Celtic Connections review: Sabhal Mor Ostaig 40th Anniversary Concert - City Halls, Glasgow

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GAELDOM was out in force for this exuberant celebration of the 40th birthday of the Gaelic college, Sabhal Mòr Ostaig on Skye.

Sabhal Mor Ostaig 40th Anniversary Concert - City Halls, Glasgow

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A top-rank bill opened with a solo flourish from Dekker Forrest on pipes and ended with the expansive folk-classical fusion of Irish pianist and composer Micheál Ó Súilleabháin, directing a small orchestra drawn from Royal Conservatoire of Scotland students, plus Irish singer-bodhran player Sandra Joyce, flautist Niall Keegan and saxophonist Kenneth Edge.

A well-drilled house band, under the direction of Allan Henderson, provided some nicely considered accompaniments to fine singing from the likes of James Graham, Julie Fowlis and Mary Ann Kennedy (who co-presented with BBC Alba’s Kirsteen MacDonald).

Among highlights were Christine Primrose’s lovely rendition of her native anthem Carlabhagh, and Margaret Stewart’s Giullan Geal Thu, from the college’s home ground of Sleat, her stately delivery converging with the pibroch phrases from Angus Nicolson’s small pipes.

Instrumentally, there was the near-legendary Fergie MacDonald’s brisk dance set on button box, Allan MacDonald’s eloquent piping and beautifully intertwining fiddle and cello lines from Alasdair Fraser and Natalie Haas, while the band Dàimh stealthily escorted a song from Alasdair Codono before breaking into a muscular pipe set.

There was Ó Súilleabháin’s bouncy, bodhran-led Must Be More Crispy, and, to close, a stirring mass rendition of the pan-Gaelic Mo Ghile Mear.

If, as Mary Ann Kennedy suggested, the college’s visionary founder, the late Iain Noble, was looking down on the proceedings, he’d doubtless be raising a celebratory glass or two.