Celtic Connections 2012

Kerry Dexter's picture

Celtic music goes back to ancient days,  and forward to the latest Celtic rock music fusion, and the latest generation of tradition bearers, too,  who are each adding their own imprint to the music of the legends. All of those strands come in to play at Celtic Connections, an eighteen day celebration of Celtic music and its connections across the world. This happens in Glasgow, Scotland, and this year the music begins on 19 January.


Opening night will see, among other concerts,  jazz fusion Americana banjo master Bela Fleck take the stage with Gaelic singer Kathleen MacInnes and other guests. As the festival goes one there will be plenty of Gaelic, Americana, jazz, fusion, blues, gospel, singer songwriter and other sorts of music on offer. More t than two thousand artists will participate in more than three hundred concerts across the city center of Glasgow, in venues including concert halls, rock clubs, broadcast studios, pubs, theaters, a restored historic church, and a cathedral.


That sounds like quite an imposing event, and in the quality and quantity of music on offer, it is. One the the nicest things about Celtic Connections, though, is that amidst all that, there’s welcome and friendliness shared among artists, festival staff , and audiences as they come from across the globe to share in the joy of music.


Among the events this year, there is a series of concerts giving the nod to folk music’s traditional aspect as a place to comment on politics, with several collaborations honoring the work of Woody Guthrie and including music from Sarah Lee Guthrie and Johnny Irion. Political music of Scotland will be included too, with music of social protest and music of the shipbuilding and labor along the Clyde featured.


There will be tributes to Guthrie, to top songwriter Gerry Rafferty (among the artists appearing at that one will be Barbara Dickson and The Proclaimers), to Scottish folk music stalwarts Alistair Hullett and Ray Fisher, and to Appalachian folk song collector Cecil Sharpe.


There will be plenty of time for artists to focus on sharing their own music, too. Martha Reeves, Cedric Watson, Pura Fé, and John Trudell will bring a touch of soul, gospel, Native American, and blues to Glasgow. Omar Sosa, Emir Kusturica, Vieux Farka Touré, Faiz Ali Faiz, Orchestra Baobab, and Sol i Serena are among the artists who come from far across the world to connect with Celtic music.


It is after all, Celtic Connections, though. There will be  celebrations of those Celtic connections by artists from Ireland, Canada, Spain, France, the United States, and all across Scotland. The Sligo Live Festival in the west of Ireland is sending ace box player Mairtin O'Connor and others to share the music of that part of the island. The whole of Ireland will be celebrated in an evening called, appropriately enough, Song for Ireland, with Luka Bloom and Cara Dillon among those on hand. Festival favorite Irish American band Cherish the Ladies will be there, joining up with friends from Nashville for this year’s appearance. The Matt Molloy Trio and Donal Lunny will also be on hand. Shooglenifty, Session A9, Blazin’ Fiddles, Treacherous Orchestra, Salsa Celtica, Julie Fowlis, Karine Polwart, Annie Grace, and many other artists from all across Scotland will be at Celtic Connections to share their music and connect and celebrate with artists from other parts of the Celtic world.


Rising stars have a place, too, as each afternoon at the Danny Kyle Open Stage they compete for opening slots at next year’s festival. There is a festival commissioned strand of new voices concerts, and concerts featuring musicians from festival and university music programs, as well.


In addition to all that, each evening as the concerts wind down, the after hours festival club, late night sessions, and the house of  song, all keep the music and the conversation going, often until the sun rises on the next day’s music.


By now, you might be saying to yourself: I wish I could go! I hope you do -- but if you’ll not be making it out to Glasgow, or if you are and there’s just to much going on at one time to take in everything you’d like to see, you can still be part of things. BBC Radio Scotland, Celtic Music Radio from the University of Strathclyde, and the Irish radio and television networks RTE and TG4 broadcast some of the events as they happen and often do post festival shows as well, which are available on line. BBC Scotland Television often does this as well, with broadcasts available only in the UK.


Another way you can join in the fun later in the year: this year, for the first time, Celtic Connections will be leaving its home base put on mini festivals elsewhere during the year, on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland -- and in Chicago, USA. There will be more to come about those adventures, and you may find out more about them, and about the broadcast plans, as well as ticket information and schedules, at the Celtic Connections web site.



Kerry Dexter is the Music Editor at Wandering Educators

She writes about music, the arts, travel, and other things at Music Road.Strings, Perceptive Travel, and other places.  You may reach Kerry at music at wanderingeducators dot com


Julie Fowlis photo Credit Michelle Fowlis