As unexpected political and social change unfolds across the world, I’ve been thinking about the role and the power of music to connect, to refresh, to explore, and to sustain in such times. To help with crossing borders, if you will. Music and poetry, visual art and storytelling, dance and theatre offer ways to connect across borders, boundaries, and ideologies.
During recent world events, I have been at Celtic Connections in Glasgow, Scotland. Thousands of artists, thousands of listeners, come together in venues across Glasgow to share their ideas, their hopes, their music. Here is a bit about what this has been looking and sounding like this year.
Banda Europa, in which musicians from across Europe join up playing instruments of their countries, gathered for a photo shoot and to share a bit of their music on the steps of Glasgow Royal Concert Hall in advance of their concert
On Burns night, Robyn Stapleton, who comes from the area of Scotland where Robert Burns spent most of his life, offered graceful interpretations of the music of the ploughman poet — a human rights thinker in his day whose songs on those subjects still resonate today, as well as a bard of romance and love
Gillian Frame and friends connected past and present in Scotland, playing music from her new album Pendulum. Her support act, Yamandu Costa, an artist from the festival’s featured country of Brazil, proved well able to connect and engage with the audience across language barriers, as he had little English
Siobhan Miller, Lauren MocColl, and Ewan MacPherson kept hundreds of schoolchildren engaged with music through a morning’s performance
Olivia Newton-John made her first appearance at Celtic Connections, in collaboration with Beth Nielsen Chapman and Amy Sky, for songs focusing on healing and handling grief
Hannah Fisher, well known as a side musician, stepped to the center with her New Voices composition and performance celebrating the power of place, memory, and travel
Top Scottish fiddle player and composer John McCusker shared his joy in music and good stories
Las, a group of women who come from Scotland and Ireland, shared and created connections across the Gaelic cultures of these lands through music and dance
and there were, and at this writing still are to come, many other fine performances.
What does all this have to do with your travels? I do not speak for any of these artists, but I’d point you to these words, as we all make our way through the world’s changes:
The artist Pablo Picasso remarked that the purpose of art is to cleanse the dust off one’s soul.
President John F. Kennedy of the United States made these points in 1963:
“When power narrows the areas of man’s concern, poetry reminds him of the richness and diversity of his existence. When power corrupts, poetry cleanses, for art establishes the basic human truths which must serve as the touchstones of our judgment.”
Speaking in advance of his concert at Celtic Connections Indian master of percussion Trilok Gurtu said “We need to build bridges through our music, now more than ever.”
Celtic Connections continues through 5 February this year, and occurs each year in late January and early February. Keep up with what’s going on and what’s coming up through the Celtic Connections web site.
You may tune into Celtic Music Radio from Glasgow, BBC radio’s varied channels, and, if you are in the UK, BBC television; RTE and TG4 in Ireland and worldwide, to hear current music events and replays of some of them.
Photographs by Kerry Dexter, made at Celtic Connections with permission of the artists, the festival, and the venues involved. Thank you for respecting copyright.
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