Thursday, 27 October 2016

Celtic Connections announces its 2017 program today!

CELTIC CONNECTIONS 2017, from 19th January - 5th February 2017
The programme for Celtic Connections 2017 was announced Thursday 27th October by its Artistic Director, Donald Shaw.

This year Celtic Connection will celebrate women musicians with many one off concerts.  The Opening Concert will star award winning folk singer songwriter Laura Marling performing the world premiere of orchestrations of her songs by Kate St. John with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra. Other women performing are - Roberta Sá, Olivia Newton John, Beth Neilson Chapman, Karine Polwart, and legendary singer Shirley Collins are among other highlights.

The festival also focuses this year on artists who have lived through personal hardships and found success and strength in music - such as world music star Aziza Brahim who grew up in an Algerian refugee camp. Stars of Americana & Bluegrass will also be at the festival - Margo Price, St Paul & the Broken Bones, Darlingside, Hurray for the Riff Raff, the Mark O’ Connor Band and Calexico.  And travelling further down the path to explore connections between Scotland and the deep south of America, Jon Cleary and Dirk Powell will celebrate the Louisiana sound, inspired by Booker Prize winning author James Kelman’s Dirt Road.

Billy Bragg and Joe Henry will perform classic railroad songs featured on their album Shine A Light which was recorded on a four day journey by train across America. 

The core of Celtic Connections is always Traditional and Folk music and this year is delighted to include the popular fiddle super bands – such as La Banda Europa led by Jim Sutherland, Unusual Suspects, Session A9, Dallahan, top piping project Tryst, Ireland’s Sharon Shannon and Four Men & A Dog, Gaelic rockers  Manran and Phil Cunningham’s Highlands & Islands suite. Also Shooglenifty and guests come together for A Night for Angus, paying tribute to their inspirational fiddle player Angus R.Grant who so sadly passed away this month.

(This will be my 10th year shooting at Celtic Connections Glasgow, I am pleased to say! Over the years I have attended some of the best concerts and taken some of my top portfolio images at Celtic Connections. I enjoy the buzz, the unique collaborations, the friendly banter, the top quality instruments and musicianship, the late sessions and the exciting young artists, the moving Gaelic songs and perfect singers, the fun and foot-tapping ceilidh bands at the Fruitmarket, the musians that come from many other countries. I meet so many interesting music fans, photographers and folk musicians there. so Big Thanks to the Celtic Connections team for all their hard work each January!) 

The festival will celebrate the 150th anniversary of Canada with leading Canadian artists Martha Wainwright, Le Vent Du Nord, De Temps Antan and Russell deCarle. The 70th anniversary of the Partition of India will be marked with a premiere of leading world percussionists Trilok Gurtu & Evelyn Glennie and classical violin star Jayanthi Kumaresh.

Other artists appearing this year include - C Duncan, Pictish Trail, Fairport Convention, Liz Lochhead, Aidan Moffat, Seth Lakeman, Tom Paxton, King Creosote, Siobhan Miller, Orchestra Baobab, Robyn Stapleton, and Anna Meredith.

The festival will also host the important Showcase Scotland when musical directors and music promoters from around the world will attend performances by Scottish musicians. The concerts along with a trade fair provide invaluable opportunities for Scottish musicians to gain new worldwide opportunities thanks to this leading industry delegate event.  Plus Celtic Connections Education Programme when more than 11, 000 children across Scotland will take part in five concerts and workshops led by leading Celtic musicians. 

The Education Programme has reached more than 200,000 children across the country since it began in 1999.  Its work is supported by membership fees from the festival’s Celtic Rovers scheme – which gives discounts and exclusive experiences during Celtic Connections 2017.  The always popular programme of public workshops will give people of all ages and opportunities the chance during the festival to learn new musical skills and have fun too.
This year the festival includes The National Whisky Festival which will offer a wide range of whisky tastings and music hosted at the SWG3 venue, on Saturday 28 January 2017.

And to banish the winter chills the sunshine of Brazilian sounds the festival is pleased to celebrate Brazil as the partner country for 2017, with performances by some of the country’s leading artists including Hamilton De Holanda, Yamandu Costa and Renata Rosa – and Roberta Sá.

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.”

One hundred musicians from across the world will  take part in 300 events at venues in Glasgow, for one of the leading annual folk, world and roots festivals.  18 days of concerts, ceilidhs, talks, art exhibitions, workshops, free events, late night sessions and a host of special one-off musical collaborations will brighten up the winter evenings.   


Supported by Glasgow City Council and Creative Scotland, and  promoted by Glasgow Life. 

Monday, 24 October 2016

Mr Bob Dylan’s Nobel Literature prize

Political choice too - in todays rather scary world of extreme, fearful and narrow governments, who are giving into the voices of fear.
 Bob wrote of our common humanity, of tolerance, of inclusion and diversity, harmony.  Play a song for me Bob, play it questioning, sometimes angry sometimes full of wonder. Play it loud and deep.. The answers may yet be blowing in the wind.

Bob wrote of Masters of War, of a hard rain a going to fall, of love conquering all, of important freedoms,
He tied himself to the nearest tree, with the deepest roots.
Play it loud now Bob for all the disenfranchised, for those who cannot be heard, for the weak, for the blind….
Forever Young photos by Douglas Gilbert
 Journey to Becoming:  the Travelling Journeyman 
 FOLK SONGS spoke to him most directly… Dylan looked for songs that make you question what you’d always accepted, that break hearts, have power of spirit.
We are in a constant state of becoming.
He always believed in the constant state of becoming, that you must always travel and never arrive, that the road does not lead to the truth - the road is the truth.
The times writer Bryan Appleyard wrote,  ‘Not only does Dylan make great art, he inspires it I others.’
‘When you got nothing you got nothing to lose,
You’re invisible now, you go no secrets to conceal.’ 
His voice was full of honesty about life - yes life is tough at times - but also his voice and words are full of hopes.  I missed Dylan the first time around.  I was too young for his first albums while I remember his songs, Blowin In The Winds, Mr Tambourine Man and Like A Rolling Stone - although these songs were often sung by others on the radio. In 2009 I watched Scorceses' informed, clever and inspired documentary on Dylan and what an 'ear' opener that was and from then everything changed for me - thank you Scorcese! 
Times they are A-Changing
You never arrive.
Words change their meaning.
Time changes everything
Can’t be wise and in love at the same time.

I read these notes he wrote for Broadside 1962. And this is it for me too - those who see wrong but walk on by.   "Too many people are telling me where the answer is, but oh, I don't believe that. I still say its in the wind and just like a restless piece of paper , its got to come down some time, But the only trouble is that no one picks up the answer when it comes down so not many people get to see and know it.. and then it flies away again, I still say that some of the biggest criminals are those who turn their heads away when they see wrong and know its wrong.............."
It is all about spin when there is no vision or passions, that's what worries me the most...about centralizing power and in so doing restricting our basic human rights and freedoms, its very very scary. We have a system in place with no checks and balances to the power of the 'Crown' or Royal perrogative that resides with our prime minister. I read the Tory's in Westminster want to restrict our Human Rights and ban Extremism.

We have to value our independent, informed and free thinkers – they are few and far in-between.

Dylan, "People seldom do what they believe in. They do what is convenient and then repent... "
Is it the large media companies and their accountants who only want artists to play safe and who sing of the MOR and everything's OK with nothing too controversial? What would they make of a young Dylan singing Masters of War today? Would he even get a label deal?  I guess only in the folk circuits – how did Dylan get heard!

Where are any young singer songwriter with a voice of grit who might challenge assumptions. After all what is art is it doesn’t challenge?

One of the greatest Biographers of Bob Dylan was the award-winning Scottish journalist Ian Bell (who sadly died in 2015). I went to his talk on his book Time Out of Mind at Edinburgh book festival in 2015.  My BLOG on Ian Bell

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Brexit & the Arts

The Arts thrive on melting pots and diversities, as does science and innovations. In fact that Bohemia energy can be essential for renewals and creativity.

Never mind our science and medicine - the creative industries are the UKs biggest export. They rely on collaborations and inter-connections to other cultures. Creativity has boomed since Europeans came here and some of the best people came here. Art is often encouraged by different voices.

Ken Loach’s funding comes from Europe and there is a lot of funding from France. Good films are not being commissioned here. The award-winning film director Ken Loach –  said in a recent tv interview that his tv docudrama ‘Cathy come Home’(1766) would not get made today. It would be stopped, he said, and it wouldn’t even get passed the script stage. 

He also has criticised the BBC News coverage as “manipulative and deeply political”. He is promoting his Palme d’Or-winning film about a man’s struggle with the UK benefits system, I, Daniel Blake, said there was a need to “democratise” the corporation. “Diversify it so that different regions can make their own dramas. And its notion of news has got to be challenged.”
We are not telling our stories and not being heard, he claimed.

Perhaps the rest of England is also fed up with all the focus and resources heading to London too?

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Concert to Support Dick Gaughan

His informed, entertaining stories are worth hearing!
It is sad to hear that Scottish traditional singer and guitarist Dick Gaughan is ill. There is a concert in Edinburgh to help support him – 27th November, festival theatre Edinburgh.  

Billy Bragg, Aly Bain, Phil Cunningham, Karine Polwart! In honour and support of Leith's finest: Dick Gaughan. Fundraising show - at a time of illness - Festival Theatre Edinburgh.

I first heard Dick Gaughan in my twenties at an Edinburgh gig. I heard he was one of the best and most unique guitar players.  
I’ve heard him at Celtic Connections on the concert hall stage, when he stunned the audience with his profound version of Burn’s ‘Parcel of Rogues’. I’ve heard his full set at my local folk club, Milngavie folk club (MFC). He is a top guitarist and plays guitar with an open tuning in the style of Davy Graham

When he comes to play there he always takes time to chat. There is no pretensions about him. I remember he spoke of playing with Emmy Lou Harris.

I’ve heard many folk singers live and Gaughan is by miles the most moving and powerful.  Like Dylan, he doesn’t smooth over the Big Issues of our time, like Dylan. I was also moved by his interpretation of Burn’s ‘Westlin Winds’, which he said is one of the best songs ever written – with its simple beauty and expression of nature and love.

My favourite Gaughan songs include – ‘Both Sides the Tweed’, ‘What You Do With What You’ve Got’, ‘Outlaws and Dreamers’ – which he certainly is!

He hails from Leith Edinburgh. His mother was Scottish, a MacDonald from Lochaber and a Gaelic speaker and an Irish father.

 Best wishes and get well soon Dick!

My favourite image of Dick at my local folk club

I have several Dick Gaughan blogs on here  -

Nowadays the barrage of media attempts to put forward ‘one’ message he claimed and he likes to be part of what he calls the ‘awkward squad’ who are the grain of sand in the ointment and have other ways of looking at reality - and try to at least think about it!

He spoke about Dylan’s beautifully crafted songs that punched out images such as ‘Subterranean Homesick Blues’. Gaughan played with Aly Bain’s Boys of the Lough and a punk band called Five Hand Reel. Like many others on the folkscene back then he developed a drink problem and then he had a breakdown. He had to clean up and dry up.

Some very few artists have the ability to transport and transcend the moment, and Dick does so with forceful guitar playing and classic traditional songs with a strong message and a deep expressive, growling voice. You come away from his gigs questioning but ultimately renewed in the faith of our shared humanity. Dick Gaughan is a Scottish living legend, and he usually performs every January at 'Celtic Connections' Glasgow. “