Wednesday 28 February 2018


Opening concert Siobhan Miller & Kris Drever
Celebration this year of 25 years of Celtic connections music festival
 ‘The Sights and Sounds of Celtic Connections’
from the many lights overhead of the Danny Kyle stage that illuminate the aspirations of many young musicians; to those playing accordion, Uilleann pipes pipes , fiddle or piano in the concert hall foyer; the photographers images of concerts they’ve enjoyed; the old oak warmth of the atmospheric Old Fruitmarket where folk musicians or ceilidh bands never cease to amaze; to the packed anticipation of the concert hall audiences for another year of Celtic cheer to lift the gloom of January chills – and  as the snow falls on the opening night I feel grateful to be there! To the last Transatlantic Sessions concert when the days are longer. 

*Highlights for me this year were – Vibrant line up at the Opening concert; Beth Orton;  Bothy Culture and Beyond; Tribute concert Old Fruitmarket for Dick Gaughan;  film composer Max Richter; Shawn Colvin; Session A9; Transatlantic Sessions;
*Tribute concerts –  ‘Arrest this Moment’ for Michael Marra;  Tribute concert for Dick Gaughan.
One of the more interesting aspects of the festival is spotting the new talents emerging.
*The young musicians who drew attentions this year –  Talisk, Siobhan Miller, Siobhan Wilson, Friel Sisters,  Rura,  Alasdair Roberts, Kathryn Joseph, Misha Macpherson, Elephant Sessions, Saltfishforty Rose Code Blue. 

*Danny Kyle Stage Winners 2018,
Dlu  band, Lynne Carson, The Canny band, Galloway, Savannah Donolnoe and Charlie, Joel Gardner, Sam Begbie and Joe Doyle,

*International artists and visitors included - Cuban singer Juan de Marcos and Americans Sara Watkins, Sarah Jarosz and Aoife O’Donovan.

Northern Celtic Routes -  Connections to our Gaelic Irish cousins and also our strong links to Northern Celtic Routes from Norway, Canada, Finland and Sweden. Swedish accordionist Leif Ottossen. Quebec quartet Le Vent du Nord. This year Celtic connections twinned with Ireland.
Beth Orton
Eddi Reader
Julie Fowlis
On top of this CC hosts film, art exhibitions, workshops, ceilidh nights, talks, late sessions,
The biggest audience for Gaelic scots music at Bothy Culture and Beyond. Plus a whisky festival at SWg1. The FILM, the Groove is not trivial path to joy - social change through the arts.

The 18 days of the festival - Over 300 events over 26 stages and ticket sales over 130,000. Over the last 25 years the festival has grown at an unprecedented rate, increasing from 66 events in 1 venue with 27,000 attendees in 1994 to 172 events across 11 stages. to now over 350 events across 28 stages and an attendance figure of over 130,000.

There is always such a wide variety , eclectic, accomplished line up – from established and emerging talents.
Celtic Connections offers subtle intonation, creative musicianship, artistic storytelling, friendly collaborations.

Bothy Culture & Beyond
My Top Celtic concerts
I have enjoyed some of my best ever concerts at Celtic Connections – The opening concert with the GRIT orchestra, Cara Dillon, Rura the Old Fruitmarket, Jerry Douglas and his band, the legendary Rab Noakes and Dick Gaughan. Mary Chapman Carpenter, Richard Thompson, The Chieftains, Punch Brothers, concert for Gerry Rafferty; concert for Michael Marra, the awesome Transatlantic Sessions, beautiful Gaelic singers – Julie Fowlis, Karen Matheson, Rhiannon Gibbons.

Celtic Connections 25th festival!
World class musicians from all corners of the roots, folk, world, Americana, indie music world.
Martin Simpson & Tony McManus
Sharon Shannon
Far Far from Ypres

Tuesday 27 February 2018

Scottish Suffragettes

This year is 100 years since women got the vote.
A 2016 film ‘Suffragettes’ made no mention of the roles played by Scottish Suffragettes.
There is usually no mention of the contribution of the Scottish Suffragettes contributions. "For a long time the suffrage movement, as far as history is concerned was located in London and the national leadership was located there too," Dr Norman Watson, a journalist and historian who has researched the suffragettes for 30 years.

From throwing an egg at Winston Churchill, to a huge suffrage march in Edinburgh led by Flora Drummond on a horse, to the horrors of force-feeding  - Scotland's suffragettes and the more gradualist suffragists were an important part of the fight for women's votes.
Professor Sarah Pedersen, Robert Gordon University, points to the fact that Edinburgh had one of the earliest suffrage societies in the 1870s and by the period after 1905 Scotland was "punching above its weight" in the struggle for votes. There were plenty of opportunities to confront the establishment with then prime minister Herbert Asquith having his constituency in Fife and Winston Churchill as an MP for Dundee. When Churchill came to stand in Dundee in 1908 he was followed by 27 of the national leaders of women's suffrage movements. At one point he even hid in a shed and tried to hold a meeting there.

Flora Drummond
There was the burning down of buildings, the grandstands at Ayr and Perth racecourses, the pouring of acid in post boxes to destroy the mail or burning the slogan 'votes for women' into the greens of golf courses with acid.  Sylvia Pankhurst, daughter of Emmeline Pankhurst became a good friend of the Scottish Labour founder Keir Hardie -  he used to visit parents house.
"One of the things to note is that they were very careful not to actually harm or kill anyone with all these fires, the places they set fire to were empty. An important point for the movement in Scotland was a big rally in Edinburgh in 1909 led by the formidable Flora Drummond, riding on horseback. A key figure in the movement, she had grown up in Arran. Earlier in the year a group of women took part in a public art event, called "March of Women", from the Glasgow Women's Library to Glasgow Green. “   

There had been lots of campaigning for the vote towards the end of the 19th Century mainly using methods such at petitions, writing letters and badgering members of parliament by the suffergists. Eventually they felt all this talking was getting them nowhere.
World War One impacted on the struggles. Many who worked as teachers, or nurses saw the reality of the hardships and inequality many women endured. One wealthy women, a Violet Markam, who was involved with the ‘Women’s National Anti-Suffrage League’ – but when she saw first hand in the war the struggles of women’s lives she changed her mind.  (They believed that giving votes to women would bring disaster and fill the electorate with ignorant voters!!)

**Women and SportToday in 2018 I believe more needs to be done for young girls playing team sports. I have three grown up children – two boys and a daughter. The boys always played team sports. In American men and women play softball together and girls are keen on soccer. Team sports such as rugby or football build up character and skills for being a team player.  I believe this is very important. 

Thursday 22 February 2018

Transatlantic Sessions Celtic Connections 2018

Golden highlights of another memorable festival Transatlantic Sessions, the jewel in the Celtic Connections crown, and led by musical maestros Shetland fiddler Aly Bain and US Dubro master Jerry Douglas. In 2017 the Transatlantic Sessions did both a UK and US tour. For singers it must be a treat to be backed by the quality of this TS band.  

We were treated to top tunes from - Phil Cunnigham, Russ Berenberg, John McCusker and Michael McGoldrick, backed up with the piano of Donald Shaw and the rhythm sections of John Doyle, Danny Thompson and James Mackintosh.

And alongside classy songs from tonight’s top line up of singers. From the States we had sublime harmonies from the Secret Sisters who sang bluegrass and swing; plus award winning songwriter Shawn Camp and multi-instrumentalist from Arkansas (who has worked with Garth Brooks).

US country queen singer Suzy Bogguss stood out with her commanding performance. She also commented on the quality of Doyle’s rhythm guitar, he certainly is the engine room of this band! Irish folk singer Daoiri Farrell treated us to his individual voice. From Scotland favourite songstress Julie Fowlis charmed with her Gaelic songs and also a folk song called Go Your Own Way, when she said, some songs we simply have to sing. The ever popular Phil Cunningham performed his tune Eternal Fling.

Fiddler Aly Bain commented, ‘Music is the real connections, for our special relationship to the States is in music. While Dubro master Jerry Douglas spoke of his long term work of 40 years with guitarist Russ Barenberg. 

Always the fitting finale!

Julie Fowlis
Shawn Camp
Secret Sisters

Saturday 17 February 2018

Blue Rose Code at Celtic Connections 2018

A restless torn soul
Blue Rose Code, (aka Ross Wilson) Scottish singer-songwriter, performed a concert at Celtic Connections 2018 to support Beth Orton. Ross commanded the ABC stage as he sang with a full band line up. 

His band consisted of Lyle Watt on guitar, Ian Sloan on Pedal Steel, Angus Lyon on keys, Graham Coe on Cello, Nico Bruce on bass and with drums and brass, trumpet and sax. He played dynamic guitar and the kind of set to get lost in. He performed songs from his new 2017 album ‘Water of Leith’, as well as other fan favourites.

In some memorable songs he has connected to his Scottish roots (thankfully) – and brought in the lovely Gaelic voices of Kathleen McInnes and Julie Fowlis on some of his best songs – Sandaig, Passing Places, Where the Westlin Winds Do Carry Me, Edina - more of this please!  He also performed the soothing Nashville Blues (minus guitar), followed by the optimism of Grateful.

The drama of his voice and songs have soul and hope filled emotional surges. His voice is engaging and expressive alongside his pounding guitar. His sound mixes Celtic soul with smooth rhythms informed by the soul and blues of John Martyn and Motown .
I would have enjoyed to hear Ross on a couple of songs solo to take the tempo down a little. The ABC audience was here to hear the headliner - subtle songstress Beth Orton - and sometimes less can be more too. I first heard Ross on his previous sold out visit to the folk club for more intimate gigs and was highly impressed with both his strong performance and music and also with the enthusiasm of the fans.  

Ross is an exciting young talent and I look forward to his future songs. He was great fun to shoot, with the engrossed fun energy he puts into his set!

He sang of the cries of freedom all along the west coast

Tuesday 13 February 2018

Dick Gaughan Tribute Concert at Celtic Connections 2018

Mary Macmaster, Patsy Seddon
Songs of Defiance and social conscience and an evening of contrast, quality, and sincerity

Gaughan has become something of a legend on the Scottish and world folk circuits for more than 40 years. He is an interpreter of Scotland’s traditional folk songs with his distinctive style of guitar playing, with open chords and timing that he learnt from guitarist Davey Graham. Fans beside me had heard Gaughan over in California.

The concert was a tribute to Gaughan’s authenticity. He cares about the truth of things and of digging below the surface for stories behind the songs. We live in shallow times, where false greed and facades matter more than being open hearted or honest. Gaughan is not only angry – he was furious at injustice and he spoke and sang of this with unequalled passions. In-between songs, while tuning his guitar Gaughan, would tell his stories.

Tonight’s performers sang political and social songs of the poor state of things – that tell of Grenfell tower monument to greed and selfishness, Aberfan disaster, miners strikes, Jute mill songs, Niel Gow’s fiddle. Where are the young voices of protest today?
Wilson Family
Tony McMannus
**The concert was a celebration of the music and politics that matters to Gaughan. Host Elaine C Smith sang Michael Marra’s Mother Glasgow, and introduced an incomparable line-up of Gaughan’s long time friends and collaborators. 

The Wilson Family sang Baker Hil - “close the mineshaft door” - and other songs, with powerful male harmonies. The accomplished guitarists Tony McManus and Martin Simpson paid tribute and Simpson performed Bob Dylan’s Blind Willie McTell and other songs. Karine Polwart sang Craigie Hill’ and told the moving story of being given Dick’s album a Handful of Earth the night before her grandfather’s funeral - a song about immigration and leaving. The Bevvy Sisters sang Marra’s Like Another Rolling StoneMary Macmaster, Patsy Seddon sang Gaelic songs (Clan Alba) .

Dougie MacLean closed this very special evening with a moving climax with his song This love Will Carry. Gaughan, who has has been ill the past year appeared on stage to a standing ovation. I was glad he had been persuaded him to appear for his devoted fans and that he didn’t remain a ‘presence’ behind the curtain. Dick said he hoped to be back to sing next year for us and we hoped too!

I first heard Gaughan back in the 80s at an Edinburgh folk club and I have met him at Milngavie folk club and he is always friendly and unassuming. He would open his set with the Si Kahn song, What you Do With What You’ve gotI’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,
I took my guitarist son a few years back to hear him and he was hugely impressed. I will always remember sitting enthralled to this Westlin Winds, his impassioned and defining interpretation of the Robert Burns song, when he would say, “One of the best songs ever written, it says all there is to say. Certainly an Outlaw and Dreamer like no other!


Did anyone record a full set I wondered with his chat between songs? Folk singers know the depth of things – as Dylan wrote – Folk songs were my guide to a new republic.’
Maybe he is, but Gaughan should write his thoughts for a book. Like Burns and Dylan before him Dick trawled the archives in the national library for the rich tapestry of the old ballads and brought many back to life. His personal heritage mixes Celtic traditions of both Ireland and the Scottish Islands.

(Clan Alba, A folk supergroup, featured Dick Gaughan. Mary Macmaster, Brian MacNeill, Fred Morrison, Patsy Seddon, Davy Steele, Mike Travis and Dave Tulloch. With guitars, harps, pipes, fiddles and percussion, and distinctive collective harmonies. Their 1996 debut album - included ‘Bye Bye Big Blue’, a lament for the closure of the Ravenscraig Steel Works, and Gaughan’s evocative ‘Childhood’s End’.)