Tag Archives: Celtic Connections

Celtic Connections 2011 (gig #1)

So, it’s that time of year again when Glasgow is THE place to be. The Celtic Connections Festival is here again, and as usual we have managed to get tickets for some (hopefully) cracking concerts. First up on Wednesday we headed to the Tron Theatre to see a folkie called Alasdair Roberts. We had seen him a couple of years ago as part of a gig with several other artists as part of the Mental Health Arts Festival and liked him, so we were happy to get the chance to see him headlining. If you kind of picture a geeky, lanky, beardy, untrendy maths teacher, he kind of looks like that (but less trendy), I was really expecting he’d have a rainbow guitar strap! But he’s a great musician, we enjoyed the gig very much indeed. Here’s a promo video of him in Ireland which gives you a good idea of what he does:


As usual with Celtic Connections, the support act is nearly always fantastic, I think I’ve only ever been to one or two gigs where I thought they were OK but nothing amazing, usually you feel like you’ve got your money’s worth just with the support act, and then you have the headline act still to go! This gig was no exception, we really liked the support act and the audience really warmed to him, he had fantastic presence. He was the Cameroonian singer Muntu Valdo, who is well worth checking out:


Nothing much to report

Life is not very interesting at the moment which is why I haven’t inflicted it on you! The last few days I have been marking OU essays (OK, though it always takes longer than I think it will), remained in denial about my thesis, started dreaming about a few days away island bagging, and that’s about it really.

This coming week I shall mostly be:

* reminding myself what my thesis is about
* making a variation on this soup (I would just follow it, but I don’t really do chicken stock, and I have more than one orange I want to get rid of so there may be some variation in proportions of carrots to oranges). Even better, I shall mostly be eating it myself as HD is not a big orange fan.
* dreaming about going to lots of concerts (whilst remaining in denial about my bank balance).
* I think that’s about it.

More Celtic Connections

IMG_1010Last night we went to our final gig of this year’s Celtic Connections festival. And a very fine gig it was too – Le Vent du Nord (‘The North Wind’) whom we also saw last year (supporting La Bottine Souriante) and a Scottish band called Breabach (whose website doesn’t seem to be working at the minute sadly). They did a lot of stuff together in both halves of the show, and we liked them a lot. Definitely worth catching if you can.

As an aside, and nothing to do with anything really, Breabach’s fiddle player Patsy *really* reminded me of Maddie.

Celtic Connections 2010

I’ve managed to get to a few Celtic Connections gigs this year – and I’ve been playing with my new camera at the same time. I think I need to pluck up the courage to try the zoom lens, as all these pictures were just taken with the standard lens which has a bit of a zoom but not much.

Anyway, the concerts I/we have been to so far are The Imagined Village at the Fruitmarket, which was the first night of their tour promoting their second CD. We’ve had the first CD on pretty much constant play in the car since HD’s birthday last year (I did a random search on “folk” on Amazon when I was looking for a birthday present for my dad – when I looked at the playlist and artists involved I decided my dad would hate it but we’d love it, and I was right!). This 2nd CD is much more ‘pared down’, it doesn’t have all the guest artists the first one did, but is more of the same reworkings of old folk songs (along with the odd surprise – folky cover of Cum on Feel the Noize anyone?!). The band features (amongst others) Martin and Eliza Carthy, Chris Wood, Simon Emmerson and Johnny Kalsi, plus a guy doing live electronica and theremin, a fabulous sitar player called Sheema Mukherjee, and various others. The show was fabulous, and definitely recommended if you get the chance to catch this tour (info on their Myspace page here. The support act (Jackie Oates) was brilliant as well, and she joined the Imagined Village for a song in their set too.

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The next day we were back at the Fruitmarket for Balkanarama – a Balkan night (well obviously!) which was IMG_0925 headlined by a band called Besh o droM from Hungary whom we’d wanted to see at WOMAD last year but didn’t quite manage to. When we got there there were a couple of musicians and a dancer in the audience space, and then a group of musicians set themselves up, also in the audience space, and pretty much jammed for an hour. This sounded great, but unfortunately as they weren’t on stage, unless you were right by them it was impossible to see anything at all so it was quite hard to get into. After this there was a group of 3 girls (I think from Serbia) singing a capella (sometimes joined by an amazing beatboxer), then a drumming group accompanying a belly dancer (we weren’t so keen on this group). The penultimate band was called Black Cat whom we really liked – they were pretty loud and frenzied, but in a good way 🙂

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Finally Besh o droM came on, they were also excellent – quite jazzy as well as Balkan in style, and likewise very very loud! They were still going strong at 1am when we eventually left.

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A couple of nights ago I went up by myself (it was midweek so HD was still down south) to the Royal Concert Hall to see an evening called “Legendary Gypsy Queens and Kings”. It was the most fabulous night – there were two house bands, one from France called Kaloome who sounded like the Gypsy Kings, and a Romanian band called Mahala Rai Banda who were absolutely brilliant – very like Fanfara Ciocarlia whom I’d seen before (at Celtic Connections and when I was in Sibiu a few years back), mainly brass but with a brilliant violin player too. They did a fair bit of their own stuff, but also accompanied a couple of dancers (Aurelia Sandu and Tantzica Ionita), Romanian singer Florentina Sandu (fantastic voice, and really beautiful – I’m not jealous), Bulgarian singer Jony Iliev (who made me think of Ozzy Osbourne, but who also had the most incredible voice) and the Macedonian singer whom I saw with Fanfara Ciocarlia in Sibiu, Esma Redzepova. She was the reason I really wanted to go to this show, and certainly didn’t disappoint, but the rest of the show was also just extraordinary, I was absolutely buzzing when I came out.


We’re off to another concert this week coming – I’ll blog about that after the event.

We’re so lucky living here. This festival is absolutely brilliant.

[Click on any of the thumbnails to see a bigger pic]

I hate headaches

I had to go home after lunch today, as I was looking at the screen of my computer and seeing flashing lights and feeling sick, so thinking about my chapter (which was supposed to be in today) just wasn’t going to happen. On the bus, I sat in front of someone who was eating a burger and behind someone who smelt like they had washed with carbolic soap, and had to close my eyes, put my hand over my face and try not to heave as the smells from all sides were overwhelming (normally I’d just think “yuck, that smells” and that would be it, but when I’m in the grip of a headache, it just takes over and all I can think about is how horrible the smell is). I spent the afternoon in a dark room, dozing and dosed up with Migraleve. I felt better when I got up (at 6) but I find after a headache that it feels really weird for the rest of the day. I think they call it “migraine with aura” – it’s really hard to explain, the best I can do is to say it’s like standing on the edge of a cliff (or edge of anything, really). When I quiet myself down, I can feel myself rocking slightly, and eyelids flickering, and I could fall either way.


In other news, I have just found myself in my spam folder. It comes to something when even my own blog hates me! I’m still going to spam in quite a few blogs (Tractor Girl, check your spam folder), which is v. irritating. A girl could get paranoid.

In other other news, we went to a fantastic Celtic Connections gig last night. As with the best ones, the support acts were so good it felt like we’d got our money’s worth even before the main act came on. The main act this time was a Quebecois band called La Bottine Souriante (the support acts were another Quebecois band called Le Vent du Nord and an Irish singer called Julie Fowlis). All 3 acts were absolutely superb – pictures (which aren’t that brilliant, but not too bad) will be on my Glasgow photo blog next week. I didn’t touch a drop of alcohol so I know that the headache wasn’t hangover-related. I did try to read Foucault on the bus on the way to work this morning though, maybe that was what did it.

Blast from the (wibsite) past

This evening we went up to the Royal Concert Halls and saw a free show. Every evening of Celtic Connections they have an event called Danny Kyle’s Open Stage, where 4 or 5 pre-selected acts perform a 20 minute set in the hope of being selected for a support slot in the following year’s festival. This evening one of the acts was Rachel Taylor-Beales, and playing keyboards, flute and backing vocals for her was our very own Chalky (I’m not sure if she has a wiblog any more though now we’ve migrated to wordpress). I have to say, of the 3 acts we saw (we didn’t stay for the last 2) they were by far and away the best. Not that I’m biased or anything 🙂

Spam and Shooglenifty

So, I have just rescued Pants from my spam folders, and taken a look at Ken’s, Truthsign’s and Yay’s spam folders. I think I have found my vocation at last – Wibsite Spam Inspector. I think I need a uniform.

Last night we went to see Shooglenifty at the Old Fruit Market. It was fantastic! They did an hour long set, then went off for a few minutes, then came back with a group called Ensemble Kaboul from Afghanistan and played another half hour or so with them (including Venus in Tweeds). And then they did a long encore. It was brilliant. I first saw them in 1996 (or maybe 97) at WOMAD, and then a year later at the Swan in Stockwell, and then a couple of years ago here at Celtic Connections. They’re still on form, that’s for sure. And loud. Very loud.

This photo is a bit arty (where ‘arty’ is a synonym of ‘rubbish’). But I like it! (in my defence, the exposure was several seconds, I was quite a long way away and was holding the camera up in the air, and had had a couple of pints of beer by this point)


A good day (with reservations)

Good things about today:

* At supervision my supervisor referred to the article I wrote as (and I quote) “fantastic”, the best thing I’ve written so far, and if I write all my thesis chapters like that then I’m sorted. So all the agony of last week was worth it, and I’m really chuffed that I am writing to the required standard (when you’re so close to what you’re writing it’s sometimes difficult to tell).

* At the same session I plucked up the courage to ask if I could change the role play tutorial which is coming up in a few weeks. My supervisor (who set the thing in the first place) has previously appeared quite set on it and resistant to change, so I was a bit nervous, but as soon as I asked she said “yeah, do what you like with it!” I know I normally feel sick on a Monday night before Tuesday tutorials, but I was already starting to dread this one, so this is really great news. Hooray!

* I have bought tickets for a Celtic Connections concert on Friday (yes kingsfold, *that* one – see you there). As we aren’t as flush with money as the last couple of years this is the only (paying) concert we’re going to this year, but it looks like being a great one. Hooray!

The reservations about today:

* I haven’t lost any weight this last week. Must try harder.

* The main criticisms of my article were the length of some of my sentences and extreme use of brackets and sub-clauses. Me, ramble on and on? I’m sure you’ll all find that very difficult to believe.

* The Celtic Connections box office was shut when I went this morning (didn’t open till 10, which was when supervision was) so I had to go back in the afternoon. Glasgow traffic between 5 and 6 is terrible!

* I have about a million zits. Normally this coincides with weight loss. This time I have all the pain and none of the reward. Grrrr.

Celtic Connections 2008 – part 2

Not as long an entry as the last one – only two more bands to tell you about this time 🙂

After doing the Come & Try Waulking last Saturday lunchtime, we were back at the Royal Concert Hall that same evening to watch something which had sounded intriguing from the brochure – a pan-European orchestra called La Banda Europa. They are 35 virtuoso musicians from all over Europe, who largely play the traditional instruments of their respective countries. The concert was in the form firstly of small groups of the musicians playing together the traditional music of one or other of their countries, and then for the second half of the concert all 35 played together some music specially composed by Jim Sutherland, the Scottish musician and composer who formed the orchestra. There were some really amazing instruments there – most obviously notable was the carnyx, which is the only one of its kind in the world, copied from one found in a Bronze Age burial site. It was about 6 foot long and had a horse’s head at the end, and was like an Alpine horn except that it was held up rather than balanced on the floor. But also bagpipes from 5 countries, hurdy-gurdies, Swedish nyckelhaarpas, Armenian duduks (sort of like oboes) and all sorts of other things. I think I preferred the first half, when they were playing the more traditional music – although the sound of all of them together was amazing, I wasn’t so mad on the music, and I think I might have liked to have heard them still playing the traditional stuff all together too.

And then yesterday, we went to our final concert, and it was brilliant. Capercaillie are one of Scotland’s most well-known traditional groups, and have been around for ages (I first knew about them in the early 90s, and even have a copy of Coisich a Ruin on 12″ vinyl somewhere) (I know, that really ages me – and them!). All of the band members are well-known musicians in their own right – as well as vocalist Karen Matheson who has done lots of solo stuff, the flautist is Michael McGoldrick who has done his own stuff (and who I saw at an amazing Celtic Connections gig 2 years ago when I was first in Glasgow), and the accordion and keyboard player Donald Shaw is the Creative Director of the Celtic Connections Festival. So they have always done solo stuff as well as the band, but I had heard a rumour towards the end of last year that the album that is due out soon would be their last (no idea how reliable the rumour was) so I wanted to make sure I finally got to see them before it was too late. It was a fantastic gig – the first half was more recent stuff that I didn’t know, but much of the second half was stuff I knew from the earlier CDs I have. They do mainly traditional songs (mostly in Gaelic, which I quite fancy having a go at trying to learn sometime – goodness only knows when) and traditional dances, but with a modern twist which I think enhances rather than detracts from them. At one point they invited people in the audience with video capabilities to video them and send it in to their website, I did but sadly the memory card in my camera ran out of space so it stops a bit abruptly. I’ll try and put it up here later on, but in the meantime here’s a photo:

Celtic Connections 2008 - Capercaillie

I really really really hope the rumours about this being the end of the band aren’t true. With any luck they’ll be like Status Quo and keep on reforming every 5 minutes and doing another tour. Well, except that they’ll be better than Status Quo, obviously!

In other news, I had good intentions of doing some work today, but I felt so rough in church (man-flu) that I crashed out after lunch and slept for 4 HOURS!!! That’ll be me wide awake all night then (sigh). Oh well. I do feel better for it.

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.