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

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s