Coming up in mid January, the Celtic Connections Festival, will light up the winter season in Glasgow, Scotland with music. There will be pipe bands, cutting edge contemporary Scottish and world musicians, tunes on fiddle, harp, guitar, whistle, bodhran, and other instruments, and songs from the many traditions and languages that intertwine with the music and history of Scotland.

All told, there will be more than three hundred events as the nineteenth edition of Celtic Connections unfolds across the city. Whether the venue is a small listening room or the main auditorium of the Royal Concert Hall, though, the festival artists, staff, and audiences maintain a welcoming and friendly atmosphere that only adds the spirit of the music they share.

This season. that music will include a celebration of the centennial of American folk song legend Woody Guthrie, as the one hundredth anniversary of his birth is observed by musicians from many traditions. There will be a setting for a mass in Scottish Gaelic, sung in a cathedral. There will be a strand of programming with concerts featuring political songs. World music collaborations are always part of the music at Celtic Connections, too, and this winter that will include From Senegal to Donegal and Mali to Manchester, a new collaboration between Manchester’s Michael McGoldrick and Mali’s Fatoumara Diawara. That show also brings together the talents of Irish group Fidil and Senegal’s Solo Cissokho. Orchestra Baobab, from Africa, are also on the bill, as is the Swedish trio Väsen. Music from the middle east, from American soul, pop, and bluegrass, Native American music, and blues are all part of the strands which find connection to Celtic music during the festival. There will plenty of music from Ireland as well, including the return of festival favorites Cherish the Ladies and Luka Bloom.

At the heart of it all, though, are the musicians of Scotland. who are well represented by legendary performers and rising stars. Session A9, Blazin’ Fiddle, and the Treacherous Orchestra will be among the groups adding their music to this lively mix. There will be a night of accordion and fiddle greats sharing classic dance band tunes, and there will be a concert featuring songs of Scotland having to do with World War I. Composer Corrina Hewat will offer The Oak and the Ivy, a suite for six harps. Gaelic singer Julie Fowlis will be on hand, as will top fiddle and cello duo Alasdair Fraser and Natalie Haas — and hundreds more musicians.

Formal concerts are not the limit of what goes on during Celtic Connections, though. During the day there are talks and radio interviews open to the public, as well as a highly popular series of concerts featuring musicians competing for an opener slot at the following year’s festival. At the weekend there are workshops where you may learn about the fiddle or the whistle or the bodhran, with different tracks for those who’ve never tried the instrument before and those who wish to advance their knowledge. You may learn various sorts of singing too, and there’s a strand of talks and films in Scottish Gaelic as well, called Ceol’s Craic. In the evenings, after the main scheduled concerts begin winding down, the fun and the music and the craic (that is Gaelic for conversation and good fellowship) do not stop, either, as the Festival Club, late night music sessions, and the well loved House of Song hosted by the welcoming presence of presenter Doris Rougvie, all go on through the night and into the early hours of the morning.

There’s information about artists, schedules, tickets, and venues at the Celtic Connections web site.

If you’ll not be making it to Glasgow (or even if you are and there’s just so much going on), BBC Radio Scotland, Celtic Music Radio from the University of Strathclyde, and RTE from Ireland often broadcast programs from the festival through their internet sites. If you are in the UK, you’ll be able to see BBC Scotland and BBC Alba television broadcasts from the festival as well, and RTE and TG4 from Ireland often do television broadcasts and post festival roundups which are available world wide on line.

the photograph is of Findlay Napier and Gillian Frame leading a late night session at Celtic Connections. it was made with permission of the festival and the artists, and is copyrighted. thank you for respecting that.

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Kerry Dexter is one of six writers who contribute to Perceptive Travel’s blog. You will often find her writing about places, events, and people connected with music, history, and the arts in Europe and North America. You may find more of Kerry's work at her site Music Road as well as in Wandering Educators, National Geographic Traveler, Ireland and the Americas, and other places online and in print.

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