Celtic Connections Preview
(17th Jan- 3rd Feb)

As Christmas draws to a close and everyone sets foot into a new January and a New Year, it suddenly dawns on us, how dead and boring January can be. Compared to its predecessor of December, who provides the exciting lead up to Christmas, Christmas Day itself with all its food, drink, presents, merry making and family time; and New Years Eve with all its food, a lot more drink, less presents but an equal amount of merry making. It's no wonder that many people dislike the month of January. Many people try to liven it up by going out more, trying a long walk or two or even retail therapy as the sales come into force. However, I have never found anyone that this has worked for. If you're in this situation at the moment, may I suggest something? Try hopping on a plane to Glasgow and attending one of the many concerts at Celtic Connections!

A Bit of Background

Celtic Connections is a festival centered on Glasgow, Scotland. It brings some of the world's leading performers in Folk, Roots, World, Blues, Jazz, and Progressive & Contemporary music to one big event; with an audience coming from just down the road, to some coming from as far as China! It was formed in 1994, and was relatively small compared to the current day. It was limited to the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall as its one venue, yet the opening concert for that year was sold out. The first Celtic Connections won a Scottish Thistle Award in the Low Season Development Category, for 1994. By 1996, the festival had grown beyond all imagination and its opening concert was played by Irish Fiddle player, Frankie Gavin and an eighty nine year old Stephane Grappelli. In 2000, the festival had spread, and its' venues now included not only the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, but the Tron Theatre, National Piping Centre, Glasgow Cathedral, The Arches, The Old Fruit Market and many more. By 2002, it was one of the UK's most recognized festivals and was very highly attended. The next year, 2003, saw the festivals 10th birthday. There were massive celebrations towards this and many events were instituted that are still carried on today. The many emerging talent concerts that were put on are such an example.

In 2008, John McCusker was commissioned to write a piece of music that would be performed at the Celtic Connections and the great Cambridge Folk Festival. It made connections with English and Scottish musicians such as Andy Cutting and Julie Fowlis. The composition was called, "Under One Sky", and was hugely successful. In the year of 2010, the festival turned seventeen. There was an inspiring line up that year, including percussion virtuoso Trilok Gurtu and singer and composer Shankar Mahadevan, who collaborated with Norwegian saxophonist Jan Garbarek and Scottish trio Lau. Twenty-twelve saw the festival reach new heights with its line up, and this year has done it again, with some gigs that have never before come Celtic Connections.

BBC Comes To Celtic Connections 2013

For any musician, from any genre of music, winning an award from the BBC is a high honour. The only two chances for a musician to win an accolade, specifically for doing something notable in the field of folk music, would be the BBC Radio 2 Folk awards, (that encompasses many categories including the young folk musician of the year, musician of the year and the best album of the year) and the BBC Radio Scotland Young Traditional Musician of the year. These two events are always on a large scale and are a big date in any folk music enthusiasts' year, and it just so happens that both events are being held in Glasgow this year as part of Celtic Connections! This is fairly significant because the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards have never been held in Scotland, let alone being part of Celtic Connections. Even if you're not at either of the gigs I strongly suggest that you at least give it a listen, while it's being broadcast live on the radio. There is an array of incredible musicians playing on the day and that have been nominated as well, including Jim Murray, Lau, Luke Jackson, Sam Sweeney and Maz O'Connor. In the BBC Radio Scotland Young Traditional Musician Award, the talent on the stage will be even more unbelievable! The nominees are: Andrew Dunlop, Graham MacKenize, Grant MacFarlane, Hannah Fisher, Paddy Callaghan and Scott Wood. Methinks the judges will have a hard decision to make at the end of that night! It will take place on the 3rd February in the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, whereas the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards will take place on the 30th January, in the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall.

The Danny Kyle Open Stage

As well as the numerous concerts on every year, the Danny Kyle open stage has always been a safe place in terms of finding some extraordinary music. Many outstanding musicians and groups of musicians will send in their form and demo, which will be looked at and listened to thoroughly. Then, the acts are shortlisted, and are allocated slots in which they play their set in the Adelaides. The Danny Kyle open stage has been the big break for many brilliant musicians, including Adam Sutherland, Karine Polwart, Rura, the Chair to name but a few. Definitely worth a visit, you never know who you may discover.

The New Voices Commissions

Every year, a number of young up and coming Scottish musicians are offered a New Voices Commission. A New Voices Commission is a composition commission, asking the chosen musician(s) to compose a piece of music that is to be premiered at the next years Celtic Connections. The commission has gone to many, high profile musicians in the past, including Aidan O'Rourke, Pasty Reid and Mairead Green. This year, it is the turn of young singer, songwriter and guitarist hailing from Mull, Sorren MacLean and BBC Radio Scotland Young Traditional Musician of the year 2012 and Fiddle player extraordinaire, Rona Wilkie. Both pieces promise to be excellent!

Performing alongside Sorren MacLean will be Danny Grant (drums), Craig Ainslie (bass), Luciano Rossi (piano/guitar), Hannah Fisher (fiddle), Su-a Lee (cello/musical saw) and Seonaid Aitken (fiddle/piano), which will be on the 3rd February in the Mitchell Library.

Performing with Rona Wilkie will be Patsy Reid (fiddle/viola/vocals), Rachel Newton (clarsach/vocals), Hayden Powell (trumpet), Colin Nicolson (accordion) and Allan MacDonald Jr (pipes/percussion/vocals), which shall be on the 27th January in the Mitchell Library.

There are also two New Voices Compositions returning to Celtic Connections this year; Angus Lyon's composition, 3G, (from 2011), and Duncan Lyall's composition, Infinite Reflections (from 2012). Both of these compositions were highly successful and this double billed concert in the Mitchell Library on the 20th January marks the launch of CD copies of their individual pieces of music. Both pieces employ the musicianship of Innes Watson, Ali Hutton and Alyn Cosker, as well as a good many more, including the playing Lyall and Lyon.


Images:John McCusker, Sorren MacLean

Festivals 2013

Celtic Connections will start our festival coverage for 2013. We are hoping to bring you news of as many as possible either as a preview piece, a review or both. As with last year, we will also be featuring "Festival Specials" as part of "Along The Tracks" on Acoustic Spectrum Radio. If you're a festival organiser that's looking for coverage, get in touch and we'll see what we can do.

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