Craig Armstrong set for Celtic Connections concert

AWARD-winning Scottish composer Craig Armstrong will make a rare live appearance in his home city for a headline show at Celtic Connections next year.

Armstrong will play piano as clips from films like Moulin Rouge! are shown on a big screen. Picture: Robert Perry

His concert, which will see him join forces with Scottish Opera’s orchestra to revive some of his best-known cinematic work, is one of the star-attractions in the festival’s line-up, which was confirmed today.

Born in Glasgow in 1959, Armstrong has written for the Royal Shakespeare Company, the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Scottish Opera and the London Sinfonietta, as well as artists like U2, Bjork and Madonna, since graduating from London’s Royal Academy of Music in 1981.

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Armstrong, one of 2000 performers at next year’s festival, will be playing piano as clips from films like Romeo & Juliet, The Great Gatsby and Moulin Rouge! are shown on a big screen behind the stage.

The show will also include a live performance of Armstrong’s brand-new album, It’s Nearly Tomorrow, which features guest appearances from singers Paul Buchanan of The Blue Nile, and Love and Money frontman James Grant.

Donald Shaw, the festival’s artistic director, said: “We commissioned a brand new piece of music from Craig for the Lewis Psalm Singers after I took him to see them a concert at last year’s festival at Kelvingrove Art Gallery.

“As part of the on-going discussions with Craig, I said to him that he had never really been celebrated in Glasgow in terms of a full night of his music.

“It’s that typical Scottish syndrome. He is one of the biggest Hollywood film composers in the world, but his live shows have been in places like Paris, Berlin and Oslo.”

Elsewhere, American stars confirmed for the festival include Lambchop, performing their classic album Nixon, a return appearance from The Punch Brothers, the band fronted by mandolin star Chris Thile while his Nickel Creek bandmate Sara Watkins will also be at the festival with a new trio made up with Crooked Still’s singer Aoife O’Donovan and rising star Sarah Jarosz.

Other highlights include a 100th anniversary tribute to the English singer-songwriter Ewan MacColl, which his sons Calum and Neill are organising, a rare appearance at the festival for English folk veterans Fairport Convention, and African diva Angelique Kidjo performing along with the RSNO.

Other African stars in the line-up include the young Mali band Songhoy Blues - one of the stars of Damon Albarn’s Africa Express album, and the Nigerian drummer, composer and songwriter Tony Allen, the man dubbed “the godfather of Afrobeat.”

Home-grown stars confirmed include Fife singer-songwriter Kenny Anderson aka King Creosote performing a live version of his acclaimed soundtrack album to the acclaimed documentary From Scotland With Love, which saw him create new music to match little-seen archive footage drawn from the national film archives.

Singer-songwriter Roddy Hart, who has found fame with an extended run on Craig Ferguson’s US chat show since last year’s Celtic Connections, will be at the helm again for the festival’s third annual indie showcase, the Roaming Roots Revue, which will revive a host of classic harmony songs stretching as far back as the 1950s and the heyday of the Everly Brothers.

Festival favourites confirmed in the line-up include Hebridean hellraisers Skerryvore and Manran, singer-songwriters Dick Gaughan, Kris Drever, Findlay Napier and Eddi Reader, and the return of the hottest ticket at the festival, fiddler Aly Bain’s Transatlantic Sessions concerts.

Celtic Connections will also stage a tribute to Stornoway-born Pipe Major Donald Macleod, who famously served in France and played the bagpipes throughout the Second World War, and went on to become one of the leading pipers of the 20th century.

Shaw added: “In recent years, the festival has grown into a celebration of musical genres from all corners of the globe and this will be just as prominent in 2015.

“At no other festival do musicians embrace the opportunity to collaborate with musicians from different countries and musical genres more than they do at Celtic Connections.”

Tickets for next year’s Celtic Connections, which runs from 15 January-1 February, are on sale now.