though they swapped instruments. including the synth in an amazing movement of pace and changing repetitive note changes and energy changes making an event of stories old and new.

It was the first I had seen in this year’s connections where the band were on their own. And it felt like a slightly different dynamic because of the type of venue all the way up in Inverness, a night club venue no doubt. But it was the sheer energy that sprung from them and the tightness of this very well-oiled act. A kind of positivity without having to think about it, and a great desire to entertain us make us dance and have a great time. One of the most together acts out there.

Daniel Donnelly

Celtic Connections 2021: Transatlantic Sessions


Various venues inc. The Royal Concert Hall
29th Jan
2021

I sat with bated breath at the thought of this evenings Transatlantic Sessions gig. An evening that holds a place at the heart of the Connections festival. The Sessions kicked off with some familiar faces at the Royal Concert Hall with a fast paced 3-reel set beginning with an Irish jig called ‘Boys of 25’, where 25 is an Irish card game. The band consisted of 8 musicians on double base, flute, violin, accordion and more, all coming together in fast and slow rhythms in songs with and without vocals.

The next artist was Julie Flowlis whose song ‘Bothen Ai righ am braigh Raithneach’, had her vocals in a grip compelling you to hear them clearly. She appeared again later on with her song called ‘Biodh an beoch seo ‘n haimh mo ruin’ which she told us translates as ‘This drink will be in the hand of my love’, an endearing lyric.

After the Sessions, we indeed crossed the ocean to a recording studio called The Compass Records studio in Nashville Tennessee. To a 3-person act on guitar violin and banjo who were to perform 3 tunes, the first called ‘Temperance Reel’ or ‘T-totalers’ in Irish, which was a no vocal song. Alison Brown sang her ‘Appalacian Celtic melody’ as an American Musician with strong Celtic ties. With a hint of medieval classical they fused with Celtic and a country twang. Also, at the studios Tim O’Brien took his music with 4 performers playing a song called ‘Storms are on the Ocean’ a traditional song about the perils we have to meet and overcome on our journey.

At the Record studio Molly Tuttle took to the stage in a vocal and guitar set. She played very stringent blues guitar and sang a song called ‘Take the journey’ about realising the journey we are already on. Then to footage of Glasgow’s George Square and the Walter Scott monument setting a scene for a 300-year-old Irish song called ‘The Wishing Tree’ by a blind harpist called Ocallaghan. Performed at the Royal Concert Hall it was a glorious and beautiful piece with no vocals but plenty of smiles.

To enhance the evenings virtual experience the next reel was taken from the archives back to 1998 with a song called ‘Trouble in the Fields. Filmed in a pub and so at very close quarter sang Maura O’Connell and Nanci Griffith a song about life in the heart of rural Scottish communities. A gifted and traditional song of guitar and double bass (somehow fitting into the small room) and so on, a treat and a reminder of their beginnings.

The footage moved back across the ocean from The Royal Concert Hall to the humble Tennessee studio as always in its most welcoming way. Songs were sung about the graces of people, places and the journeys necessity. Playing old wounded war songs or capturing the lives of inspiring people as tribute and a celebration of beautiful music that grows and moves and welcomes us in.

Back at the Concert Hall was the mournful sounds of Kris Drever, who sang for the sessions band. In his ‘farewell to Fiunery’ his ‘heart almost dies at the thought of leaving Fiunery’ his tones had the impression of something like suffering which was what he was singing about.

Before leaving Tennessee, we were treated to a last number from Tim O’Brien and his group of stringed instruments with the guiding song of’ Look down that Lonesome Road’. On an 8-string guitar he led the 3 backing vocals who offered the country styles of backing up harmonies to twist the song and elevate the sound. He left us with the line ‘they say whiskey slows you down, well keep drinking.’

And finally, we once again heard the tones of the Sessions band all together and in their wonderous musical unison. With an Irish Shetland tune. And three reels called ‘Kid on the Mountain/Sleep Sound Ida Mornin/The Reconciliation’. All with a full-on band, no vocals, with a skipping rhythm and a dramatic background. Very much like a fling but also so much more with a kind of musical honesty. And in one movement piano, violin drum and all vanished into the finished fading of a lively, lovely time, well that’s all folks (well until the next time anyway).

Daniel Donnelly

Celtic Connections 2021: Home on the Sea


Filmed on Various Scottish Islands
27 th Jan, 2021


With more gorgeous footage of the home city of Celtic Connections, Glasgow and after a 3-minute countdown we were taken to other Scottish locations. The first song of the evening was recorded on
the Inner Hebridean Isle of Eigg. Three musicians sat outdoors with mandolin, violin and beat box.

Their set of 3 tunes were stories about people who are well known in their communities and also less well known but still admired. As with Celtic music tradition the songs speeded up from slow to
fast dancing pace.

After the trio the footage continued with some film of the Isle of Arran. Stunning views to lead us further into the spectacle of the Connections. The evening was called ‘Home on the Sea’ a testament to being part of an island. We found the next act of Gillian Frame on vocals accompanied by Findlay Napier on guitar. Their song ‘Lovely Molly’ had a distinct positivity, joy and happiness to it, telling tales of upbringing and thoughtful reminiscing. Also reflected in their second song, sung almost in the wilderness of Scottish farm and marsh land.

The now traditional ferry footage continued with film from the Isle of Mull, setting a great scene for the evening in pushing the boat out. There came the solitary voice of Alasdair Whyte, who was also standing outdoor in a smart slightly military but warm coat. His deep musical tones in Gaelic could have been about anything, but I was happy to sit and listen to the 5-minute vocal solo.

The next performance was a mixture of Gaelic and English lyrics and titles, who named themselves simply ‘Peat & Diesel’. The song began with a heavy overdrive on his guitar, a man on accordion and a drummer. Their joy of playing was clear from the get go. This gig was filmed in their hometown of Stornoway, and they offered a real feeling of welcome and a contentment that waved us in. They were all about the music and having fun right down to the lyrics of closeness and revelry.

And next came the Isle of Skye, which was the backdrop to a few different performances in the same spot. Malin Lewis & Innes Watson played on guitar and bagpipes, a piece they called ‘Tune 51’, amiable numbered. In this no vocal song the amazing sound of the pipes with its drone effect and guitar backing had the great benefit of the mountains, with snow peaked tops, behind it a scene of what it is after all, all about.

In the Gaelic lyrics the culture came thick and fast as each act seemed to speed by. The view of Skye lasted for a few songs, with usually just the two to perform it and some very young, very advanced talent. The vocals of Anne Martin in her song ‘A’Bhanntrech Mhor ‘or the great widow had the pipes ready at hand to enliven and accentuate her vocals.

Song three from the same venue of mountain and water, was Arthur Brook & Louden MacKay’s ‘Season of Silence/Saruman’s Jig/Cal Mac Kenny’ the latter being a Caledonian MacBrayne ferry to Scottish Isles, of which there was footage still to come. It had the seated accordion player taking the solo melodies.

Onward to the last gig and a tremendous view to the Sounds of the Isle of Barra in the Outer Hebrides. We saw Lisa Nic Neill standing on her own on a hill singing a song called ‘An Ionndrain’ or ‘Missing’. A song in Gaelic with voice and piano. This young singer performed her slow melodic paraphrases on the notion of something not being there for her something that seemed lost. As the footage of Barra swept over the landscape her voice was like the very rocks and grass singing to us and to the sea, a compliment and ode to the view all around her.

To complete our tour of Scottish Isles we arrived at Tiree to hear Jamie MacDonald and Tara Rankin play their march and two reels called ‘John MacLennon/David White’s/St Kilda Wedding’. Some no vocal music of violin and piano. Holding a steady pace then racing up to fast dancing music, but keeping it very simple and slowly melodic. And as the frills and lifts went on the two faded and we were treated to footage of tourists who are visiting to see wildlife and natural phenomenon of Scotland. A marvellously well composed production for this evening’s grand tour of Celtic Music.

Daniel Donnelly

Celtic Connections 2021: Dreamers Circus with Kathleen Maclinnes, Imar, Rajasthan


Various venues
23rd Jan


This evening’s Celtic Connections kicked off with a film from Copenhagen with Dreamer Circus, a Band from Denmark & Sweden. This three-man ensemble (accordion, fiddle and lute) set the stage for something really interesting with a soft expression of music of century’s old style classical blended with traditional folk.

In the aesthetics alone the wood of the instruments set a rich tone, especially in their phenomenally capable hands. They went straight into their second set which was called ‘Pentamime’, when they swapped guitar for piano. Capturing the sounds again and again as they took to a little experimentation with the themes of traditional music. Striking with the violin to delve deeper into its creative sounds. The bass piano tumbled on into a riff to catch our attention.

They went on to play five or so songs, all worthy of our attention and leaving us with a song called ‘A Room in Paris’; the City of Romance, it took all of the evening’s entertainment and put it all together in a short song that resembled mixed genres of music, this act was loveable.

Then the wonderful tones of Kathleen Macinnes paved the way for another outreaching moment of Gaelic splendour in the City Halls. Her song ‘Mo Renl Geal Chioin’ needed only 3 performers of vocals, piano and violin. In a flowery black dress set off in front of the large Celtic Connections banner the performance began softly and slowly with a sprinkling of sadness in her voice, her 3-song set of all Gaelic language lyrics had a poise to it even in its simplicity of numbers. In her 2nd number called ‘Mary weep no more/Till an Crodh’ we knew a little of what she was singing about.

Glasgow University Chapel came to life for the performance of Imar’s ‘Deep Blue’. We were entertained with a purely instrumental set performed by this 5-man band on the bodhran, pipes and guitar… Steeped in the Celtic traditional music of the hour, it felt beyond any kind of restrictive emotions rather transcending such living things while in-depth interactions were key. Making stories run thick and fast.

We were then transported to a great Eastern city (not sure which one) where a group of eight performers sat cross legged in a semi-circle, dressed in magnificent Indian attire of white or bright colours and plenty of jewellery. The sky behind them was the dark before dawn.

A lone female vocal immediately took hold of us and began singing as dawn appeared on the horizon. Then Asin Khan performed on a sindi sarangi, a bow stringed instrument sounding a little like a violin, as the sunrise revealed the city behind their rugs and fineries. The music played on regardless in a 25-minute meditation, exploring amazing and compelling interactions between the artist, writer and audience.

All so rich and powerful and inclusive, in the true spirit in which Celtic Connections thrives – the writing and sharing of glorious music that remains a universal worldwide language.

Daniel Donnolly


www.celticconnections.com

 

Celtic Connections 2021: Blue Rose Code


Glasgow City Chambers
20th Jan


The Celtic connections virtual experience 2021 continued with a film from the Glasgow City Chambers. It was an evening called ‘Blue Rose Code’ perhaps ironic as there is no such thing. It was set up with the support acts of Karen Matheson, Lyre, and Rory Butler. It was Lyre who first graced the room with their song called ‘Ondenual’.

This fresh three-person act entertained with lute, violin and cello. The lute led us in with beauteous melodic finger picking. As the rhythm took up pace a little the ancient feel of the piece was brought to life accompanying smiles and a flowery attire. Their second song ‘Stuart Ballantyne’s’ was a touching song about Stuart who after devoting his all to helping the public as a police officer he sadly passed from Covid 19. This tribute would have made him proud and reflective.

When Rory sang into what I think was the Glasgow Uni Chapel, he was alone which seemed fitting as so was his gorgeous act. He told us it was his first live performance for too long a time and so was very happy to be there performing for us. His down to earth (…very much) lyrics entwined with his immense and more than genuine performance as a sought after (and very young) traditional folk singer. Telling stories from his titles of ‘Linda’s Café’ and ‘That Side of the World’ about the gigantic injustice that gets bigger the further we leave our homes. He asked us all to love these strangers, as has been pleaded for in this year’s event and in the country it is from.

Karen Matheson’s accomplished music doesn’t ever let us down. Her song ‘A Bhirlinn Bharrach’, sung in Gaelic, a language that is a treat for syllables and pronunciation, introduced her to this year’s festival and her familiar singing voice. With a soft saxophone (that most universal of all instruments) the soft voice with soft brush drumming she approached the mic in a black dress fit for the great occasion. Her graceful presence was backed at times with a singer who sounded at once familiar and strange, with a cradle-like softness.

Karen picked things up with a jig song called ‘The Diamond Ring’ enigmatically stating a fickle hand of Lilly white, and ‘not for your noble name’ nor for your land’ did I wish to make it with you. After her dulcet tones had passed the said ‘Blue Rose Code’ took to the helm of the evening striding into their music as a band of fortune. Their gig (I’m not sure where it was) had the band back in the familiar setting of a concert of pure live music that Ross’s song ‘Starlit’ set the pace for us to look at things in life with a positive metal attitude, especially out of something chaotic like alcoholism.

The music of the band held up its own style and played with an accomplished entertaining as I’m sure there attended live concerts are. But they held up a light to issues with Ross always turning it on its head to urge positive thinking. His honesty of lyric had its own charm, as he described his enlightening and potent experience in ‘this side of the world’.

The Blue Rose Code were the main act, taking around eight song; songs that expressed a great blend of having a good time and of reflecting, of slow beats and fast. Offering a wide range angle of a concert, with an ever-enjoyable list of themes all of which he found resulted in love and a power of peace. Never more noticeable than in their cover of the beautiful ‘Amazing Grace’ he sang like a soul singer from the 70’s and like a rock performer enjoying his band behind him.

Their final song of the evening was called ‘’Grateful’. It was another chance for them to shine as all the instruments joined in to a finale song to set the heart on fire and the vocals a’roasting. His words go from nearly being dead to being grateful (themes spanning the world through Celtic connections). All out electric guitar solo, piano solo, sax solo, singing with the power of soft and loud and low and high. Like getting to the top of a mountain and celebrating the peace at the top. I feel very much involved in this year’s virtual event and can only think of what’s next.

Daniel Donnolly


www.celticconnections.com

Celtic Connections 2021: Blazin’ Fiddles – Xabier Diaz, Gnoss and Deirdre Graham


Glasgow Royal Concert Hall
22nd Jan


The now familiar 3 min countdown is like taking your seats and settling into the promised revels of the evening. Graham Rory of the 5-piece band; Gnoss (a very old word loosely meaning word of the day) had a huge smile for us as he introduced the first song of their set from the City Halls. Equipped with flute, violin, bodhran, fiddle they began with a song called ‘Laurel Cottage’, an enigmatic song with no vocals that told a story anyway. They produced a soft dancing rhythm, followed in ‘Sea Widow’ with a slower but no less beautiful melody. They had good energy and are known for lively music choosing their own version of Jimi Hendrix song ‘Voodoo Child’ with an amazing focus on making it a very traditional folk number.

The coming together of music was now in its full flow, half way down the river. With artists performing far and wide expertly enhanced by the performance of Xabier / Diaz with Anfeiras de Saltire. Xabiers music came to life in the song ‘Primeiro’ (‘First’), appropriately their first song. This was music that reached right into life with 5 or 6 backing vocals who also all had the adufe percussion instrument in their arms – the adufe is a traditional instrument of Moorish origin.

Gaelic songstress Deirdre Graham talked us in with her Gaelic tones to her song ‘Air Fair an la’ her’ and her band played to the empty Royal Concert Hall in a very relaxed way. I felt a sense of simplicity, richness, with a strident feel for the old language that sang in the fresh songs. The musicians supported her, as she owned centre stage. She gave us four songs all in Gaelic, within a great variant and suggestion of the wide world of traditional Celtic music.

The title act called ’Blazing Fiddles’, also filmed at the Royal Concert hall, began with a set of three music pieces together named ‘The Shepherd and the Goat Herd’/’Anton McKinney’/’Double Rise’. With a violin directing a jig to come, exciting the room. The six musicians playing 4 violins, keyboard, guitar gradually joined into some great traditional dancing rhythms. Music that we cannot help but be held raised up with joy.

In their 5-tune set of non-lyrical music about just being back at the Connections, using stories from Scotland in the shape of landscapes looking like noses and heralding the famous Loch Ness monster. Set 2 called ’Strone Point/Anne Lacey’s’ was a chopped-up series of pieces, faster and slower. It was the universal side of music, that helps us engage ourselves in the grandeur of the occasion, changing mid tune to stride the pace further quickening to suit its feeling.

Their song ‘Call her Mum’ was a slower piece of light fiddle and accordion then piano then guitar. Bringing a full melody, in smart dress of black and dark red. It was like a lullaby to be superseded by a great sailing piece called dramatically ‘Vladimir’s Steamboat/Young Alumnus/Tunder Jukebox’, a lively experience involving all six performers.

Their last set was called ‘Annie’s Waltz/John McDonald of Coll view/Annie Grace Henderson/Picnic in the Sky’ had them set to take flight with smiles and a little jigging. It’s slight and measured sadnesswas one of peace and warmth as again each instrument joined the tunes in the layered traditional build-up of the music. Using faster and slower paces to express themselves and play well together.

We were left with a picnic in the sky, where we have the greatest food. Not to be missed, this year’s Connections travels on.

Daniel Donnolly


www.celticconnections.com

Surveying International Music