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Gig review: Celtic Connections Opening Concert - Glasgow Royal Concert Hall

Findlay MacDonald and Chris Stout set the tone for a memorable opening night. Picture: Donald MacLeod

Findlay MacDonald and Chris Stout set the tone for a memorable opening night. Picture: Donald MacLeod

  • by SUE WILSON
 

The very first notes, of the very first Celtic Connections concert, were played on 9 January, 1994, by the Galician band Dhais.

Celtic Connections Opening Concert

Glasgow Royal Concert Hall

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On the very same stage, those of the festival’s 20th opening concert came from the fiddle, pipes and guitar of Scotland’s own Chris Stout, Finlay MacDonald and Ross Martin, as the initial numbers of a cast-of-thousands show – likened at one point to “Celtic Connections on shuffle” – took things right back to the source.

A thrilling set of tunes by the above trio was followed by an a cappella rendition of Burns’s Westlin’ Winds from the inimitable Rod Paterson, then an exquisite brace of Gaelic songs from Julie Fowlis and her band.

The basic concept behind the show – a total sellout as of some time ago, including extra standing tickets – was to spotlight some of the artists who have become regulars at Celtic Connections, and some of the myriad musical interrelationships that the festival has fostered. Simply listing all the performers involved would take up a sizeable chunk of the space available here, but other numerous highlights included the freshly sizzling Flook; Capercaillie, on magnificent form; Eddi Reader gi’in it laldy in Willie Stewart and Cara Dillon’s utterly enchanting version of The Parting Glass. The sumptuous, heart-lifting, emblematic moment, though, again came courtesy of Stout, MacDonald and Martin – all of them teenagers when Celtic Connections started; now musicians of globe-trotting calibre – together with a specially-convened 20-piece folk/orchestral string ensemble and the ScottishPower Pipe Band: at least three different musical worlds, meeting in glorious triumph.

SUE WILSON

 

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