Sunday, February 07, 2010

Celtic Connections 2010 and Beyond

Entry for 6 February 2010:

Today we have finally reached 9 hours of daylight, the same amount that Toledo gets at the winter solstice. I'm still grateful for it!

As always, Celtic Connections helped us through the worst of the January Dark Time. We went to the finale concert last Sunday, a couple of hours after returning to Glasgow from the Netherlands. This was the yearly Transatlantic Concert, with a load of exceptional Scottish and North American musicians jamming for 2+ hours. Tickets sell out fast for this concert, so Diane and I couldn’t get seats together; however, we managed to end up in the same section of the concert hall. The concert was fun and engaging, and the tribute to Kate McGarrigle, who died a couple of weeks earlier, moved both of us to tears. Since then, I’ve been on a McGarrigle binge, revisiting their old albums and remembering just how good they were.

Actually, I found Darol Anger and the Republic of Strings, the week before, to be a more satisfying experience, musically: The musicianship was just as superb, but it hung together better, as a folk/bluegrass/jazz/classical string quartet but with guitar instead of second violin. Darol Anger, with his exceptional fiddle playing and quirky sense of humor, really impressed me, but the rest of his group were all uniformly excellent. I hope that this configuration of the group releases an album soon!

However, our favorite concert was at the Universal Folk Club on Sauchiehall Lane. Every year Universal puts on a series of concerts during Celtic Connections, featuring traditional songs of Scotland. They get three different solo singers to take turns presenting songs on a theme or from a particular area of Scotland. The concert we saw was “Songs of Marriage, Birth & Death”. The musicians aren’t usually professionals and are not always particularly polished, but for a down-home, authentic, Scottish folk experience, it is hard to beat this series of concerts. We vowed to make sure we take in at least one of these concerts every year.

But of course there is folk music to be found during the rest of the year, so this past Thursday we returned to the Star Folk Club, in St. Andrew’s in the Square, to hear Mick West and his band launch their new CD: As I think I've said before, he has an excellent voice; his fellow musicians are highly skilled; and his research into traditional sources, including rendering old ballads back into Scots, is impeccable. With concerts like this, we can have our personal Celtic Connections experience throughout rest of the year!

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