All posts by yodamo

Party In The Park: New Dates Confirmed

For the first time in many years, Perth and Kinross will once again play host to a major music festival and this one is right in the heart of the city.


Party at The Park was due to take place on the South Inch in June this year after its postponement in June 2020 due to the ongoing pandemic, but organisers have announced today that the long awaited new festival to Perth will take place on 21 st and 22 nd August 2021 instead. The weekend will feature fantastic live performances from The Charlatans, Kaiser Chiefs, Embrace, Ash, Fun Loving Criminals, Gun, Tide Lines, Callum Beattie, Skerryvore, Toploader, Lightning Seeds, Be Charlotte and many more.

With more than 50 live performances, there will be something for everyone’s musical tastes. With a dedicated kids zone, it won’t just be for the adults either as there is loads for the younger audience also. 

The team behind the event have already been running a successful multiaward event in West Lothian – Party at The Palace – and they were keen to bring the award winning event north.  Peter Ferguson (PATP Director) said “The recent news of an improving situation has given us a real boost over the last few days.

“We are more hopeful than ever of having our party on the South Inch this summer. Moving it back a few weeks to 21 st and 22 nd August certainly gives it a great chance.

“All our bands were able to confirm they will be available on
the new date which is great news.”

Celtic Connections 2021: Elephant Sessions – A Lockdown Special

Ironworks, Inverness
30th Jan, 2021

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The intro to this evening’s musical offering was the 1977 hit from the Spanish act Baccara ‘Yes Sir I can Boogie’. A lively disco number which set the scene nicely for tonight’s concert entitled Elephant Sessions. The gig was recorded at the Ironworks Venue in Inverness and felt like a ‘you had to be there’ event. A violin played its dramatic tones as we were led in to the venue by film, on and into the room for tonight’s no vocal performance.

The Elephants were at first in the dark then dimly lit by green light giving viewers the pleasurable feeling of being there with them. This young act of merry making music commenced with a single violin (Euan) plucking a traditional melody which then loudened as we were introduced to the music that soon became a fusion of traditional and experimental. It was giddy with their talent and with their first gig like that in too long a time.
By the end of their first song the spotlight had hit the stage that was surrounded by neon light. This band are very well liked and critically acclaimed. With their second song they called ‘Wet Field Day’ the thumping of the drum came to fore. It was an amalgamation of styles that they played, from jazzy base to really booming the music from the drums.

Their mastery was obvious and each variety of song passed by with a genuine feeling of satisfaction that poured out of them in the dim images on the screen. They were able to create all sorts of rhymes and speeds with a most effortless interaction especially for them being such a young act, but very well experienced, for live and recorded music and for indulging in the sweeping act of folk, funk and electronic music.
Their coverage of themes is very well known now and very popular. Never missing a trick and including their seductive talent for traditional and synthesiser going together while calling a song; Loft Crofter and keeping a disco speed that the violin was happily involved with. Their songs; ‘Tiagarra’ which is a Museum in Australia, ‘Doofer’ where you can’t think of a name, just showed the trajectory the Elephants are able to work with and master a great amount of work.

For ‘Doofer’ they had a heavy overdrive on the guitar, which along with the thumping drum had a kind of ecstatic effect that blew you away and while that was happening you were reminded that another sound was the violin or the mandolin. The 6 or 7 performances were the same set up throughout though they swapped instruments. including the synth in an amazing movement of pace and changing repetitive note changes and energy changes making an event of stories old and new.

It was the first I had seen in this year’s connections where the band were on their own. And it felt like a slightly different dynamic because of the type of venue all the way up in Inverness, a night club venue no doubt. But it was the sheer energy that sprung from them and the tightness of this very well-oiled act. A kind of positivity without having to think about it, and a great desire to entertain us make us dance and have a great time. One of the most together acts out there.

Daniel Donnelly

Celtic Connections 2021: Transatlantic Sessions


Various venues inc. The Royal Concert Hall
29th Jan
2021

I sat with bated breath at the thought of this evenings Transatlantic Sessions gig. An evening that holds a place at the heart of the Connections festival. The Sessions kicked off with some familiar faces at the Royal Concert Hall with a fast paced 3-reel set beginning with an Irish jig called ‘Boys of 25’, where 25 is an Irish card game. The band consisted of 8 musicians on double base, flute, violin, accordion and more, all coming together in fast and slow rhythms in songs with and without vocals.

The next artist was Julie Flowlis whose song ‘Bothen Ai righ am braigh Raithneach’, had her vocals in a grip compelling you to hear them clearly. She appeared again later on with her song called ‘Biodh an beoch seo ‘n haimh mo ruin’ which she told us translates as ‘This drink will be in the hand of my love’, an endearing lyric.

After the Sessions, we indeed crossed the ocean to a recording studio called The Compass Records studio in Nashville Tennessee. To a 3-person act on guitar violin and banjo who were to perform 3 tunes, the first called ‘Temperance Reel’ or ‘T-totalers’ in Irish, which was a no vocal song. Alison Brown sang her ‘Appalacian Celtic melody’ as an American Musician with strong Celtic ties. With a hint of medieval classical they fused with Celtic and a country twang. Also, at the studios Tim O’Brien took his music with 4 performers playing a song called ‘Storms are on the Ocean’ a traditional song about the perils we have to meet and overcome on our journey.

At the Record studio Molly Tuttle took to the stage in a vocal and guitar set. She played very stringent blues guitar and sang a song called ‘Take the journey’ about realising the journey we are already on. Then to footage of Glasgow’s George Square and the Walter Scott monument setting a scene for a 300-year-old Irish song called ‘The Wishing Tree’ by a blind harpist called Ocallaghan. Performed at the Royal Concert Hall it was a glorious and beautiful piece with no vocals but plenty of smiles.

To enhance the evenings virtual experience the next reel was taken from the archives back to 1998 with a song called ‘Trouble in the Fields. Filmed in a pub and so at very close quarter sang Maura O’Connell and Nanci Griffith a song about life in the heart of rural Scottish communities. A gifted and traditional song of guitar and double bass (somehow fitting into the small room) and so on, a treat and a reminder of their beginnings.

The footage moved back across the ocean from The Royal Concert Hall to the humble Tennessee studio as always in its most welcoming way. Songs were sung about the graces of people, places and the journeys necessity. Playing old wounded war songs or capturing the lives of inspiring people as tribute and a celebration of beautiful music that grows and moves and welcomes us in.

Back at the Concert Hall was the mournful sounds of Kris Drever, who sang for the sessions band. In his ‘farewell to Fiunery’ his ‘heart almost dies at the thought of leaving Fiunery’ his tones had the impression of something like suffering which was what he was singing about.

Before leaving Tennessee, we were treated to a last number from Tim O’Brien and his group of stringed instruments with the guiding song of’ Look down that Lonesome Road’. On an 8-string guitar he led the 3 backing vocals who offered the country styles of backing up harmonies to twist the song and elevate the sound. He left us with the line ‘they say whiskey slows you down, well keep drinking.’

And finally, we once again heard the tones of the Sessions band all together and in their wonderous musical unison. With an Irish Shetland tune. And three reels called ‘Kid on the Mountain/Sleep Sound Ida Mornin/The Reconciliation’. All with a full-on band, no vocals, with a skipping rhythm and a dramatic background. Very much like a fling but also so much more with a kind of musical honesty. And in one movement piano, violin drum and all vanished into the finished fading of a lively, lovely time, well that’s all folks (well until the next time anyway).

Daniel Donnelly

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

Celtic Connections 2021: Dreamers Circus with Kathleen Maclinnes, Imar, Rajasthan


Various venues
23rd Jan


This evening’s Celtic Connections kicked off with a film from Copenhagen with Dreamer Circus, a Band from Denmark & Sweden. This three-man ensemble (accordion, fiddle and lute) set the stage for something really interesting with a soft expression of music of century’s old style classical blended with traditional folk.

In the aesthetics alone the wood of the instruments set a rich tone, especially in their phenomenally capable hands. They went straight into their second set which was called ‘Pentamime’, when they swapped guitar for piano. Capturing the sounds again and again as they took to a little experimentation with the themes of traditional music. Striking with the violin to delve deeper into its creative sounds. The bass piano tumbled on into a riff to catch our attention.

They went on to play five or so songs, all worthy of our attention and leaving us with a song called ‘A Room in Paris’; the City of Romance, it took all of the evening’s entertainment and put it all together in a short song that resembled mixed genres of music, this act was loveable.

Then the wonderful tones of Kathleen Macinnes paved the way for another outreaching moment of Gaelic splendour in the City Halls. Her song ‘Mo Renl Geal Chioin’ needed only 3 performers of vocals, piano and violin. In a flowery black dress set off in front of the large Celtic Connections banner the performance began softly and slowly with a sprinkling of sadness in her voice, her 3-song set of all Gaelic language lyrics had a poise to it even in its simplicity of numbers. In her 2nd number called ‘Mary weep no more/Till an Crodh’ we knew a little of what she was singing about.

Glasgow University Chapel came to life for the performance of Imar’s ‘Deep Blue’. We were entertained with a purely instrumental set performed by this 5-man band on the bodhran, pipes and guitar… Steeped in the Celtic traditional music of the hour, it felt beyond any kind of restrictive emotions rather transcending such living things while in-depth interactions were key. Making stories run thick and fast.

We were then transported to a great Eastern city (not sure which one) where a group of eight performers sat cross legged in a semi-circle, dressed in magnificent Indian attire of white or bright colours and plenty of jewellery. The sky behind them was the dark before dawn.

A lone female vocal immediately took hold of us and began singing as dawn appeared on the horizon. Then Asin Khan performed on a sindi sarangi, a bow stringed instrument sounding a little like a violin, as the sunrise revealed the city behind their rugs and fineries. The music played on regardless in a 25-minute meditation, exploring amazing and compelling interactions between the artist, writer and audience.

All so rich and powerful and inclusive, in the true spirit in which Celtic Connections thrives – the writing and sharing of glorious music that remains a universal worldwide language.

Daniel Donnolly


www.celticconnections.com

 

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


www.celticconnections.com

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

Celtic Connections 2021: Come Away In


Glasgow City Chambers
18th Jan


To a backdrop of more images of Glasgow, this evening’s Celtic Connections performance began. Entitled ‘Come Away In’, the inspiration came from a Burns poem called ‘The Wren’s Nest’ in which themes of welcome and hospitality are explored, themes which are very strong in Glaswegian, indeed in Scottish, culture, including the idea of refugees being offered warmth and shelter and an open door.

The evening was filmed in Glasgow’s City Chambers with a handful of musicians, the first to perform being Karine Polwart who kicked off the proceedings with her gorgeous vocals straight from the generosity of her heart. Her song ‘Come Away In’ offered up lyrics dedicated to the Burns poem. There was even a sense of humility as she led the song being joined by the reserved folk music that the other artists joined seemingly at will.

Her second song ‘Travel These Ways’ she told us was a commission written during 2020 as part of her work for the ‘Luminate’ festival. She works all around the country and beyond with dementia and other problems writing songs at will. Her compelling lyrics and persona were enhanced with piano, guitar and some backing vocals, usually for chorus harmonies, bringing forth big issues.

That was the reason behind what Eddi Reader called her project, using the most powerful medium of music and lyrics particularly to give a voice to proceedings. Findlay Napier’s first song ‘There’s More to Building Ships’ was no less straight and powerful, not to mention wonderfully skillful vocal ups and downs. The firm issue for this man’s song was on the world-famous heightened world of ship-building in Glasgow, and its problems of pay being pennies for the men who worked there.

All of the 13 or so songs had these powerful messages and meanings. These were clearly held by all participants in the evening’s music, as they plunged into their individually written pieces of music.

The evening was so well produced to clearly be everything that it was intended to be through really great music and storytelling complementing an often sad tale of injustice towards Scottish society with artists ready to tell facts about a heinous Glaswegian history.

Siobhan Millers tale in her song ‘The King’s Shilling’ was about what had happened to men in Glasgow and beyond, she coloured it with tragedy and pain in her heart. She told us that the story goes that Scottish men were tricked into joining the army to go and fight and die in a war. The serious levels were mirrored in her second song ‘Pound a Week Rise’ about unfairness and heartbreak for coal miners who after breathing soot weren’t even paid well or fairly.

Eddi returned, Karine returned, they all returned to perform and while they shifted between, they sat around with each other if not involved then simply listening. Rab Noakes, an experiences folksong writer, also based his provocative music on his extensive travel particularly in America. His songs added a traveller’s point of view.

And Eddi Reader’s sultry and powerful voice, style and honesty as a well-known performer blew the roof off with her powerful messages in a song called ‘My Hometown’ about coming home to her own heart as a Glaswegian saying that after a need to escape from it to the moment where she finds it her hometown that she has now come to love.

This was after a performance of an inspired song she wrote called ‘Prayer to Saint Valentine’. Of unbelievable beauty that she almost shone to create.

Findlay had the last word with his deep voice and capable song writing leaving us with ideas such as daylight ghosts that walk around and all for the love of god. The artists were relaxed in putting forward these issues and problems in the world and society of Glasgow and Scotland.

Beautiful voices, leaping into the cosmos of real and traditional yet modern song writing. So well produced as to be something of great value from personal pain and societal outrage.

Daniel Donnelly

Celtic Connections 2021: The New Scots


BEMIS presents ‘The New Scots’ in concert
16th Jan, various venues


After more footage of Glasgow, the performances from 16 January were brought to us by BEMIS, a Glasgow based organisation who promote and empower ethnic minority communities on a national level. They give voice to these communities using a mixture of music, song and storytelling.

The first act, from ‘The New Scots’ was Subrina ‘Brina’ Ward, an artist of African origin from the hills of Jamaica. Brina is renowned for her ability to uplift every audience who have had the chance to see her. Accompanied by her band (guitar, vocals, accordion), her song ‘Be Ready’ offered nothing less than strong vocals and powerful lyrics as it told of the resolution of life in readiness. Her second song, Nina Simone’s ‘Ain’t got no, I got life’ was a chance for her to offer her interpretation in her velvety tones.

Brina and all the acts were ecstatic to be involved in this year’s festival of joyous international collaborations. The third act hailed from Eastern Europe played the old and modern ‘Polka’ in a three-man band who swapped instruments including, violin, accordion keyboard so alive and celebratory. But our current circumstances were driven home. They announced that to their great distress the virus had claimed the life of their great friend and top accordion player. Their final song, ‘Doina’ was dedicated to his memory.

The joy of being involved in this year’s festival was well seen as Danny Cliff played his self-written song ‘Sunset’. With just his voice and a piano, already an endearing combination, his song reminded us of life’s more precarious moments when there is nothing to do but accept.

When Katie McGuire gratefully thanked the festival for her chance to be involved, she introduced Ceilidh music from her band, St Roch’s, who were a trio. The traditional Scottish dancing music was skilfully enacted in its swirling movements and close knit interactions.

And so, as the screen fell to Cosmic Shruti Box, the four musicians sat as a group on the floor. The performance began soulfully with the sound of Tibetan singing bowls of various sizes, enhanced by sitars and hand drums. The spiritual rhythms felt like light rainfall, warm and enthralling. There was an amazing amalgamation of cultures, Indian, African, Celtic with a portrayal of the musical ups and downs of the various societies, In the song Emma Stout’s voice blended Celtic Scots with Indian and rose to greater and greater depths as the music warmed and developed.

When you hear music like this it seems like all you are is there in the power of here and now. I sat here on my own, in my living room, with my laptop in front of me, and throughout the hour I was no less drawn to these wonderful performances and happy encounters.

CELTIC CONNECTIONS 2021: Opening Concert


There were poignant scenes of famous Glaswegian architecture, leisure facilities and craft hubs on offer in the digital introduction to the first evening of Celtic Connections 2021. We watched as a single piper strode up Buchannan Street, being joined one by one by other pipers whose number grew to about 8. They climbed the street to the Royal Concert Hall, into the entrance and into a performance. It was a moment of pure Scottish style for all involved both in front of and behind the camera.

After this splendid introduction, the Celtic Connections 21 Big Band immediately struck up a rendition of ‘Mackerel & Tatties’, an upbeat instrumental version of Michael McGoldrick’s traditional Irish song, before the festival’s Creative Director, Donald Shaw welcomed us with a message of sombre hope and of lifting of spirits for the beginning of 2021. The accompanying footage took us to venues both in the home base of Celtic Connections of Glasgow and further afield where the fires of music have not been dimmed. Indeed there was a great sense of happiness and anticipation from the musicians of just being able to get back to what they love.

The third performance by Karine Polwart was of a song by Robert Burns from a poem of his called ‘Come Away In’. In earnest Karine sang about the bard’s desires to shelter everyone and anyone from stranger to friend. The song opened up the show and the Scottish hearts to the warmth of connections.

There were performances in the main hall of the Royal Concert Hall, at the Glasgow Art Gallery, as well as other venues big and small. I noticed Eddi Reader providing backing vocals. In each performance, musicians had all kinds of instrument from violin, flute, pipes and there were often ones that though I could tell they were string for example the actual name and date of them was beyond me, very much like the music and vocals in Frenchand Gaelic.

From the Big Band of 21 members, down to ensembles of three or four, we were surrounded by unmissable variation from plucking music from the Far East joined with the traditional Celtic stream. Performers would take turns leading in vocals and solo’s on instruments as we were taken through styles and genres. Music of differing speed, topic, intention. All a celebration that covered sad tales or lively good ones to dance sing and revel to.

All in all it came to 17 performances. 17 acts that were familiar or strangely unusual. Performance 5 had the French group La Vent Du Nord who sang their own folk song in an upbeat tempo, ‘Aieu du Village. And then there was the beautiful flute-inspired ‘Farewell to Nova Scotia’ singing about Canada from far away. The Art Galley with its huge premises had Duncan Chisolm on violin playing solo but then backed by The Scottish ensemble playing a tune called ‘A Precious Place’ a fitting title that went with a beautiful spiritual song.

Then the act called Sona Jobarteh came with her wonderful multi instrumentalist music of love and hope, an African style that included the Kora instrument. The 17 acts endlessly streamed from one walk of life to another, selecting clothing to represent each ones cultures, Sona with the most colour and gold. Racy costumes with racy enlivening music. A good time for having a good time, some nice places that this time we had to use our imagination to be in. I am grateful for the wonderful imagination of all in this first session and I am very much looking forward to the next.

Daniel Donnolly


www.celticconnections.com