Fri, 15 Jan 2021
Imar picture: Gaelle Beri
Celtic Connections 2021 goes digital - across 19 days, the festival will present over 30 online performances between Friday, January 15, and Tuesday, February 2. STEPHEN OTTNER has booked his seat for the UK’s premier celebration of celtic music
IN ‘normal’ times my wife and I would be preparing for a trip to Glasgow. Why, you may well ask, would anyone consider heading north rather than south in January?
We are not alone, as thousands from across the world are drawn to this UNESCO City of Music for Celtic Connections. Celtic Connections is a feast of music on a mammoth scale, with around 100,000 attendees at 300 events in 30 venues, with 2,000 musicians over 19 days. And, as Donald Shaw, the festival’s creative producer, says: “That’s just the ones we know about.”
When it became clear that a ‘real’ festival would not be possible this year, plans were made to move Celtic Connections online. Donald explained: “The concept for a digital-first Celtic Connections was borne out of a desire to promote wellbeing and optimism among fellow musicians as much as it was about still being able to offer entertainment to our loyal Celtic Connections audiences during the dark nights of January.”
Concerts were recorded in iconic Glasgow venues, while fully adhering to social distancing guidelines and will be streamed each day from January 15 until February 2. Each concert is ticketed, but very modestly priced at £2, £7 or £10 and a pass to all concerts is £40. There are two dementia-friendly concerts that are free on January 19 and 26 and three will be broadcast on BBC ALBA on January 15, 22 and 25.
Head of music at Creative Scotland Alan Morrison said: “Celtic Connections unveils a truly fantastic line-up of home-grown and international stars that will blow away the lockdown blues.
“While everyone is likely to have their own must-see, can’t-miss highlight, this year’s festival offers a better-than-ever opportunity to check out unfamiliar acts and discover future favourites.”
The ‘must-see’ for me is Rhiannon Giddens with Francesco Turrisi on January 31. It was my privilege to review their concert at The Anvil, Basingstoke, for the Newbury Weekly News. I first discovered Rhiannon at Arlington Arts, where she was part of the Grammy-winning Carolina Chocolate Drops. That was their first UK tour which was tacked on to an appearance at Celtic Connections. Just to make this particular concert compelling, the acclaimed musician Kris Drever will also be contributing a set. Kris is no stranger to these parts having appeared at South Street, Cornerstone and Nettlebed and as a member of the award-winning LAU at Marlborough, Nettlebed and Turner Sims.
Katherine Priddy is an up-and-coming singer/songwriter who wowed the ACE Space audience in 2019 and recently appeared at a socially-distanced gig at Harwell village hall – both gigs were reviewed in N2. Katherine will be in a concert on January 19 alongside Rachel Newton, who has appeared at Arlington both as a solo artist and as a member of The Shee.
Also on the bill is Breabach, who performed at New Greenham Arts. Other musicians in the festival who have performed locally include Eddi Reader (Arlington, Haymarket); Blazin Fiddles (Corn Exchange); Blue Rose Code (Arlington); Talisk (Nettlebed).
Celtic Connections provides a springboard for new, emerging talent through the Danny Kyle Open Stage and Celtic Connections on Campus. Celtic Music Radio (www.celticmusicradio.net) will broadcast the Danny Kyle show between 5pm and 7pm over the course of the festival.
As in previous years, judges will choose six acts to go through to the final on the 31. Celtic Connections on Campus provides a showcase for the terrific student talent and it will be available on YouTube from 12.30 on January 20, 21 and 22.
Folk Ace, on Kennet Radio, recently broadcast a Celtic Connections special and links to it can be found at www.kennetradio.com/folk-ace