Celtic Connections 2008 – part 1

I will get back to the honeymoon blog entry, but I wanted to blog about the Celtic Connections concerts we have been to so far this week. Not that I want to make you jealous or anything 🙂

First up, on Wednesday we were at the ABC, which is a former cinema but is now a concert venue. The event was called Balkan Night, and featured two Balkan bands, plus support. The support band was a Scottish group called the Stobo Village Band, and here is the only decent picture I took that evening, which is of them (they played traditional Scottish music and were very good):

Celtic Connections - Stobo Village Band

The two headline bands were firstly Balkanopolis, a band from Serbia that did both traditional and jazz music. We both thought that the jazz stuff was a bit inaccessible, but the traditional stuff, particularly when they included singing, was fantastic. The lead guy played loads of instruments (various whistles, flute, clarinet, sax, mandolin etc) but most notably played some bagpipes which looked like they had been made out of a potato sack with knots at the end and which he had to blow into to inflate before he could play them. Because of the shape and colour of the bag, I thought that it looked like a plucked turkey when it was inflated, and when he held it I had to laugh because it reminded me of how Rod Hull held Emu. The second band was from Croatia and were called Kries – I’m not sure how to describe their music, but the Celtic Connections blurb referred to their singer as “shamanic” and I can see where they got that from. We liked this band a lot. Here are pictures of both of them – Balkanopolis on the left and Kries on the right (they’re not great pictures though):

Celtic Connections - BalkanopolisCeltic Connections - Kries

On Thursday we went to the Old Fruitmarket (I think my favourite venue for seeing music in Glasgow) for my personal must-not-miss-at-any-cost concert. The support band were, once again, excellent – an Irish trad singer called Nuala Kennedy and her band, who certainly warmed us up (I did take a couple of pictures of them, but the photos weren’t very good), just in time for a band that I first saw last year when I was in Sibiu, Fanfara Ciocarlia who are a gypsy band from Romania. I remember having a blast last year, and this year they were just as good. We were right near the front, having pushed forward after the support act had finished, so I got some better pictures this time, as you can see:

Celtic Connections 2008 - Fanfara Ciocarlia

Then yesterday we were out again, this time to a venue called the Classic Grand which I’d not been to before (on the way out I overheard someone saying that in his childhood it had been a cartoon cinema, and then a porn cinema, before becoming a concert venue and club). The support act were a Swedish group called Den Fule, who were OK, but I felt didn’t really know what they wanted to be – trad, jazz or raaaaarck. When they dabbled in trad stuff I liked it, but they rarcked out a bit much for my taste (although, I have to say that this was the first ever time that I have seen rocking out on the bass clarinet, which I found quite amusing). The band that we’d come to see though was one that I saw last year when they were a support act and who I’d liked much more than the headline act. Last night, just like last year, Moishe’s Bagel were brilliant – well worth seeing if you want a good night:

Celtic Connections 2008 - Moishe's Bagel

They were just as good in somewhere like the Classic Grand, which is quite a small intimate space, as they were at the Fruitmarket last year.

Earlier today we went to one of the Come&Try workshops which get put on every year. In fact we had tickets to do this workshop last year but then were both ill so had to miss it. It was Come&Try Waulking, which is an amazing fusion of Gaelic song and physical work traditionally used in the Hebrides during the manufacture of Harris Tweed. Basically a whole crowd of people around the table sing very rhythmically whilst pummelling a line of Tweed in and along the table (the pushing it in and out reminded me of the hokey-cokey!) in order to shrink the cloth, waterproof it and get the dye to set (in the olden days this was done by soaking it in stale urine, nowadays they use chemicals at this point, we just poured water on it!). We learnt the songs first – the two people facilitating the workshop sang the whole thing, and we sang what were known as “vocables” (I presume that’s how it’s spelt) which were kind of the Gaelic equivalent of “fal-de-dee” which didn’t have meaning within the song but were used to emphasise and keep the rhythm etc. I actually knew a couple of the songs already as they had been recorded by Capercaillie, one of my favourite groups, but it was really good going through them and learning a bit about the Gaelic pronunciation. Gaelic’s a beautiful language, we overheard it spoken in Stornoway while we were on honeymoon and it has the most wonderful sound to it, and I also think it looks beautiful written down – maybe one day I’ll get round to learning it. After learning some songs we put them with the tweed, and I must say it was a fascinating couple of hours! Here are a few pictures from the workshop:

Come and try - waulkingCome and try - waulking
Come and try - waulkingCome and try - waulking

You might be able to see from the final photograph that we also had the end of the workshop filmed by Gaelic children’s TV – the girl on the bottom right, in the grey top, is their presenter. So maybe that’s another few seconds out of our 15 minutes of fame!

Once the workshop was over we browsed round the stalls which were in the foyer of the Concert Hall, and I’m afraid I indulged in something I’ve wanted to buy for years and years and never got round to – a whistle (plus a teach-yourself book). I could have bought both the big and small whistles, but figured that as well as not really being able to afford the big one, with the lack of time available to me at the moment it would probably be enough to get my head round the small one. If all goes well, maybe I’ll buy the big one next year. It will be nice to try something musical again, having not played anything for so long.

We’re off to another concert this evening, and next Saturday evening, and I’m going to one mid-week with some colleagues from work. I’ll report back on those next week.

2 thoughts on “Celtic Connections 2008 – part 1

  1. Part 1?!?! My goodness: you certainly don’t lay-a-bout do you?

    Sounds — and looks — wonderful. What a great festival.

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