Category Archives: 2022

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

Manran & Moxie

Celtic Connections

City Halls, Glasgow,

28th January, 2022

Manran translates into English as ‘melodic sound’ and for tonight it was main act of a Celtic Connection’s gig at the Old Fruitmarket in the Glasgow City Halls. As I stepped in to the hall it dawned on me that I was in for a great performance to come. I made my way up to the balconies that are on three sides of the hall.

The view from up high gave the spectacle a whole new light. Enter ‘Moxie’ the support band. ‘Moxie’ are a group who are touring worldwide with their magical vibrant music. They plugged the show immediately with the many fusions of sound and style and aspect. The place was pretty much packed on the ground level and the energy that the band was stirring up reached right across to the back of the hall where a voice without a mic could travel adding to the close bonds evident in the mood of the evening.

In their short performance they had warmed everything up perfectly for the Gaelic Band known as ‘Manran’ to take to the occasion. Their new, old and accomplished varying of different styles came together in Scottish folk music offering volumes of techniques skills. After ‘Moxie’ sang their own songs with ambient vocals, thumping rhythms and fantastic beats. The hall blew up to Manran’s traditional manic speed Gaelic music that was full of changes and instrument swaps with ease and certain naturalness.

 The electric vibe of ‘Manran’ flowed from their tight adherence created after good years of success in touring, recording  and bringing the music to a wide range of fans who were there for this concert. And the energy and tempos were appreciated with roaring and whooping gratitude from the crowd.

The five person act stood in a row at the tip of the stage for some numbers and dispersed sporadically for others. In changing the set up the vocal and instrumental input of songs had the strong thread of Celtic sounds behind it but the songs were so varied in their individual content covering oceans of tempos, and meanings. With for example love at their heart and loneliness the music swelled making soft expressions and then firing into cult like and determined jigs to revel and stir ourselves with wondrous dancing.

On the very lively, welcoming note the gratitude poured out of every corner of the hall. Set to entertain and even enthral its audience with a party of many, there was a great closeness at the vibrantly beating heart of the occasion. If you get the chance and have never heard them before, you would not be disappointed by the vibe and will be thrilled at the entertainment.

Daniel Donnelly

Scotland Sings Nanci Griffith

Glasgow Royal Concert Hall,
Celtic Connections
January, 2022

I stepped with untold wonder and as if back in time into the fabulous Glasgow City Halls main auditorium. We were greeted so well with the internationally familiar set with the hazy words ‘Celtic Connections’ lit up in its coloured light. Already the sight and occasion brought about a great mood in the audience that seemed to air, stir and grow as the evening’s music progressed.

This, for me, was the beginning of the Celtic Connections 2022 Glasgow festival, so the music reflected its 28th year on the world stage. And then of course as the artists took their places behind music stands and microphones; Nanci Griffith was about to see her songs brought to life by amazing Scottish folk & Country singers from their own Scottish musical roots. 

With no ado ‘The Road to Aberdeen’ began; the 5 vocalist of the show shared lines and sang in harmony kicking off with great vibrancy. The drone sound was the first note of the night always so effective in creating that very specific sound to base the song on. The Road to Aberdeen was a song written about travelling and yet always being at home (at least at heart). Brought to the world in 1998 it was performed as powerfully tonight as it had been when it was recorded. 

Nanci Griffith the Country singer from Texas played a big role in American Country and Western styles and developments made during her career saw her work with so many names of people she had collaborated with in some musical way. In the spirit of the evening short tales were told by our singers who were there as musicians as well as fervent fans.

Journeying with her music was almost an enlightening thing and the skill on show in the homage reached every corner of the hall striving as it should for the best and most capable performance. (Through the course of it the artistry of each singer’s song rose beyond all occasions). The stage was so alive with almost royally powerful thought that went into every detail of this epic show.

The levels of gratitude for everything went into the concert as it streamed into souring high times and there was a real feel of that. And at other times the music couldn’t be described as anything but beautiful. So stringently, forwardly Scottish a performance as the wooden floor itself joined in the dance. There were so many performers on stage, in a close band as it swept on.

Nanci’s lyrics read like poems as the songs each took their turns with her brilliance it was as if she was behind every bit of it. She is known for so many things personality, courage, performance, writing, often striving for a middle ground using her creativity to form what she meant to do. No question as to the meaningful reasons she is revered and loved, she and her great work have been described as genius.

And with that same passion the stories poured out with that creative genius. There was even an untold happiness from the band; that swapped instruments and led the way; in every way keeping the timely rhythms and so rightly and highly complimenting the singers in the emotions of the songs. Each gave differently but the strength came through better because of it, each one stealing the show.

To name but a few; Kirsten Adamson, Karen Matheson, Jill Jackson, James Grant were there, who if you know them well you could imagine just what commanding styles that they put in place for the concert right at the heart of Nanci’s own. The highland born Megan Henderson did her utmost to be sparkling and real. 

Appreciation was high and filled the large, spectacular room whose ceilings raise the volume to the heights. All on high, all having a wonderful time playing the music they love and that has the strong roots of the Celtic Connections at its heart. We may thank the efforts of everyone that made its masterful return to the famous festival.  

Daniel Donnelly