Celtic Connections to celebrate oral traditions for Scotland’s Year of Stories

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Celtic Connections is to put Scotland’s rich oral traditions in the spotlight this January as part of a specially commissioned strand of events for the Year of Stories 2022.

Whisper the Song will see a week of five shows featuring storytellers, poets, writers and 20 high-profile musicians, exploring the oral tradition of passing stories down through generations, alongside the creation of exciting new tales.

Inspired by Scotland’s people, places, tales, legends and outstanding natural beauty, the activity is supported by EventScotland as part of the Year of Stories 2022 and will be a whole new chapter in the programme for Europe’s premiere winter festival.

Whisper the Song will allow audiences to immerse themselves in the tradition of storytelling within music and explore the places, people and cultures connected to these stories.

The shows join an already jam-packed and dynamic line up of performances at Celtic Connections 2022 covering traditional folk, roots, Americana, jazz, soul, indie and world music, taking place in Glasgow from Thursday January 20 to Sunday February 6 2022.

Whisper the Song includes a show called The Scottish World, which will look at how tales of Scotland travelled with and were reimagined by the Diaspora and the influence they had around the world. Taking to the stage of the Mitchell Theatre on Saturday February 5, the performance will explore Scotland’s contribution to the world through its greatest export – its people.

Another show, Breathe on January 22, will highlight global climate change concerns through a collection of stories from Scotland’s natural world. Following the success of Strathspey Stories at the Scottish International Storytelling Centre in 2020, this family-friendly show sees Strathspey composer and multi-instrumentalist Hamish Napier and Scottish storyteller David Francis team up to explore the differing and developing attitudes to land management over the centuries.

Homage to Home on January 22 will explore how traditional folk tales, stories and songs are the last link to the homeland of some new Scots. Scotland-based Jamaican singer-songwriter iBrina will be joined by a world-class ensemble of musical friends, including Gambian kora player Jally Kebba Susso, Ghanaian-born British hybrid guitarist Nathan Somevi and contemporary Scottish Nigerian singer-songwriter Bumi Thomas, for a night of dynamism and transcultural expression as she explores her tale of making Scotland her home.

In Sing Me a Story, Cuir Seinn ri Seanchas will see the storytelling tradition of the Gàidhealtachd championed. Stories, myths and tales of the Gaels passed through generations that capture their sense of the world and Scotland’s place in it, will be celebrated in the iconic Mitchell Theatre on Friday February 4. Allan Henderson, Margaret Stewart, Ewen Henderson, Sileas Sinclair, Ewan Robertson and Duncan Chisholm will revisit both humorous and tragic tales of hidden treasure, fairies, bòcain and more.

Shetland 550: A Peerie Foy was the first show to be announced as part of the Year of Stories 2022 and will see acclaimed storytellers and musicians from the Shetland islands gather at The Old Fruitmarket on Sunday January 23 for a contemporary concert version of a traditional house ceilidh – or “peerie foy”, in Shetland dialect – incorporating music, stories and poetry.

Participating artists include Shetland poets Christie Williamson and Christine de Luca, top island fiddlers Maurice Henderson, Margaret Robertson, Catriona Macdonald and Chris Stout, young jazz saxophonist Norman Willmore and audacious harp innovator Catriona McKay, of Fiddlers’ Bid fame.

Donald Shaw, creative producer of Celtic Connections, said: ‘Stories have long been at the heart of traditional music – the word Celt comes from the Germanic word Keltoi meaning ‘secret’, referencing how the Celts never wrote their stories down.

‘It seems only fitting that we kick off Scotland’s Year of Stories with a special series of Celtic Connections events celebrating these rich oral traditions, exploring the many tales and legends that formed Scotland’s diverse culture, languages and ways of life.

‘We invite audiences to share in this oral tradition and enjoy stories, old and new, with us.’