Gnoss: The Light of the Moon and Mairi McGillivray


The Mackintosh Church, Celtic Connections
3rd Ferbuary, 2022


Does it get better than last night’s concert held at the wonderful Mackintosh Church in the Springbank area of Glasgow? A venue of many years now the former church has a bar and is nicely prepared for gigs with the original seats and stage where an alter would have been. But it came to my attention that Church of Scotland buildings don’t have one.

Gaelic tradition was on the tongue of both performances by support act; Mairi McGillivray and the upcoming legends that are Gnoss. Their name translates as Knowledge of spiritual matters, a very philosophical sounding name and indeed they celebrate it through their very Celtic tunes, instrumental and vocal.

Mairi’ vocals went to bring the occasion into line to retell stories that she sang so personally of terrific passages in history where as she said herself greed was often the instigator of. I thought myself transposed by these stories and found a lot to be gained from the honesty pouring out of melodic flourishing and thrilling, unbelievable notes.

The mood of music was more than enhanced by the flexibility of performers who easily swapped instruments and even acts that had the ever present Celtic closeness between them as they shone forth and shared its power and in the case of Gnoss it’s supra happiness. 

My own interests were sparked as I saw and heard the rich and benevolent songs, even the view alone fixed a determined atmosphere and I couldn’t help but become very curious about Gaelic life in Scotland. So the far reaching yet traditionally based movement of sound was appropriated by the success of bands like Gnoss or singers like Mairi, and a key thing is in winning awards. In 2015 the Danny Kyle Award was given to them, the award for dedicated Celtic roots are a team for the advancement and popularising for this music and from the culture itself.

Gnoss were to play the entire song list from their star filled album ‘The Light of the moon’ not to be confused with ‘by the light of the silvery moon’. There were 4 musicians from the travelling band but the evening was to welcome 4 others to help fill the much enjoyed music in these restricted days. We may all reflect on the magnitude of organisation found in the hardships and obstacles that Covid has implemented in its restrictions. But had it not jumped into these waters we could have been without the festival for another year.

It is the live act trying to return that has this feeling of triumph for the gigs of this year’s Celtic Connections festival 2022 also dealing with a lack of staff. But maybe the magnitude of gratefulness is giving a special light for everyone to bask in. The relaxed performance, hung on the band and special guests cool, groovy, smiling and happy interactions also held the feeling of incredibly strong roots as they planted their feet or sat on a comfy couch.

The sound made by the ensemble was so revering, endearing as they loved just entertaining, with a wholly accomplished unbroken, unfaltering rhythm that followed just about every instrument as each took lead. 

All of the things were there happening as we sat in chairs to just soak it in. Gnoss are one of the more revered and famous of the Celtic traditional music scene. And they are very happily involved in reviving it by just being brilliant. These young men and woman had not a shred of nerves but certainly shredded into their instruments all of which brought something of a phenomenon. Let’s hope their music will ring in many places around the world, they are good enough and more than ready for it. 

Reviewer: Daniel Donnelly

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