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Sharon Armstrong's blog

The Transatlantic Sessions - It's About the Music

Posted by Sharon Armstrong on Mon, 02/04/2013 - 18:57

So that’s it then, all over for another year. No more Celtic Connections until 2014.

The musicians must be tired by now, but they didn’t seem to be last night as Celtic Connections brought this year’s festival to an elegantly transatlantic ending at the Glasgow’s Royal Concert Hall.

Nic Jones - In Fine Nick at the City Halls, Glasgow.

Posted by Sharon Armstrong on Tue, 01/29/2013 - 20:52

The Merchant City in Glasgow is a place hoaching with bars, restaurants, and miles of glittering fairy lights. It was also memorably, for one night during Celtic Connections 2013 at the City Halls, a place to hear folk music legend Nic Jones sing as only he still can.

Kate Rusby turns 20

Posted by Sharon Armstrong on Fri, 01/25/2013 - 12:03

The Royal Concert Hall is not my favourite venue. It is, just as it says on the ticket, first and foremost a concert hall, and as such is a little too formal for my tastes, what with the strictly assigned seats, and the audience all packed in like willing sardines.

That being said it lives up to its name as a concert hall of royal proportions, which was handy as an nice roomy royal-sized stage was needed to accommodate the celebration of Yorkshire singer Kate Rusby’s 20th year in the music industry, and the many special guests who helped make her concert at Celtic Connections such a joyful affair as she celebrated the release of her 11th album called, accurately enough 20.

Alasdair Fraser, Natalie Haas and Maeve Mackinnon play heavenly music at St Andrews in the Square

Posted by Sharon Armstrong on Mon, 01/21/2013 - 19:05

St Andrews in the Square isn’t the easiest venue in the whole world to find, as I found out on Sunday, 20th 2013 when I went looking for it armed with a recalcitrant GPS, and a driver who refused to listen to directions.

When finally located, the soaring spire of the 18th Century Georgian style church through the icy wind and spitting snow was a more than welcome sight, and not just because of the promise of a nice hot bowl of Cullen Skink in the subterranean warmth of Café Source nestled underneath it.

St Andrews in the Square is the centerpiece of an elegant square tucked away off the High Street in the heart of Glasgow’s Merchant City. The former church has to be one of the most beautiful venues used at Celtic Connections.

Darrell Scott - Long Ride Home to Glasgow

Posted by Sharon Armstrong on Sat, 01/19/2013 - 19:16

In each of our lives there are landmark moments; some joyful such as births and birthdays, and others tragic, such as deaths and funerals.

American songwriters Darrell Scott and Amy Helm have something in common apart from their obvious talents; they have both recently traversed sad landmark moments in their lives – the loss of their respective fathers to illness and injury.

Celtic Connections celebrates its 20th Birthday

Posted by Sharon Armstrong on Thu, 01/17/2013 - 20:01

This year Celtic Connections turns 20 years old, and is celebrating its birthday with arms, as usual, flung wide open to a great selection of traditional music from Scotland and Ireland, and far beyond.

From relatively humble beginnings the festival has grown into one of the UK's premier winter festivals, featuring music from over 2000 of the best Scottish, Irish, American traditional and World musicians, and despite all that Scotland's winter weather can do, is attended by thousands of music lovers from all over the world. This January, despite the weather, Glasgow is the place to be for traditional music.

Tartan Steampunks, Celtic Cowboys and Green Power...the changing face of Irish Festivals

Posted by Sharon Armstrong on Fri, 03/11/2011 - 21:28

Traditional Irish music festivals in the States often play host to various groups that seem to be more attached to a certain idea of Celtic history, a chain-mail and heaving bosom kind of idea, than to the more historically correct musical and cultural aspects of traditional Celtic music. But you know, who is to say that you can't have a little fun with established traditions?

Is Bluegrass greener in Texas? .... Ask the Brock McGuire Band at the 2011 North Texas Irish Festival.

Posted by Sharon Armstrong on Fri, 03/11/2011 - 21:00

One of the best things about traditional music festivals is, in my opinion, that they blend the new with the old. Just as music of different genres doesn’t exist in a vacuum – be it country, blues, folk or metal, traditional and contemporary, or some fusion thereof - neither do the cultures in which said music is created, and enjoyed. They blend, they evolve, they develop and they usually have a good time doing so.

Lúnasa in Louisiana...

Posted by Sharon Armstrong on Thu, 05/06/2010 - 21:22

The Scène Popeyes is the bigger of the two permanent stages in the Lafayette International Festival, and it was massive: a huge, curving flag banner of a stage arching up into the flawless blue sky.

The crowd drank cold beers as they waited for the Irish to arrive. It was breezy but still hot, and when the Lúnasa lads - Kevin Crawford, Cillian Vallely, Trevor Hutchinson, Paul Meehan, and Sean Smyth - strolled onto the stage, they were all wearing sun-glasses, and big ol’ smiles.
Kevin Crawford, resplendent in khaki shorts and shades, chatted to the crowd from the stage as the band set up.

“It’s Sean’s birthday,” he said. “And he is the only single man in the band, so if anyone wants to give him a present, then applications will be taken after the gig.”

Of Musicians and Mudbugs.

Posted by Sharon Armstrong on Thu, 05/06/2010 - 21:18

Being someone who is happiest with a full stomach, the food vendors immediately caught my attention. I am a huge fan of crawfish, those tiny, tasty crustaceans that according to Cajun lore originated as lobsters up in Canadian Acadia.

In the story, these sentimental lobsters apparently missed the Cajuns so much after their forced eviction from Canada by the British Government, that they followed the dispossessed people down south to Louisiana, becoming smaller but sweeter all the time due to the hard journey. Finally the lobsters found the Cajuns again in the swamps and bayous that were now home for many of the Acadian settlers, and they were re-united. Errr…happily for the lobsters?

I don’t know how true that story is, and I don’t know if eating your friends after such a long journey is really the best way to hi, but I do know that ‘mudbugs’, as they are affectionately known, are the staple ingredient of hundreds of recipes in Louisiana, and I have never met a crawfish that I haven’t liked…at least once they are cooked.

Therefore it was no surprise that the dish that immediately caught my eye was a crawfish and spinach stew, served in a bread bowl. Edible bowls! Fantastic! And it was – spicy, rich and creamy, and packed with tender crawfish tails. With all the spinach in it, I told myself, it had to be healthy, and non-fattening, right? Oh, well…