Celtic Connections: What to see and when

Plotting a course through an ocean of Celtic Connections talent
Laura Marling is a must-see at Celtic Connections. Picture: ContributedLaura Marling is a must-see at Celtic Connections. Picture: Contributed
Laura Marling is a must-see at Celtic Connections. Picture: Contributed

Celtic Connections, Glasgow’s 18-day roots music juggernaut, opens on Thursday. From more than 2,000 artists representing a bewilderingly eclectic variety of music genres and cultures across 20 venues, we spotlight ten top-class shows.

Laura Marling with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra

Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, 19 January

The Brit Award-winning singer-songwriter opens the festival in grand style in the company of the BBC‘s classical house band, premiering Kate St John’s orchestrated settings of Marling’s often starkly delivered and intelligently crafted songs. Expect plenty of surprise special guests too.

A Night for Angus: From Caol to Cool

Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, 21 January

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“Acid croft” pioneers Shooglenifty celebrate the life of their much loved frontman, fiddler Angus R Grant, who died in October. Guests include Angus’s father, Aonghas Sr, members of Capercaillie and musicians from as far afield as Galicia and Rajasthan, a testament to the friendships Angus made along the way.

Inveraray & District Pipe Band & Bagad Kemper

Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, 28 January

Celtic Connections’ annual pipe band Saturday welcomes the Inveraray band, which has ascended from novice level to Grade 1 in little over a decade, under Pipe Major Stuart Liddell, as well as the renowned Breton band, Bagad Kemper, with its Melezour concert programme, a celebration of Breton culture.

Aziza Brahim

Drygate, 21 January

Spanish-based Sahrawi singer Aziza Brahim is part of this year’s Celtic Connections theme of women’s empowerment through music. She has never seen her Saharan homeland but grew up in an Algerian refugee camp, and she sings with eloquence of her people’s trials and aspirations.

La Banda Europa

Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, 29 January

Formed eight years ago by composer Jim Sutherland, the 36-strong La Banda Europa is a gloriously eruptive melting pot of pan-European folk instruments, including bagpipes, fiddles, nyckelharpas, flutes and, of course, the belligerent roar of the ancient Celtic horn, the carnyx. The programme includes the premiere of Sutherland’s We Are an Ocean.

Trilok Gurtu & Evelyn Glennie: The Rhythm in Me

Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, 1 February

Two internationally renowned percussion virtuosi, one Scots, the other Indian, join forces with classical pianist Philip Smith and Indian violinist Kumaresh Rajagopalan for a programme of arranged solo and ensemble pieces, plus improvisational pyrotechnics. Support comes from the acclaimed Irish piper and singer Jarlath Henderson.

Martin Hayes & David Power

Strathclyde Suite, 23 January

The virtuosic US-based Clare fiddler Martin Hayes teams up with David Power, a Waterford uilleann piper renowned for the authority and lyricism of his playing. They’re joined in support by Ryan Young, the young fiddler from Cardross named Up and Coming Artist of the Year at last month’s Scots Trad Music Awards.

Rab Noakes: 70/50 in 2017

Old Fruitmarket, 2 February

Veteran Scots singer-songwriter (and BBC radio producer) Rab Noakes celebrates his 70th birthday, 50 years as a professional musician – and his recovery from cancer. His latest EP is neatly titled The Treatment Tapes. He’ll be lacing what he calls his “21st century skiffle” with songs from sources as diverse as Gillian Welsh and Garbage.

Craig Armstrong & Calum Martin: Salm Music – New Works

Concert Hall New Auditorium, 3 February

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A Leòdhasach singer-songwriter who also, as Free Kirk precentor, leads the extraordinary sound of Gaelic psalmody, Calum Martin has generated widespread interest through his Salm project. Here he joins the acclaimed Glasgow-born composer Craig Armstrong, combining psalm-singers with the Scottish Ensemble and such folk luminaries as Duncan Chisholm and Neil Johnstone.

George Monbiot & Ewan McLennan

Mackintosh Church, 3 February

One of the more unusual folk events of the past year was Breaking the Spell of Loneliness, a collaboration between journalist and environmental activist George Monbiot and Yorkshire-based Scots singer-songwriter Ewan McLennan, in a musical follow-up to an article in which Monbiot lamented the “epidemic of loneliness” pervading society. The resulting songs are poignant and telling.

For full listings, see celticconnections.com

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