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


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