Posts Tagged ‘Celtic Connections 2012’

Music is everywhere in Glasgow, from the streets to the Royal Concert Hall.  Music is the soul of this city.  If you weren’t already in love with melody and rhythm before you arrived, you will be, and if you’re like most of us, you want to participate.  The House of Song, hosted by the ever-gracious Doris Rougvie, is the perfect place for you.

Starting around 10PM most nights of the festival, you can find Doris and her sweet smiles and welcomes at the House of Song.  One fine evening, Paul McKenna was in residence; on another, Solo Cissokho shared a Senegalese song.  A host of singers of every level (and key) are there each night.  The songs range from traditional Scottish to Joni Mitchell.  If, like me, you can’t remember all the words to a song, chime in on the choruses.  Doris will make you feel at home, and don’t be surprised if you find yourself volunteering a song or two.  Don’t worry if you don’t speak English.  All languages are welcome.  Last I heard, at least forty-one different nationalities have sung at the House of Song.  Come on down, settle onto the comfy couches, and enjoy one of the friendliest venues at Celtic Connections.

— Catherine Keegan

Artist’s website: Doris Rougvie http://www.myspace.com/dorisrougvie


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The Strathclyde Suite was the official center of fun Wednesday night.  Gaelic singer Maggie MacInnes, backed by wisecracking Brian McAlpine (piano/accordion) and Anna Massie (guitar/fiddle), filled the first half with gorgeous song and gentle banter.  MacInnes, arguably the queen of the Gaelic heartbroken love song, was in fine voice, singing songs of dark-haired, handsome men and the women who love them…or would like to love them, if only she had a cow.

After announcing that the special note of the evening was D, Genticorum launched into their trademark sound, a combination of  joy and power, with Pascal Gemme’s feet tapping out the heartbeat.  How could anyone keep from smiling and bouncing?  The band immediately connected with the audience with humorous introductions to a “psychedelic country rock call and response song” (Les Menteries), and then  “The Showerhead Reels,” inspired by two different settings on a showerhead and marking Alexandre de Grosbois-Garand’s coming out of the closet as a fiddle player.  The happiness scale nearly pegged, Genticorum upped the ante with “Galope Doux Bedon,” composed for a cat named Sir Lulu of the Soft Tummy.  Guitarist Yann Falquet warned the crowd that there might be cases of spontaneous combustion due to an overabundance of happiness!  Every song and tune rates a mention, from the voyageur songs to the hypnotic “Reel Circulaire.”  It was a too-short evening of warmth, joy, and laughter.

— Catherine Keegan

Artists’ websites:
Genticorum genticorum.com
Maggie MacInnes www.maggiemacinnes.com
Anna Massie www.annamassie.com

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Oh, Glasgow Art Club, how I love you for your beautiful woodwork, your intimate setting, your arched collar ceiling, and your wonderful, hilarious staff; if only you sounded better.  The long gallery is not kind to the ears.  The piano, accordion and bagpipes are greedy for attention in any sound mix, and in that small space, they overwhelm fiddles and guitars.

That grumbled, this show was a work of love and quite a lot of fun.  These songs and tunes were collected by Alasdair Paul, who beamed throughout the performance.  The artists (Gillian Frame – fiddle, viola, vocals; Angus Lyon – piano, accordion; Ali Hutton – pipes. whistle, guitar; Ross Kennedy – song;
Deirdre Graham – Gaelic song; plus special guest Innes Watson – fiddle, guitar) did a bang up job, sound limitations not withstanding.  The sound crew worked some miracles, and by the end of the first half, all of the musicians’ talents could be appreciated on the Corriegills set.

The two vocalists for the evening, Ross Kennedy and Deirdre Graham, were an interesting contrast.  Kennedy has the classic bold folksinger voice, while Graham’s is delicate and sweet.  Her Oran na Dighe was a highlight of the evening.  The final set of the evening, Shiskine Barn Dance, followed by the Arran Boat Song done as a reel sent us out into the cold, cold Glasgow night smiling.

I do encourage anyone reading this to buy the CD, Eilean mo Ghaoil (on Brechin All Records).  Hearing the music again this morning made me want to see the show all over again.  The female vocalist on the CD is not the same as in the show, but her voice is just as sweet and lovely as Graham’s.

— Catherine Keegan

Artists’ Websites:
Eilean mo Ghaoil Facebook Page www.facebook.com/pages/Eilean-mo-Ghaoil-The-Music-of-Arran/249603828400187?sk=wall
Angus Lyon www.anguslyon.co.uk/
Innes Watson www.inneswatson.co.uk/

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When the first thing you see upon entering a venue is “Warning risk of high noise levels,” you know you’re not going to some prissy sit-down concert.  It was standing room only at the Oran Mor for Tarras and Manran, and it was loud.  Very loud.  Did I mention it was loud?  As a wise teenager once told me: If it’s too loud, you’re too old.  I’m too old.

Once I got my earplugs settled, I squeezed into the main room to watch Tarras.  The band invoked the ghosts of a thousand bar bands with their rock set.  I could have been in any bar anywhere any time in the last thirty years.

But, I came to hear Manran play, and they did not disappoint me.  Something old, something new, and something borrowed, the gig had something for everyone.  They played most of the songs off their debut album, some from Bodega (the former band of lead vocalist Norrie MacIver), a little Runrig, and a bunch of new tunes. The audience seemed to love everything the band played, screaming approval after each song and clapping whenever accordionist Gary Innes demanded they work for their fun.  It really was fun, but I think the next time I see Manran it’ll be in a concert hall or at a festival, somewhere where earplugs aren’t a necessity.

–Catherine Keegan

Artists’ websites:
Tarras www.tarrasmusic.com/
Manran manran.co.uk
Gary Innes www.garyinnes.com/
Ross Saunders www.ross-saunders.com/

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Corquieu’s set started gloriously with a high energy song that churned into driving tunes and kept building  until Gema Garcia gave the audience a brief rest with another song, and then onto more burning fast tunes!  The wonderfully complex tunes were really a delight to the ear.  Daniel Álvarez’s flute-playing was spectacular.  Time and again, he’d capture your attention with the way he would underscore a measure or pump up the frenetic energy.  Roberto Suarez stood out as well; he played judiciously, using the power of the gaita (Asturian bagpipe) to support the arrangements rather than overwhelm them.  We loved hearing the old standard, “The Silver Spear,” played with an Asturian accent.   There were no slow tunes with this band, and while Garcia’s songs lowered the tempo, they never dipped toward melancholy.  Corquieu left the audience smiling and slightly exhausted.

Breabach’s half began with a lovely, sinuous piece of music, adding instruments one at a time as the band members came onstage.  Just when the crowd had settled in for something slow and complex, the pipes came in and slapped us upside the head as they powered into a set of reels.  Supporting their newest CD, Bann, the band presented its new line up (Megan Henderson (fiddle/vocals/stepdance), James Duncan Mackenzie (pipes/flute), Calum MacCrimmon (pipes/whistles), Ewan Robertson (guitar/vocals) and James Lindsay (double bass)).  They treated the audience with “Glasgow of the Big Shops” (the title comes from a Gaelic phrase, Glaschu mòr na bùithdean), following that with a dynamite set that ended with a waulking song from Newfoundland to show off Henderson’s vocals.  She took the lead again on ”M’eudail, M’eudail,” a song that had the audience singing along.  Callum MacCrimmon’s tune “Gig Face” was a standout; starting with skirling pipes and James Linday’s bass, the tune pounded out a fabulous beat, twisting into a lovely, almost symphonic bridge, then built up the energy again.  Here’s how good that tune is: the Angus Grant masterpiece “2:50 to Vigo” almost paled in comparison.  The entire performance was stellar, with an encore that brought the audience to its feet.  The second encore brought Corquieu back onto the stage for an incredible set, all 13 musicians playing together in a wild, exotic medley.

You should have been there.
— Catherine Keegan

Artists’ Websites:
Breabach http://www.breabach.com/
Corquièu http://www.corquieu.com/Llar%20ingles.html

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The warmth and bright colors of Africa swept through snowy Glasgow in a gust of beautiful music, delighting a standing-room-only crowd at the lovely St Andrews in the Square.  This Celtic Connections experiment with mingling musicians from different traditions was a magnificent success.

Combine the Pride of Manchester’s Michael McGoldrick, Capercaillie’s (and Celtic Connections’s artistic director) Donald Shaw on keyboards, Irishmen Gerry O’Connor on banjo and Tony Byrne on guitar, and Scotsman James Mackintosh on percussion and you have an instant powerhouse Celtic band, which opened their set with a set of driving reels and gave the crowd an excellent selection of trad and near-trad tunes.  And then, just when you settled into that groove, enter Fatoumata Diawara, a Malian musician currently living in France, and enjoy one of those Celtic Connection twists that makes you sit up and experience music with a new delight.

She changed the game, crowding the traditional sounds closer to R&B, teasing the audience with her brilliant smiles and knowing chuckles that punctuated the chorus of “Sowa.”  The band rose to meet her music’s challenges.  Who knew that O’Connor’s banjo could put out that kind of African/rock melody?   McGoldrick’s whistles twined beautifully into her vocals, and Shaw’s keyboards added a kind of African undercurrent.  But it was Diawara, smiling happiness at everyone, who captured the audience’s imagination.  They hung on her every note and gave her their hearts.

It can’t be easy coming on after such a fiery and crowd-pleasing set, but the trio of wisecracking ace fiddlers from Ireland, Fidil, were more than ready for the challenge.  Between jokes, they tore through a tune or three, showing off their innovative stylings, complete with string-plucking, violin-drumming, and full-on bowing.  That was lovely, but the audience needed more African sunshine, and dressed in warm yellows and rust, Senegalese kora master and griot singer Solo Cissokho obliged.

At the start of the set, the lads of Fidil promised us music “from County Senegal and from County Donegal.”  They hadn’t let on that the mix was going to be so much fun.  As they pointed out, Solo taught them songs about “the woman,” and in exchange, they taught him tunes about sheep.  No matter the subject, each tune and song was a joy to experience.  Solo’s kora, a gourd-based stringed instrument, inserted a sense of mischief and fun into every plucked note; and his obvious joy pervaded the room.  Most of the audience spent this set dancing in their seats, except when a few couldn’t stand it any longer and danced in front of the stage, including Diawara.  To give us all a rest, Solo took a few moments to explain how one masters the kora in “seven paragraphs,” showing how a simple instrument can create complex tunes. They tried to end the set with “Glory Reel,” but the crowd refused to let them go that quickly, jumping to ther feet to demand an encore, wanting to hang onto the warmth of Solo’s smile and the fun that Fidil brought.

–Catherine Keegan

Artists’ websites:
Cissokho Solo www.leopardmannen.no/s/system.cissokho.asp
Fidil fidilmusic.com
Fatoumata Diawara www.myspace.com/fatoumatadiawara

Michael McGoldrick www.prideofmanchester.com/music/michaelmcgoldrick.htm
Gerry O’Connor www.gerryoconnor.com/”>www.gerryoconnor.com/
Tony Byrne
James Mackintosh www.shoogle.com/biogs.htm

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Pick how you want to celebrate Burns Night: eating haggis or listening to a trio of Gaelic singers from the Islands.  The full house at the Rennie MacIntosh-designed Glasgow Art Club didn’t seem to be missing their traditional Burns Suppers, when the first performer of the night, Lewis-born Norrie MacIver, stepped onto the stage.  Two songs into the set, he had the audience singing along to “Faili Faili” and nodding to the rhythm.  Next up was “An Eala Bhan,” a song he performs with Manran, but in this intimate setting, with only his guitar for accompaniment, the love song sounded sweeter than ever.  MacIver charmed us with his music and the tale of how he disappointed his granny.  He certainly didn’t disappoint the audience, many of whom joined their voices with his on the last song of the set, “A Ribhinn Og.”

Next up was Alasdair Whyte from Mull, one of the youngest Mod Gold recipients.  With a guitar and piano to back (and occasionally overwhelm) him, it took two songs before Whyte relaxed into his set and the full beauty of his voice could be appreciated on ”Mo Chaileag Shuaineartach.”  The last two songs in his set continued to show off his depth and range of his voice and a hint of his personal charm.

Gillebride MacIllemhaoil from South Uist was the last performer on stage, bringing with him a pianist, a guitarist and fiddler.  The grand piano may have been one instrument too many in the small confines of the Art Club, and while the fiddle was a sweet addition, it sometimes tended to cover rather than support the vocals.  Nevertheless, MacIllemhaoil’s beautiful voice and phrasing came through.  “An Teid Thu,” a very sad love song written during the Clearances, was especially fine, and there followed excellent renditions of “Air Forladh” and a Gaidhlig version of the trad favorite “Norland Wind” (aka “The Wild Geese”).  And while I enjoyed his set at the Art Club, it was by a fortunate accident at the House of Song where I had the great pleasure of hearing him sing unaccompanied and heard the real depth and emotion of his voice.  A very great talent, he needs no instruments save his voice and his presence to hold you rapt.

— Catherine Keegan

Artists’ Websites
Gillebride MacIllemhaoil www.myspace.com/gillebridemacmillan
Norrie MacIver www.myspace.com/norriemaciver
Alasdair Whyte

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