Posts Tagged ‘Oak and Thorn’

Scotland’s Wild Heart

The only thing missing from the opening segment of this evening for us Americans was popcorn.  “Scotland’s Wild Heart” was a condensed version of a 2016 BBC series, featuring incredible footage of Scotland’s wild vistas and animals.  Donald Shaw’s score, played live by a first rate orchestra, fit perfectly with the beautiful scenes of soaring White-tailed Eagles; Capercaillies strutting through the morning cold, their breath trailing mist; otters frolicking in snow and water; whales, orcas; gray seals nuzzling their young; and all the glories of Scotland’s natural, wild environs.

For those able to access the BBC’s iplayer, the whole series is available http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p03pjc9p .  Do yourself a favor, with or without the popcorn, watch this series and listen to the amazing music.

The rest of the evening was equally amazing.

The String Sisters at Celtic Connections 2018

Magic happened seventeen years ago, when Catriona Macdonald, Annbjørg Lien, Liz Carroll, Liz Knowles, Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh, and Emma Härdelin came together to become the String Sisters as a one-off gig at Celtic Connections.  They had such a great time that, despite commitments to other bands and projects, they keep finding ways to perform together.  And we’re all luckier for it.

Their combination of Nordic and Celtic styles is fantastic.  The energy they create when all six fiddles fill the hall is electric.  They seamlessly split the music between themselves, becoming solos, duos, and then all six back again.

Backing them is the String Misters: Tore Bruvoll on guitar, Dave Milligan on piano, Conrad Molleson on bass and James Mackintosh playing percussion.

This caliber of musicianship only happens at large festivals like Celtic Connections.  Gathering all these busy musicians together requires a great deal of work.  Many thanks to the String Sisters, the String Misters, and the staff of Celtic Connections for making this happen.

The String Sisters http://www.stringsisters.net/
Catriona Macdonald https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catriona_MacDonald
Annbjørg Lien http://annbjorglien.com/
Liz Carroll https://www.lizcarroll.com/
Liz Knowles https://www.lizknowles.com/
Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh http://www.mairead.ie/
Emma Härdelin https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emma_H%C3%A4rdelin


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Celtic Connections 2018 started for us with two very different bands playing in the Strathclyde Suite.  The opening quartet, consisting of two Irishmen from bluegrass backgrounds, Paddy Kiernan and Niall Hughes, and two Iranian brothers, Shahab and Shayan Coohe, set a high bar for the evening.  Blending multiple genres, they interwove banjo, bass, santoor, tar, and tombak into gorgeous, complex tunes that mesmerize.  The combination of music and musicians having a great time was a perfect beginning.  The audience rose in a standing ovation at the end, demanding more that the band admitted they didn’t have prepared.  Luckily for all, they have a new CD, Tapestry, for all their new fans.

Nava at Celtic Connections 2018


via Creative Scotland’s website, and also via the Secret North’s website.

The Secret North, we were told, was not a band, but a project that combined six musicians who had never worked together and were from different traditions, who got together for five days over the summer to compose new music that shared and crossed boundaries.  I think they managed that goal very well.  Their sound was a lot of Celtic, some Nordic, jazz, a little discordia, and poetry.

The project has a world class line-up: Donald Grant – Fiddle; Ailie Robertson – Harp, Sondre Meisfjord – Double Bass, Karen Tweed – Accordion, Jarlath Henderson – Whistle, Pipes, and Marit Fält – Mandola.


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One of the many charms of Celtic Connections is the focus on “connections.”  Lahira is an incredible connection of Celtic and Indian musicians. Skye Gaelic singer Anne Martin provides the Celtic base with her strong voice and presence.  Joining her are British-Indian vocal/electro artist Jason Singh, along with two of India’s most revered musicians – violinist Sharat Chandra Srivastava and Gyan Singh on tabla.  Bassist/guitarist Joe Harrison-Greaves is also in the group.  This is something that must be experienced by all traditional and crossover music lovers.  Martin may start out with what seems to be a traditional Gaelic song, but once Srivastava adds the violin for the tune’s heart and Singh grounds it with his rhythms, there is no telling where your imagination will soar on the music.  Watching the audience get into the songs and tunes was almost as much fun as enjoying what the band was providing on stage.  Sadly, they had no CD to buy, but you can follow them on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Lahiramusic/ .

The main act was billed as KGB – Keenan, Gavin, and Byrne.  Old friends Paddy Keenan and Frankie Gavin had a wonderful night poking fun at each other, with Paddy using his pipes to make chicken squawks and play “Happy Birthday” to himself.  Always a comedian, Frankie raced through jokes almost as fast as he can fiddle.  Dermot Byrne held down his end of the stage with a patient smile and incredible accordion virtuosity, whenever Paddy and Frankie were ready to play some tunes.  This gig had so many highlights, from the running gag of Paddy’s first job as an egg-sorter (prompted by the chicken squawks), to old favorite tunes played by master musicians, to Dermot’s solo, and an unscheduled departure from traditional tunes to an old rock standard.  Old friends playing beautiful music made for a grand evening.




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Patrick Ball brings his newest show, Come Dance With Me in Ireland, to Fort Bragg's Eagles Hall as a benefit KZYX performance.

Patrick Ball brings his newest show, Come Dance With Me in Ireland, to Fort Bragg’s Eagles Hall as a benefit KZYX performance.

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The Syncopaths play a benefit concert for the Albion Little River Fire Department.

The Syncopaths in Concert November 17, Little River Inn

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Nova Scotian Power Duo Cassie and Maggie MacDonald perform 10/20/18 at Eagles Hall in Fort Bragg

Nova Scotian Power Duo Cassie and Maggie MacDonald perform 10/20/18 at Eagles Hall in Fort Bragg

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Old Blind Dogs Play Benefit Concert for KZYX 9/29/17

Scotland’s The Old Blind Dogs will appear in a KZYX fundraising concert Friday, September 29, at Eagles Hall in Fort Bragg, CA.

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