Celtic Connections

I’ve been absent from WordPress for a few weeks – neither writing or keeping up with reading blogs I follow as I’ve been busy with work ever since Christmas. And after being glued to Zoom all day for meetings and delivering training, I’ve been less keen on spending more time in front of a computer screen during my free time. But work pressures are easing off a little so it’s time for a catch up 😉

It’s getting on to close to a year now since life has been disrupted by the pandemic. We’ve been in and out of lockdown and although I’ve been restricted to local walks for substantial periods I was able to get out to the Lakes and Anglesey during the summer. We haven’t been able to get out to concerts, the theatre, galleries and exhibitions since last March, though and I’ve certainly missed all that. I have sustained a semblance of cultural activity though, as some organisations have managed to run events on-line. So I’ve been able “attend” three virtual folk festivals, Kate Ruby’s Christmas concert and watch a few National Theatre productions . I’ve also been able to “visit” the Hay Festival, the Wigtown Book Festival, the Orkney Science Festival and the Kendal Mountain Festival all of which were run online – events I’d always wanted to visit but have never had the opportunity. Watching on screen isn’t the same as being there, of course. It’s too easy to be distracted when you’re in front of the TV and you miss the excitement of being somewhere different and mixing with other people. But, I certainly wouldn’t have been able to attend most, if not all, of these events if they hadn’t been run on-line.

Another annual event I’ve always fancied attending is the Celtic Connections Festival that’s run every January up in Glasgow. The festival focuses on traditional Scottish music international folk, roots and world music artists with concerts, ceilidhs, talks, free events, late night sessions and workshops too. It always seems like a good way of cheering up the rather dark and dismal days that follow on from Christmas.

Last December I got a tip off from Anabel , the Glasgow Gallivanter that the festival was going on-line and that early bird tickets were available for a very reasonable price of £30 that allowed access to all the concerts. So I snapped one up and was able to keep myself entertained during the dark January evenings.

There were plenty of traditional Scottish and Gaelic bands, playing jaunty music with fiddles, pipes and the like. I was able to watch concerts featuring some familiar musicians like Karine Polwart, Rachel Newton and Julie Fowlis.

The Transatlantic sessions is a project that brings traditional musicians together from, as the name suggests, both sides of the Atlantic – from Scotland, Ireland, Canada and the USA in particular. I’ve watched some programmes on the BBC over a number of years, so it was good to see them performing “live” – with a number of performers on stage in Glasgow with video links to musicians over the other side of the water.

The concert of Quebecois music – Quebecfest – featuring Vent du Nord, De Temps Antan and Grosse Ille was another highlight

But there were new discoveries too – from other traditions and musical genres

Xabier Diaz from the Gallicia region of Spain, backed by a group of female singers playing what must be a rectangular Gallician version of the bodhrán 

Fergus McCreadie, a talented young Scottish jazz pianist who plays “an innovative blend of jazz and Scottish traditional music”. Many of his compositions are inspired by the Scottish landscapes, with titles such as Cairn, North, Across Flatlands, Mull and The Stones of Brodgar

Dreamer’s Circus, a Danish / Swedish trio with a contemporary take on traditional Nordic music

I didn’t watch every concert – there were too many, and there workshops too (not included in the festival ticket, though) – but certainly enjoyed the experience. It would have been better to have been there and savour the atmosphere, but that wasn’t possible. But I probably wouldn’t have been able to go up to Glasgow this January anyway so watching on my TV at home allowed me to get a taster. And it’s made me determined to get up there next year when (hopefully!) it will return to being a live event. And an opportunity to meet up with a bloggy friend too, perhaps 😉.

28 thoughts on “Celtic Connections

  1. I saw one of the Transatlantic Sessions tours in Stockport a few years ago. I went for Shawn Colvin but enjoyed pretty near everything I heard, except the Honky-Tonk. Sorry, No Honky-Tonk for me.

  2. Excellent. There were some decent concerts on Celtic Connections this year and it made it more accessible in a lot of ways. Some are still on BBC Alba, if that’s an option.

  3. Great summary, and I’m so glad you enjoyed it after my tip-off. Interestingly,Nan lot of your revelations were also revelations to us too. I hadn’t heard of Fergus McCreadie before but will certainly look out for him again (and he illustrates another point, which is how multi-tasking these musicians are. You can spot the same faces turning up in several bands). I loved Dreamers’ Circus too. Xabier Diaz, I think I said before, we saw in a series Julie Fowlis did in the first lockdown. There were very few, if any, duds. So here’s to next year in Glasgow!

  4. Good to see you back blogging again. Like you I’ve lost my mojo for writing (although I have a nice wintry post on its way). Weather has been a bit grey. Like you I spend a lot of time staring at a screen for work and with outdoor activity a bit limited it’s hard to generate enthusiasm for another hour in front of a screen. Our leisure is taken with watching films and tv shows and playing board games – the complex strategy ones. Just about to play a game of Catan in fact.

    • I’ll look forward to catching up on your posts Andy. I’m not a great board game fan but my offspring are. My son has piles of board games and I occassionally get dragged into playing. I nearly always lose, mind.
      I notice he has Catan but I can’t remeber if I’ve ever played that. I quite like Ticket to Ride and Carcassonne. Years ago, when the kids were young teenagers, we’d play Labyrinth, especially on holiday. I expect you’ll know all those?

  5. Really enjoyed those snippets – that Xbier Dias piece was exceptional. I haven’t danced in twenty years, but that music was getting into my bones. Loved Le Vent Du Nord as well. I’ll be keeping an ear out for them in future. Thanks.

    • It’s always good to make some new discoveries. After buying the festival pass I decided I wanted to get my money’s worth 😁. But that meant I watched some concerts I wouldn’t have otherwise – and that certainly paid off.
      Xabier Dias is a lucky guy with that chorus of young ladies with their hand drums as his backing group!

  6. That was fabulous! It definitely made this day-which has been one of those “out of sorts, feeling a bit on the blue side, anxious going out-but did” day SO VERY MUCH BETTER. I loved all the music you shared. Favorite was the Xabier Diaz group-loved the dancing. Thank you thank you!!!
    This seems a bit like the Milwaukee Summerfest-days of music, lots of bands and a great time.

    • Yes Xabier Diaz was a good discovery. They weren’t dancing during the Celtic Connections concert, but the music is good and the staging with his backup group of women was well done.

  7. I remember seeing one of Kate Rusby’s Christmas concerts at the Coronation Hall in Ulverston a few years ago. She was brilliant. I think Transatlantic Sessions have been going for a while and were even on telly for at one point (unless I’m thinking of something else). I remember watching phenomenal Scottish fiddle play Ally Bain.

    Sounds like I missed out on line over Christmas.

    • Yes the Transatlantic sessions have been on TV and they also do tours – I had hoped to go and see a concert when they were in Manchester a couple of years ago but unfortunately I was working away.
      Kate Rusby is always fun and it was good to see her concert. But it wasn’t the same as seeing it live.
      The events going online due to lockdown have allowed me to watch and enjoy a good number of events I wouldn’t have been able to attend otherwise. But I’m sure you feel the same as me that it’s not the same as being at a live event. Fingers crossed it won’t be too long before we start to get back to normal.
      Musicians are particularly struggling with the Brexit fiasco coming on top of lockdown.

      • Oh absolutely. And not only musicians but everyone else who works on gigs. Tom Robinson told a story that summed it up. He had a parcel delivered and the courier was a young girl. When he came to the door, she said, “I just want to say that your gig at the Barbican last year was one of the best things I’ve seen.”

        He was very flattered but also curious as she didn’t fit his normal audience demographic, so he said,

        “Thank you, but do you mind if I ask what prompted you to come and see me play.”

        She replied, “I was your lighting engineer”.

  8. Pingback: Saturday Saunter: Clock towers, maps and virtual experiences – Walking Talking

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