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I am thankful this week that, for the first time in about ten months, this column can at last resemble what it was for years before coronavirus changed everything: the Glasgow Letter.
Every year, my January and February columns are dedicated to Celtic Connections and 2021, I’m glad to say, will be no different – thanks to an exciting virtual version of the famous Glasgow event which begins this Friday January 15.
Like everything else, it won’t quite be the same experience that I enjoy most winters because the social aspect of sharing the music and the nonsense with other festival goers will, of course, be absent. The days of getting home in the wee small hours from the notorious Celtic Connections festival club – or the sessions in the bar of the Holiday Inn – feel a long way off. They will come back eventually but some days I fear, by the time they do, I’ll be too old to last the pace in the same way I did in my early 20s!
While we await the return of such events, however, this virtual festival looks like it really will be something to keep us going through the cold days and nights of January.
Across 19 days, the festival will present over 30 online performances between Friday January 15 and Tuesday February 2. World class concerts will be available to view online with some of the biggest names on the Scottish music scene and beyond appearing on screens across the world.
Celtic Connections has created unique digital content from specially commissioned projects and performances filmed across many of Glasgow’s much-loved venues. International artists have also contributed to the eclectic line-up by recording performances remotely.
The opening show, this Friday, will include 12 performances packed into 90 minutes. Over the following days and weeks, the festival will present a myriad of top class artists including: Shooglenifty, RANT, Breabach, Mànran, Blazin’ Fiddles, Karine Polwart, Eddi Reader, Karen Matheson, Kathleen MacInnes, Admiral Fallow, Kinnaris Quintet, Transatlantic Sessions, Simon Neil (Biffy Clyro), Ricky Ross and Lorraine MacIntosh (Deacon Blue). The list goes on and, if you want to find out more, you’d be best served heading to the Celtic Connections website (celticconnections.com) because I cannot possibly include all the details here.
Online music has provided a significant and vital boost to the morale of so many people over the last year or so. I’ve seen absolute proof of this in more social media comments than I can count. With no live events to attend in person, this column has often been full of stories of golfing, gardening, pizza making, and river swimming. It is therefore a relief (I’m sure to the readers as well as the writer) that I now have a music festival to write about.
I will be endeavouring to cover as much of Celtic Connections 2021 as possible. Who knows – without the presence of the venue bar, I may be able to review the gigs with greater clarity than I ever have before!