Scotland in January: the weather is cold, there are few hours of daylight (this is northern Europe in winter after all), it’s going to be windy and you’ll encounter rain, sleet, ice, snow, all borne on that wind. You might not think of Glasgow as a great place for a winter trip, then — but all this only adds to the excitement when you consider that January is time for Celtic Connections.
Three hundred events involving more than two thousand musicians in total, over the course of eighteen days in more than a dozen venues all across Glasgow: Celtic Connections is one of Europe’s and the Celtic world’s major winter festivals.
Despite all those numbers, the festival creates a welcoming atmosphere for visitors coming from near and far, as does the city of Glasgow.
Councillor Frank McAveety, Leader, Glasgow City Council said “Glasgow is a city for music lovers. We start the year, while it’s quiet elsewhere, with our fantastic celebration of the very best in world, folk and roots music, Celtic Connections. We welcome audiences and artists from around the world – some have been coming to the festival every year for more than twenty years, for others this will be their first experience of Glasgow during Celtic Connections. We can promise them a great time and eighteen days of amazing shows and events.”
If you love the traditional aspects of Celtic music, you’ll find much to enjoy. The connections part of the festival’s name also embraces the work of artists who connect their creativity to their heritage, whatever that may be and whatever part of the world they may come from.
There always strong stands of music from Ireland, the United States, Canada, England, the Nordic countries, places where the Celtic diaspora has made its mark across the centuries and from all over Scotland. In the past various parts of the Commonwealth, such as India, New Zealand, and Cape Breton have been featured, and there are always musicians from other parts of the world as well. Past participants have come from Mali, Russia, and Mongolia, to name just a few places whose heritage music has come to Glasgow.
Celtic Connections has begun releasing the schedule of concerts for this January’s festival which will among other things highlight the contributions of women in music. feature musicians from this year’s spotlight country of Brazil, and give a nod to Canada’s 150th anniversary. In addition to concerts, there will be talks, workshops, classes for beginners, improvers, and those who’d like to make a first go at an instrument, song sessions, the late nigh festival club, and other events. Hundreds of schoolchildren from all over Scotland will have the chance to come to special daytime concerts from top festival artists, too.
Introspective English folk singer Laura Marling will open the festival with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, offering the world premier of orchestrations of her songs by Kate St. John. Marling will be joined by special guests yet to be announced at this writing.
International superstar and Grammy Award-winner Olivia Newton-John, Grammy nominee Beth Nielsen Chapman, and SOCAN Award-winner Amy Sky will perform music from their collaborative album Liv On live for the first time. They will share music which grew from each woman’s challenges with loss and illness, music which they offer in hope that it will uplift and comfort listeners.
Violinist, composer, and music educator Mark O’Connor made his name in bluegrass before finding success in the varied fields of southern rock, country, and classical music. With the O’Connor Band, which includes his wife Maggie, his son Forrest, and Forrest’s partner Katie Lee, he’s returned to bluegrass. The band will be sharing music from their album Coming Home along with other favorites.
Speaking of fiddles — there will be plenty of them about, as you might expect. The four woman collaboration RANT, whose concert was one of the highlights of last year’s festival, will return. So will fiddler Alasdair Fraser and cellist Natalie Haas, longtime festival favorites for their Fiddle Village workshops as well as for their creative concerts. This year their support act will be headed by Alasdair’s son Galen Robert Fraser, himself a fine musician in his own right. High energy super group Session A9 will have their fiddles in hand, as will the ever popular Blazin’ Fiddles, and renown composer festival favorite Duncan Chisholm will bring his take on Highland landscapes through music.
There will be a tribute to the late Angus R. Grant, beloved fiddle player with Shooglenifty. Renata Rosa brings together indigenous Brazilian influences along with African and Portuguese elements on the rabeca, a traditional fiddle with eighth century Arabic origins which was brought to Brazil by the first Portuguese colonizers in the sixteenth century. It almost wouldn’t be Celtic Connections without the deft fiddling of John McCusker — he will sit in at that concert with Olivia Newton John, Amy Sky, and Beth Nielsen Chapman, and appear with Heidi Talbot as she offers songs from her thoughtful and creative new album Here We Go 1 2 3.
There will be songs of Robert Burns, and Robert Tannahill, evenings featuring music from Tiree, from Orkney, from Brazil, from Cajun country, from riding the train rails, from Quebec, from Perthshire, from Gaelic speaking areas, from percussion masters, great guitarists, singers from many traditions, and there will be a combination of story and song celebrating Fala Flow, a protected peatbog southeast of Edinburgh.
Amidst all this diversity there is connection: connection to tradition, to creativity, to welcome, all of which is gathered together in the well loved closing concerts put together each year by American musician Jerry Douglas and Shetland fiddle player Aly Bain, and called, fittingly enough, Transatlantic Sessions. This year those concerts will feature, among others, Cajun and old time musician Dirk Powell and Scottish singer and songwriter Eddi Reader. As much as it may be held in a great concert hall, every year Transatlantic Sessions ends up feeing like a round the table music sharing among friends, which, in a way, it always is.
Donald Shaw, Artistic Director of Celtic Connections, said: “A breath-taking range of styles and traditions radiates throughout Celtic Connections 2017. Artists who have shaped the present day and artists who are re-defining music for the future will take to the stage. Artists whose lives and cultures could not be more different will come together to share their stories, passion and skill.
“At the heart of it all is the simple life-affirming experience of being at a live music performance during a world leading festival. We can’t wait for Celtic Connections 2017 to begin.”
Find schedules, ticket availability, and other information at the Celtic Connections festival web site.
Photographs from past years of Celtic Connections by Kerry Dexter, made with permission of the festival, the artists, and the venues involved. Thank you for respecting copyright.
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