Celtic Connections: Mariza & Support

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Glasgow Royal Concert Hall
Monday, January 21st 2019


I took my seat at the back of the main concert hall, taking it all in. The setting was striking, with the marvellous Celtic Connections signature logo projected in black on the left hand stalls and in red on the stage’s back screen. As the lights dimmed, the musicians of the support act calmly took their places and the magic began.

Spotlights picked out each performer as they embarked upon their tender and emotional musical journey, sometimes individually, sometimes in combination. The theme was ancient Scottish culture, portrayed through poetry – ancient stories in ancient music had the performance travelling through tragedy through to childlike joy. The solo singer carefully stood her ground as she bathed us in her beautiful voice, enhanced by an accompaniment performed in perfect harmony, like an organ being played by several people. Whole songs were written on the one tone like a melodic drone with the instruments effortlessly guiding each other to make the chord swell to fill the hall and dance over its high walls. She was joined by a second singer for two songs of her own composition. A fitting prelude to the main performer.

Mariza and her accompanying musicians, on guitar, Portuguese guitar, acoustic bass – and accordion – performed their first haunting song in darkness. The mood had changed to Fado, an old musical genre with its roots in Mariza’s native Portugal. There was an almost ephemeral quality about the singer’s amazing gown in a light grey/blue which seemed to echo the lightness and ever-changing quality of the music, and to subtly promise an equally well-crafted evening, which indeed it turned out to be, with production values that could not have been bettered.

Mariza held the audience in the palm of her hand as, moving easily in that gorgeous gown, she spoke to us, introducing each song and drawing us in to the stories she was telling through her music, now sad, now joyously happy. Fado seems to embrace many genres of world music, moving between them with mind boggling fluidity as we were continuously introduced to yet another facet, another possibility that the music could embrace. And yet there was a great unity between them which Mariza captained and conducted. We could hear the Portuguese side but could also see the African element of her heritage.

The early promise was more than fulfilled in the performance, from the vocals and the intense musical accompaniment, to the visual impact created by the singer and her band, to the first class set. There was a presence there that lifted and conquered the hall, with a voice and music that was compelling and variable. Her intimacy as a performer was matched by her vivacious vocals. She moved around, she sat on the edge of the stage sharing her heart with us, talking about love and her goals in life, telling us that for her music is all about love. And living up to each and every point of celebration she wished to make in the marvellous uplifting music.

This was a haunting and lovely celebration of the beauty and power of music with a world class performer genuinely happy to be taking part in the Celtic Connections Festival. As she left the stage she took a walk round the hall, greeting friend and stranger alike (friends had come from home to see her). She opened herself up to everyone, come what may. Totally captivating.

Reviewer: Daniel Donnelly

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