In winter, Scotland’s weather especially invites people to gather indoors and listen. Celtic Connections in Glasgow, despite being one of Europe’s largest winter festivals, maintains an atmosphere of friends getting together to share music. This year Celtic Connections brings in musicians from Benin to Malawi, from New Zealand to Northern Ireland, from Canada, the United States and other parts of the word and from all across Scotland.
Across Glasgow’s city center from the expanse of Royal Concert Hall’s main auditorium to close quarters of the Art Club, from the Mackintosh Church to the Tron Theatre to the O2 ABC to Saint Andrews on the Square to Oran Mor musicians — and listeners — come from nearby neighborhoods and countries far away to celebrate deep connection to tradition and to share adventurous ways of carrying traditions onward.
The first concert at Celtic Connections this year celebrates just that. Martyn Bennett picked up the pipes as a youngster, went on to take classical training on violin and piano, and found a meeting for these things electronic and dance music, all the while dealing with health issues that would take his life at age thirty three. Celtic Connections 2015 opens with the live world première of Martyn Bennett’s final project, Grit. Violinist and composer Greg Lawson has reconstructed the studio created album to be done live by a cast of around eighty folk, jazz and classical players. With Scottish Gaelic and traveller songs, traditional music melding with electronic sounds, Grit is expected to call to mind the inspiration to adventure and to taking tradition forward many have found in Bennett’s work.
It should be a fitting beginning for a festival known for featuring artists who know how to hew to their own traditions while speaking to lives and concerns of present day. That might be, in the case of artist and activist Angelique Kidjo, the music of her upbringing in the tribal cultures of Benin. For music legend Van Morrison, it might be his beginnings in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and the many stranded path through, rock, folk, blues, and country music he has followed through five decades and counting. For Aoife O’Donovan, Sarah Jarosz, and Sara Watkins it might be their differing takes on bluegrass into a new strand of Americana. For Irish songwriter Luka Bloom, it might be weaving his time travleing and livign across the world with his deep connection to Ireland.
Galician piper Carlos Núñez will present his new work called The Atlantic Corridor, which includes traditional and original material from Galicia, Ireland and Brittany, along with newly created Scottish piping arrangements. A Stor Mo Chroi, a concert based on the album of Celtic love songs of the same name, will see Murieann Nic Amhlaoibh and John Spillane along with other top Irish musicians joining together. Le Vent du Nord, from Quebec in Canada, will share their always lively music with guests including accordionist Sharon Shannon and Gaelic singer Julie Fowlis.
Musicians from several parts of Celtic tradition and dancers from Ireland will stage a multi media presentation exploring the works of Irish poet WB Yeats. Singer Michelle Burke from Ireland, will create a presentation of her popular show Step Into My Parlour, which includes songs, tunes, stories, and a few unexpected twists and turns into laughter. Top singer and songwriter Eddi Reader, a native Glaswegian, will be making her first solo appearance at her hometown fest in half a dozen years. There will be a concert in tribute to the late Ewan MacColl, known as much for his tender love songs as his songs of social justice. Karine Polwart, who carries on that dual tradition in today’s Scotland, will take part in that concert and be headlining a gig as well. There will be a concert based on the book Wayfaring Strangers which traces the journeys of song from Scotland to Ulster in Ireland to the Appalachian regions of North America.
There will be workshops for those wanting to learn or improve in harmony singing, fiddle playing, mandolin and other instruments; classes in fiddle and cello taught by world renown artists Alastair Fraser and Natalie Haas; an open stage event where you could catch a rising star; after hours sessions for song and instrument to join in, and the ever popular late night festival club, where there could be a chance to catch an act you may not have seen or to see more of one you loved.
The Celtic Connections Festival winds down each year with Transatlantic Sessions. On stage at Glasgow’s Royal Concert Hall, musical directors Jerry Douglas from the US and Aly Bain from Scotland put together evenings which honor the distinct traditions and the connections of music which travels the world. Among the artists at Transatlantic Sessions this year are award winning American folk and country songwriters Rodney Crowell and Patty Griffin.
This is just a hint of the events which will span the eighteen day program of the festival. If you’ll not be making it to Glasgow — or if you are and there are just too many things going on at once to catch all you want to hear — the BBC will be broadcasting several radio shows live from the festival. Radio and television recording will also be done for later broadcast. Because of licensing restrictions, BBC television material is usually only available within the UK, although radio broadcasts and their archives are usually available world wide. Ireland’s English and Irish language radio and television broadcasters RTE and TG4 are usually on hand creating programs live or for later broadcast available worldwide, and you may frequently catch live concerts and artist interviews online at Celtic Music Radio from the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow.
The Celtic Connections festival web site is the starting point to find out about tickets, schedules, and broadcast plans.
Photographs from earlier years of Celtic Connections featuring artists Alasdair Fraser and Natalie Haas and Cara Dillon, Zoe Comway, and Michael McGoldrick are by Kerry Dexter. They were made with permission of the artists, the festival, and the venues involved, and are copyrighted. Thank you for respecting this.