Haste ye back to festival’s return

Niteworks entertains the Celtic Connections crowd.

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It’s been another big Celtic Connections. Elemental. Tribal. Visual and memorable, writes Campbell Cameron.

Niteworks are all of those and more. They have bridged the fusion thing. Martyn Bennett was likely the first and he inspired more to get across the great divide from Clubland to the Scottish tradition. Niteworks follow on from Peatbog Faeries, Croft No 5 and others in the Skeanach Gaelic Tradition.

A wave of love filled the hall for the band from Skye filling the famous Barrowland Ballroom in Glasgow to capacity on Saturday. More than 2,000 folk young and old have come to make Celtic Connections and the ballroom dancefloor bounces better than any village hall. This place is purpose built after all. No badminton or toddlers’ group were envisaged or catered for when the sprung floor was laid in the institution beside the equally famous Glasgow market. It is simply made for dancing. Each time the solid beat of the clubland theme broke into fiddle and bagpipe the place exploded with energy proving the need for springing. Tribal.

The ethereal voice of Sorley Maclean opens the Niteworks gig and sets the scene. The late Raasay poet was brought to life as he never knew it on the huge Niteworks amplified sound system. MacLean contends that as the Highlander was supressed and the language of the Gael has been derided and he concluded ‘our children have been bred for emigration’. But that was then, and now Gaelic is no longer a dying language as it was in Sorley’s day. It is alive and well, and indeed it is flourishing and celebrated in a sea of humanity of this ballroom – this is Comman – community. Niteworks style. Visual.

Annie Kinsella and Kieran Goss are from the west as well – but their inspiration comes from the Atlantic as it breaks on the shores of western Ireland. Goss is no stranger to the Gaeltacht having played Oban and Benderloch in recent years and he to is a friend of Celtic Connections. This year he brought a duet album to the Mitchell Theatre with his partner Annie. The songs of Oh, the starlings were recorded in New York with Kevin Killen – he of U2, David Bowie and Peter Gabriel. They perform a fine set of ballads together that enthral the busy audience and then intersperse the music with stories of the wild west coast of Ireland where the weather arrives without a hesitation from the far side of the Atlantic. Memorable.

Colin MacIntyre is of the waves and the wind too. He is a noun. An islander. His Mull Historical Society tour T-shirt proclaims as much. He is fiercely a Mulleach and a proud one at that. At one with his island home where he was bought up and city life in the madness of London. The show opens with the Glasgow Orpheus Choir singing about Mull and being an islander. It IS elemental. Ethereal. MacIntyre’s credentials are strong like his lyrics. His grandfather the Tobermory bard and banker Angus MacIntyre. His father and uncles are remembered in the show too. As is the Highlanders bible – the Oban Times, in which he proudly remembers his elders featuring in days gone by. He is happy we came.

The new album is Wakelines and features fellow Mulleachs Hannah Fisher and Sorren MacLean on fiddle and bass guitar respectively.  Former Suede and Verve guitarist Bernard butler produced the new album and he features quietly and very effectively on guitar in Glasgow too. #

The concert peaks with a simple story of a father battling to get home with a present of a Fender guitar for his boy. The guitar was held head high to save it from the waves as he waded ashore. The Fender was saved and the 14-year-old boy became a man. He became a well-respected musician and he played on stage at Glasgow’s Centre for Contempory Arts – The CCA on Thursday night.

Visual and Memorable. Elemental and tribal too.

Tribal collaboration played affair part in Chris Stout and Catriona McKay’s – Exceptional Circumstances. The current Radio 2 Folk awards best musical duo played Oban’s Rockfield community centre last summer and it was there that Exceptional Circumstances was coined.

Let’s just say that the collaboration of a Fair Isle fiddler and a Norwegian yacht skipper made for a great night in Oban and the Aqua Vitae flowed well!

The music did the same at the Kings Theatre on the final weekend of a festival that has seen musicians from all over the world and Lochaber converge on Glasgow. Chris and Catriona’s guests, two bands from Scandinavia, were augmented the Scottish Ensemble and the legend that is Seamus Begley from Ireland. The combination was exceptional and created a sound reminiscent of Elbow at their atmospheric and anthemic best. This contrasted with the sweet songs and playing of storyteller Begley from the Irish Gaeltacht coastline at Dingle. It seems that Chris and Seamus tour of the was a memorable event too according to the storyteller. Exceptional, one might say.

The final day of Celtic Connections came on Sunday last – where had it gone and gone so fast? And yet the opening concert and the TMF celebration seemed so long ago. Time and sweet surrender.

Megan Henderson brought much of Lochaber to the Royal Concert Hall for her debut on the new voices stage of a suite of music inspired by the artwork of Christine Clark, a fellow Fort Williamite. Megan’s creativity and the quintet playing was sublime, and the Imagined Landscapes suite will deserve wider appreciation. The Empty Chair movement was a lament of epic effect and had many a tear in many an eye of the standing room only capacity audience.

Traditionally Transatlantic sessions concludes my festival – but the draw of Aidan Moffatt and RM Hubbert was too much. Having discovered Aidan long after his Arab Strap days and loved his work with Oban Film maker Paul Fagan on Where you’re are meant to be, a new collaboration with expert guitarist Hubert, who has featured on Oban FM too, piqued interest.

The album title Here lies the body also needed investigation so off we went to the Old Fruitmarket. A real night of creative tunesmithing, mirth and music delighted the cabaret style full house. Hubbert and Moffatt sparked off each other both musically and verbally sharing their life and times together. The new album is a body of work to be proud of and here it lies, we presume. With a well-deserved encore under their belt including a special cover of “Only you” they left for home and so did we.

And so, it drew to a close. 2000 artists from 25 countries took part in 300 events on 35 stages across Glasgow and with over 130,000 people attending they made this the most widespread Celtic Connections since the festival began in 1994. Festival Creative Producer, Donald Shaw from Taynuilt sums it up beautifully when he told the Oban Times “We sought to make this year’s festival our most innovative yet and thanks to the musicians who joined us we achieved this. Time now to start thinking of how we can better this next year when our incredible festival will return.”

Haste ye back!