Tuesday 24 January 2017

Laura Marling Opening Concert CELTIC CONNECTIONS 2017

So I arrived early as people are setting up their stalls – of accordions, pipes and folk CDs. Roddy Hart and a camera crew were in the concert hall foyer and the Press office has wine and nibbles set out. Someone was playing piano and they were setting out equipment for the open mic. And so #ccfest begins for another year to celebrate live music, special collaborations, brilliant musicianship and perfect singers who perform quality songs. On the stage the orchestra limbers up tuning their instruments.

Sometimes Celtic Connections offers some gems and there were several tonight. The first set for this evening’s celebration of women and song, included six talented artists backed by the Scottish national orchestra (RSNO).

Scottish songwriter Karine Polwart performed songs from her Wind Resistance. She read a poem of new president Trump. ‘’I am worn but I am not consumed,’ a message from the rocks of Lewis to the son of Mary MacLeod. She also sang ‘Cover Your Eyes’ and ‘Half A Mile’. Karine wrote a performance piece, Wind Resistance, for the Lyceum Edinburgh which will be performed at the Tron theatre during Celtic Connections. While the orchestra added rich depth and resonance.

Adam Holmes and Rachel Sermanni sang with lilting country harmonies. There was a moving and colourful performance from Aziza Bahim from the Sahara and her quality band. Her joy of music has brightened her life in an Algerian refugee camp. An important part of Celtic Connections is to bring different cultures together and to look at the plight of those suffering great hardship.

Cara Dillon has recorded with an orchestra, so this was a familiar setting and she sang the traditional song ‘She Moves Through the Fair.’  Lindsay Lou and the flatbellys  entertained with their fun rhythmic American tunes. While Declan O’Rourke was another hit with his large voice he sang ‘Who puts the rainbow sin the sky’ with the song Slieve Bloom and Galileo.

**For the second half of this quality concert Laura Marling gave a still, introspective, both fragile and strong performance. She stood centre stage with the orchestra behind her and sang her journey in song, with words such as ‘I will not be a victim of romance.’ On one song she tells herself to ‘Breathe!” She shuns celebrity trappings, a child of nature with no make-up. She sang ‘I love England in snow… I ’m on my own and I feel like running.’ Her songs of winter, romance and memories. There was also a nod to Leonard Cohan with the song Avalanche.

She is an accomplished, moving artist. She performed a stunning suite of her songs ‘Take The Night Off’, ‘I was and Eagle’, ‘You know’ and ‘Breathe’, composed by Kate St John. She also sang – ‘What He Wrote’, ‘Sophia’, ‘Hope in the Air’, ‘Goodbye England’.

Her voice is both gentle, doubting and questioning with the nuanced voice of Joni or the hard edge of Dylan. Marling has spent time in LA – has she had time to live though? Laura began her career at the young age of 17. She is an award-winning English folk singer songwriter and at 26 she has been prolific with the release of five studio albums.
This concert offered tasters of some of the outstanding artists who will perform at Celtic Connections this year.

II   On the Radio on the way home I heard the young band Rura (who perform at the Barrowlands at Celtic Connections) who talked of their fun on the road touring. Is that really why Dylan got a band and went rockier In my view some of the greatest art is about collaboration with other artists, both past and present.

SUITE of Take the Night Off/ I was an Eagle/ You know
What He Wrote/ Sophia/ Hope in the Air/ Avalanche/ Goodbye England.

Celtic Connections is a major folk and roots festival running over 19 days and 19 Glasgow venues (begun in 1994) celebrates its 23rd year.  

Sunday 15 January 2017

CELTIC Connections Glasgow 2017!

I’m excited as this will be my tenth year anniversary covering Celtic Connections.! Hard to believe. Here are some of my strongest memories and personal favourites over my time at the festival.

One of my most memorable experiences at Celtic Connections festival is hearing the Gaelic songs – sung by the incomparable beauty of the voices of both Julie Fowlis or Karen Matheson. Also newcomer Mischa MacPherson. I don’t understand each word – but I understand the feelings and there is something expressive in Gaelic that comes over in a way that’s not possible in English. I remember taking to press director Hannah about newcomer singer songwriter Rachel Sermanni. She commented how important it was too to have the Gaelic singers as they were so popular.

Another top memory at Celtic is at the Old worldly atmospheric Old Fruitmarket venue, with its coloured fairy lights is the perfect setting for some of Scotland’s top ceillidh bands - Ceilidh Bands this year include – The Unusual Suspects, Manran, Session A9 and Shooglenity.
Celtic provides a platform for hearing quality indie artists and attracts a wide variety of talent and a music lover audience. I heard the top guitarist RM Hubbert and the very loud prog rock band Mogwai at the concert hall.

Naturally the festival hosts some of the best traditional Scottish singers and musicians - Dick Gaughan, Rod Paterson, Karen Matheson, Siobhan Miller. 

Every day at Celtic its enriching to visit the open mic at 5, which attracts top folk musicians world wide. I’ve heard many top musicians here and sometimes those artists who have gone on to win such as Karine Polwart, Rachel Sermanni, Manran, Genesee. 

Tricky one and its hard to choose. I have to mention the stand out GRIT opening concert 2015 of Martin Bennett’s class album with the full orchestra. A highly unforgettable experience! Martha Wainwright, who held the Fruitmarket audience with only her guitar, voice and songs. The Tribute concerts led by Rab Noakes for the great Scottish singer songwriters – Gerry Rafferty and Michael Marra. And of course the outstanding Transatlantic Sessions - for the musicianship of the band and the quality singers.
Karine Polwart
At Celtic Connections 2016, I enjoyed the concerts of The Chieftains, Lucinda Williams, Rachel Sermanni, Siobhan Wilson and especially the fun ceilidh bands of Rura and Blazin Fiddles. As usual the highlight was the classy accomplished musicianship of the Transatlantic band with the wonderful singers Rhiannon Giddens and Cara Dillon. 
Adam Holmes
**At Celtic 2017, they will focus on the half of the population often ignored – the women’s voices with the singers and musicians. The women care about home, children and mother earth. There is a story of a south American tribe where the women said, Stop, stop! – there is enough food and shelter and telling the men to stop hunting and killing. Some of the many outstanding women this year include - Laura Marling, Eddi Reader, Mary Chapman Carpenter, Alice Marra, Karine Polwart, Beth Neilson Chapman, Shirley Collins, Olivia Newton john, Roberta Sa 

This year I look forward the wonderful and often unexpected collaborations; Showcase Scotland; Celtic’s Educational Program. Celtic is one of the leading annual festivals of folk, world, and roots music – 18 days of concerts, ceilidhs, talks, art exhibitions, workshops, free events, late sessions and a host of one-off musical collaborations. To the opening concert with Laura Marling and the RSNO.
Eddi Reader
Martha Wainwright
And not forgetting the men – Rab Noakes, Adam Holmes, King Creoste, Billy Bragg, Jerry Douglas and more.
I look forward to the Buzz of the festival – the gathering of like minded music fans and artists!

The festival will also celebrate the anniversary of the independence of Canada and India.  The festivals partner for this year is Brazil.
**This year also holds several major anniversaries.

Blazin Fiddles
Rab Noakes and Alice Marra

Friday 13 January 2017

Nicola Sturgeon's speech Irish Senate (Seanad Eireann) and questions after.

This is well worth watching – and this is such a positive supportive debate of how independence has led to a resurgence for Ireland.   

Nicola firstly has assured a welcome for all migrants into Scotland. She also discussed climate change of half energy coming from renewables; of16 year olds voting; on equality as the foundation of prosperity.

The Senate praised Nicola’s position on gender equality, her equality statement and her desire to play a part in the importance on human rights. They spoke of protecting our shared interests and solidarity with Ireland. And there was praise for Scotland’s inspiring grassroots referendum campaign in 2014.

One senator spoke of the corrosive nationalism of Trump, Penn and Farage – and that it is excellent to see the fairness, democratic social inclusiveness of the civic Nationalism of Nicola. 
One spoke of how ironic that it will be the 40 year anniversary of the Treaty of Rome in 2017 – and of how the EU came out of a time of great divisions, war and a time of fear. .

Legally Brexit is a minefield for Ireland and undermines the legal status of the Good Friday agreement and will unravel the peace of the last twenty years. They feel Northern Ireland should be given a special status.

One asked how Ireland can help Scotland with independence and with the challenges of Brexit. 
They spoke of the Scots James Connelly and Margaret Skinnider, who died with the rebels at the Easter rising 1916.
We must listen to the views of the People and it is not enough to change symbolism. And of independence as a means to build a better nation.

The Senate leader quoted from Yeats – ‘All changed, changed utterly, A terrible beauty is born.’
“A good life means fighting to be human in difficult times.” Alasdair Gray

**Not sure I saw this mentioned on the BBC news!??


It was the 100 year Anniversary of the Irish Rising last year 2016.
In 2017 60 year anniversary of the EU Treaty of Rome; 70 year anniversary of the Edinburgh international festival.


Blazin Fiddles

Has been a turbulent, insane, divisive and blind year and full of losses too. The words in 2016 were – fake news, post truth, we don’t know – if the news doesn’t know anymore?

Supposedly we voted in 2014 for ‘the security and safety’ of an ‘equal’ partnership with Westminster' and greater Devolution??  Mmm? As MP Mhairi Black writes - 'they ask the Scottish parliament to drive a car with only the use of the indicators. '

And Independence dreams…..
Some fearful unionists supporters put the ‘Daily Star’ on top of the independence supporting ‘National’ newspaper every day! In the vain hope that any independence hopes will simply fade away!. I like to hope in the end truth can prevail and the reality of the false lies (not promises at all) from the false Westminster wake the doubters up. 
Scotland is very defiantly a real country, with very real and very different aspirations to those of England.  In fact Scotland has a long and proud history. I hope doubters can see this and that the best hopes for Scotland’s future lie in independence in Europe. 

Just as well the Westminster elites and those bumbling idiots such as Boris and Davis are "taking back control for us all" - **phew **- I was worried there are a while too? A lot of the 'posh' folks are champagne socialists - one rule for meself, another for the plebs. My motto is - no matter if you are a no or yes, or remain or leave in these FAKE referendums – we need to 'de-centralise the UK governments' (which have been over-centralised ever since the great wars last century). And that would be really taking back control!

7 is one of my lucky numbers so I am hoping for some magic in 2017!. Things can be better if we remember first our shared humanity – and our interconnectedness – that has made us what we are.

I believe we need more Education on Modern studies and Philosophy (rather than out-dated religions that don't run countries anymore, that is why at the time of Union 1707 Scotland kept the Kirk as religions used to run countries) urgently these days to counteract all the nonsense Fake News, Post Truth and online propaganda. We have a new US President elected on sensational Twitter posts and an unelected UK PM steering this strange exit to some unknown destination. What is going on?

That is one big reason I focus on music, art and poetry – for they express what unites us and more – the Arts express our higher callings. This used to be religion. I’m not religious but I do believe in that magic at a top class gig when everyone is singing and everyone is believing. This sustains us and feeds our soul. Some of us have forgotten though….
Chieftians concert for the Easter Rising Celtic Connections 2016

2017 will be a Year of Anniversaries…..

 500 years – Martin Luther Reformation
100 years - Finland’s’ Independence
100 years – Russian Revolution
150 years - Canadian independence

Also ironically the 60 year anniversary of the Treaty of Rome;
And the 70 year anniversary of the Edinburgh International festival.

PS  It is well worth watching this recording of Nicola Sturgeon's speech to Irish Senate (Seanad Eireann) and the Senates questions and responses after. Not sure I saw this mentioned on the BBC news!??