It’s maybe been said already, but what an inspired idea it was to expand Glasgow’s favourite festival into its favourite art gallery.
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It’s created arguably Celtic Connections’ most stunning venue yet – and one with a useful 600 capacity, albeit that this long-since sold-out show could reportedly have filled it twice over.
The acoustics of the main hall’s vast, barrel-vaulted height certainly won’t suit all sounds, but proved sublimely conducive to both acts here, opening with Irish-American flute/whistle doyenne Joanie Madden, on a rare Glasgow visit without Cherish the Ladies, flanked instead by three diasporan compatriots in the Pride of New York line-up: Billy McComiskey (accordion), Brian Conway (fiddle) and Brendan Dolan (keyboards).
With the set-list spotlighting each player’s rarefied finesse between silkily woven full-band numbers, melodies and timbres sang, soared and shone at their sweetest, none more so than Madden’s magnificent, heartstopping rendition of the venerable slow air Farewell to the Moy.
It says much about Celtic Connections and contemporary Scottish music that such illustrious international visitors were opening for a home-grown headliner, Highland fiddler Duncan Chisholm, starring in the triumphant live première of his hugely acclaimed three-album Strathglass project, inspired by the lands where his clan roots stretch back some 700 years. Surrounded by a five-piece band and a 20-piece strings/brass ensemble, Chisholm’s justly celebrated playing has never rung out more enthrallingly, in music that required no introductions or programme notes to carry you on its journey, conjuring both outer and inner landscapes in their myriad weathers and seasons from tranquillity to tumult, joy to desolation.