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

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