Some of the leading names in folk and world music will perform in Glasgow January 2008 at the 15th Celtic Connections festival. Taking place over 19 days in January and February in 14 venues across Glasgow, Celtic Connections is the UK’s premier Celtic music festival, with over 300 concerts, ceilidhs, talks, free events, late night sessions and workshops.
Celtic Connections 2008 will launch with Common Ground – a concert to celebrate the festival’s 15th birthday. Fiddler John McCusker will assume the role of Common Ground’s Musical Director, and will be joined on-stage by the likes of Kate Rusby, Karine Polwart, Kris Drever, Sharon Shannon, Luka Bloom, Damien Dempsey, Michael McGoldrick, Mike Scott, Julie Fowlis, James MacIntosh, Ewen Vernal and Chris Thile. Common Ground is a distillation of the spirit of collaboration and camaraderie that Celtic Connections is renowned for, with McCusker describing it as “a huge big glorious session”.Acts appearing elsewhere at the festival include Bert Jansch, Steve Earle, Lau, Flook, The Duhks, Paul Brady and Andy Irvine (performing their eponymous classic album), Shooglenifty, Capercaillie, Moving Hearts, Catherine Feeny, Cara Dillon, and legendary Rolling Stones bassist Bill Wyman and his band, the Rhythm Kings. Following the festival’s successful expansion into world music territory in 2007, Celtic Connections’ Artistic Director and founding member of the Celtic band Capercaillie, Donald Shaw, has further explored the links between Celtic and world music in the diverse programme for the 2008 festival through booking acts such as Trilok Gurtu and the Arke String Quartet, FFanfare Ciocarlia and La Banda Europa.
A key theme within the programming of Celtic Connections 2008 is the voice, which is inspired by the importance of speech and song in the Celtic tradition. A number of high-profile artists internationally revered for their vocal talent will perform at the festival, including singer-songwriter k. d. lang (whose performance is one of just three European dates to showcase her new album, Watershed) and African world music star Baaba Maal. A choral concert named Voices of the World will include amongst others two female choirs from Italy and Bulgaria for a celebration of song; Mondine di Novi choir (appearing with folk/fusion band Fiamma Fumana), and Bulgarian Voices Angelite.
One of the major components of the Celtic Connections festival is celebrating home-grown talent and Scottish musical traditions, and the 2008 festival will have a strong Gaelic strand. Celtic Connections 2008 will stage the world premiere of Ronald Stevenson’s epic symphonic work, Ben Dorain, performed by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra. Inspired by Duncan Ban MacIntyre’s famous 18th century Gaelic poem of the same name (which was recommended to the composer by poet Hugh MacDiarmid), Stevenson has dedicated 40 years to the composition of the piece.
Other concerts within the Gaelic strand include a Lewis and Harris Night (a tribute to the musical traditions on the islands), and also performances by Julie Fowlis, Daimh, Bodega, Na Seoid, Donnie Munro, Christine Primrose, Margaret Stewart, Griogair Lawrie, Mary Smith, Kenna Campbell, Ishbel MacAskill and a concert named Ùrachadh – a celebration of the music and song of North West Sutherland.
Celtic Connections 2008 will also feature two concerts inspired by Gary Larson’s famous The Far Side cartoon, “Welcome to Heaven, here’s your harp. Welcome to Hell, here’s your accordion”. Harp Heaven will feature, amongst others, leading harpists Corrina Hewat, Patsy Seddon, Catriona McKay and Rachel Hair, with its counterpart Accordion Hell boasting a line-up which includes Phil Cunningham, Sandy Brechin, Angus Lyon, Dermot Byrne (Altan), Andy Cutting (Kate Rusby Band) and Mick McAuley (Solas).
The indie strand of Celtic Connections 2008 will see a host of Scottish acts perform at the festival, with up-and-coming bands such as The Twilight Sad, Shutter, Bricolage and Wake the President appearing alongside Teenage Fanclub, King Creosote, Emma Pollock, Kevin McDermott and Mull Historical Society’s Colin McIntyre.
Commenting on the festival program, Celtic Connections Artistic Director Donald Shaw said: “Celtic Connections attracts high-profile acts to Glasgow every January, and we’ve got some real coups on the bill for the 2008 festival with the likes of k. d. lang, Bill Wyman and Steve Earle all set to appear.
“The festival’s ethos of creating links between musical genres has allowed us to incorporate some great world music into the 2008 programme, including performances by Baaba Maal and Trilok Gurtu and the Arke String Quartet. Another concert we’re really excited about is Voices of the World, featuring, amongst others, international choirs Bulgarian Voices Angelite and Mondine Di Novi.
“As always, there’s a wealth of home-grown talent lined up for Celtic Connections 2008 with artists such as Julie Fowlis and the Peatbog Faeries, and also the return of the BBC Radio Scotland’s Young Traditional Musician of the Year Final, as the festival continues to support new music and fresh talent.”
Celtic Connections enjoyed an extremely successful festival in 2007 with new principal sponsor ScottishPower and new Artistic Director Donald Shaw on board. With over 100,000 attendances at Celtic Connections 2007, the festival saw a 30% increase on ticket sales and twice as many sold out shows as the year before, and further strengthened its reputation as a major tourist attraction.
The economic impact of the festival’s growing success was examined this year through a market research study carried out by Glasgow Grows Audiences, following a £15,000 grant from EventScotland. In 2007 visitors to Celtic Connections generated £5.8 million of new output to the Glasgow City Council area, in comparison to the £3 million generated in 2001 (revealed by a previous study). There was a total of £6.9m of new output to Scotland. For every £1 of funding received from Glasgow City Council, Celtic Connections generates £31 for the city – this compares to £17 in 2001. The study also revealed that 96% of festival-goers visiting from outwith the Greater Glasgow area said that Celtic Connections was their sole or main reason for visiting the city.
At the core of the festival is the Celtic Connections Education Programme, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year. Since 1998 over 120,000 children from all over Scotland have benefited from the Education Programme, attending free workshops and concerts in an initiative designed to encourage them to enjoy their cultural heritage.
Celtic Connections remains committed to fostering new talent and facilitating musical creativity. The Danny Kyle Open Stage and BBC Radio Scotland’s Young Traditional Musician of the Year Final will continue to showcase fresh talent in 2008. Gavin Marwick, Catriona McKay and Patsy Reid will showcase new commissions as part of this year’s New Voices strand.
The focal point of Celtic Connections is the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, where every available space is utilized during the festival, from workshops in the foyers to performances by world-class artists in the Main Auditorium. Elsewhere in Glasgow, venues such as ABC, The Tron, Òran Mór, The Piping Centre, City Halls and festival fans’ favorite the Old Fruitmarket will all play host to Celtic Connections events, whilst the legendary Celtic Connections Festival Club makes a return to its original home, the Quality Hotel. The Tall Ship will also play host to Celtic Connections gigs for the first time in 2008.
For further information, check www.celticconnections.com.