MacPhail: blasting away the winter blues

Angus MacPhail.

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Celtic Connections is over for another year and, as it always does, it blasted away the winter blues of any musician or music lover who was able to get to Glasgow from January 16 to February 2.

With more than 2,000 musicians and hundreds of events on over its 18 days, Celtic Connections 2020 has once again delivered a spectacular start to the year.

I managed to make it along to a couple of concerts this year and both were top notch!

Aiseirigh – The Songs of Alasdair mac Mhaighstir Alasdair. Strathclyde Suite, Glasgow Royal Concert Hall.

Supported by An Lòchran and Bòrd na Gàidhlig, this collaboration of singers and musicians led by Allan MacDonald of Glenuig, celebrated the work of Alasdair MacDonald, known as Alasdair mac Mhaighstir Alasdair, one of the most prolific bards of Gaelic literature.

The night entailed a fine combination of performances of a selection of his songs, with background details on the songs and the life of the bard, narrated expertly by Allan.

The singers and musicians brought the songs to life beautifully and Allan’s commentary – and singing – reminded me why for many years I have held him high as the most all-round, powerfully gifted musician in the world of Highland Music. He has a background steeped in the music and language of his people, he has the academic ability to learn and retain a vast reservoir of knowledge in the field, he has the charisma and confidence to articulate that knowledge to an audience with accuracy and humour, and he has a prodigious gift as a musician and can therefore perform the tunes and songs to the very highest level.

Allan the Whaler, as he is known, lifted this concert well beyond any normal event of its kind.

Peat and Diesel – The Barrowland.

As I fully expected, this concert had one of the most wild and electric atmospheres I have ever experienced!

I have written in various articles previously about the meteoric rise of Peat and Diesel and this sold-out concert in one of the country’s best loved and most prestigious music venues showed clearly that they fully deserve their success and that their rise will continue on to even greater heights.

The power that Peat and Diesel create in their songs and performances and can pass on to their audiences is magical and their music is delivered with an unpretentious raw energy and talent that is a refreshing change to much of the modern output of traditional music.

Lead singer Boydie’s ‘sail’ on a rubber dinghy from the back of the room,
across the top of the audience was one of the best stage entrances I have even seen!

Fergie’s 50th album

Not Celtic Connections related, but Fergie MacDonald’s 50th album has just been released and as this is a musical column, it must be mentioned!

I will write a full article on this album and the amazing Fergie next week!