Celtic Connections: seeing music

Winter in Scotland is a time of short days, early twilight, unpredictable — usually quite cold — weather. It is also a time when the music of Celtic Connections lights up Glasgow, Scotland’s largest city. For the festival’s twentieth anniversary this past January, artists who had been part of its beginnings and favorites from across the decades returned, along with high profile artists new to Glasgow and rising stars just beginning to make a mark. For eighteen days, hundreds of artists played venues across the city ranging from well known music clubs to historic art galleries, from the elegant confines of City Halls to the informal atmosphere of its neighbor the Old Fruitmarket. Artists from Spain, Portugal, Mongolia, Senegal, Mali, Canada, all across the United States, many places in Ireland, and from just about every part of Scotland took part. Here’s a bit of what all that looked like.

Had you thought of Norway as a Celtic country? There are deep connections between the musics of the Nordic lands and the musics of Scotland, especially when it comes to tunes played on the hardanger fiddle. That’s what Norwegian traditional music master Håkon Høgemo is playing here.

Høgemo was part of an evening featuring musicians who play the hardanger. Sarah-Jane Summers, a native of the Highlands of Scotland who is also an expert on the hardanger and lives now in Oslo, was the perfect choice to choose and present the range of music featured at Saint Andrew’s in the Square. Her own group, Summers/Silvola/Kvam, offered music that wove in strands of traditional Scottish music with Nordic, Celtic and jazz flavors.

Cara Dillon, who hails from Dungevin in County Derry, Northern Ireland, crossed several borders in her concert at City Halls. She started the evening of song and tune backed by a small group of top notch traditional musicians, among them Mike McGoldrick on flutes and whistles and Zoe Conway on fiddle. Later in the evening they were joined by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, directed by Joe Csibi It’s always a challenge to make folk music and an orchestra create a truly connected concert. These folk did an outstanding job, all the musicians clearly enjoying and respecting each other and their collaboration,. The evening was brought to a graceful close as Dillon came on stage alone to sing The Parting Glass.

Dillon had taken the stage at an earlier gig, too.

A festival favorite for a number of years, she was invited to be part of the Twentieth Anniversary concert, a lively evening at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall filled with fiddle, song, and tune. At one point during the finale, Dillon shared the stage with Scottish music icons Archie Fisher, Eddi Reader, and Sheena Wellington.

Celtic Connections 2013 proved a lively and lovely celebration of music and gathering of fans, friends, and artists involved in Celtic music around the world.

Plans are underway to create a spectacular series of concerts as the festival turns twenty one in 2014. You may find out more about those plans, and take a look back at events of past years, at the Celtic Connections web site. If all this has you thinking of visiting Glasgow sooner than next January, See Glasgow is a good place to start exploring on the web.

Photographs are by Kerry Dexter. They were made with permission of the festival. the artists, and the venues involved, and they are copyrighted. Thank you for respecting that.

Kerry Dexter is one of five writers who contribute to Perceptive Travel’s blog. You’ll most often find her writing about travels in Europe and North America in stories that connect to music, history, and the arts, including An Evening in Belfast and Mysterious Scotland: Calanais.

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