Saturday, January 20, 2007

The Celtic Connection: Solas

Entry for 20 January 2007:

Celtic Connections is a festival of celtic and world music held every year for 3 weeks from mid-January to early February. This year there are over 300 events, concerts, workshops, art exhibits – it’s huge. It started a couple of days ago, and tonight we went to our first concert: Solas, an Irish-American group whose mainstay is their exceptional instrumentalists, most spectacularly their exuberant and amazing fiddle player, Winifred Horan. We dragged Mick and Lorna along (it wasn’t difficult to persuade them), making a pleasant evening of it.

Celtic Connections is closer to a conference that a folk festival, with up to 8 parallel sessions and concerts in which related groups or sets of performers are put together. Solas fitted into the latter pattern by inviting most of the previous members of the band to take part. As a result, there were times when 9 or 10 people were up there performing, making the group into a small folk orchestra and producing what Mick referred to as a “wall of sound”(a reference to Phil Spector’s work as a producer and arranger for early 60’s girl groups). We left in an exhilarated mood and look forward to more such concerts, as time allows.

Celtic music has been important to me for at least 25 years, certainly since The Thistle and the Shamrock began broadcasting on NPR in the early 1980’s, when I followed the work of Clannad (before they got all mushy and commercial), Capercaillie (my favorite celtic group), Altan, and others. This interest grew out of my earlier interest in folk music from my childhood, which later grew into an interesting folk-based classical music (Vaughan Williams, Percy Granger, Dvorak, etc.). So Celtic Connections and the whole importance of this kind of music here is part of the real attraction that living here has for me, and I love the fact that there are regular local folk music programs on the Radio Scotland, including an hour a week of Scottish dance music and another hour of bagpipe music… and of course the Celtic Connections festival.

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