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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.

The Festival kicked off today with the Celtic Connections 20th Celebration Concert, which focused on the Scottish and traditional-based music that formed Celtic Connections’ first incarnation back in 1994.

In the years since then, the Festival has become famous for its enthusiastic embrace of World music, and this year the line-up is, as usual, beyond eclectic – featuring, amongst others, Little Feat and John Fullbright, Carlos Nunez, Darrel Scott, Amy Helm, and Sarah Jarosz, as well as the more traditional sounds of Altan, Kila, Alasdair Fraser, Natalie Haas, Maeve Mackinnon, Kate Rusby, John Doyle, Kevin Crawford, Martin Hayes, and Paul Brady.

Another welcome face at Celtic Connections this year is Nic Jones, making his triumphant comeback to the world of traditional music after almost three decades as one corner of the Nic Jones Trio, along with his son Joseph on guitar, and Belinda O' Hooley on piano.

With concerts, dancers, music workshops, and theatrical plays all vying for our attention, world famous musicians on every side, and so many amazing artists to pick between, the choice of who to actually go and see is not an easy one. If there is one single festival in the world that truly makes you wish that you had the ability to split yourself into at least four separate people with unlimited stores of energy then it has to be Celtic Connections.

However, we can only do our best, and so I will be starting my Celtic Connections festival tour with one of my own personal favorites, the wonderful Kentucky-born singer-songwriter Darrel Scott, who is performing with Amy Helm, daughter of the late, great, and dearly missed Levon Helm, at the O2 ABC, January 18.

Scott is no stranger to Celtic Connections having featured on several Transatlantic Sessions recordings during previous visits to the festival, where he combined music with hill walking in the Highlands.

“It’s a learning experience,” Scott said, describing the relationship between Celtic music and other world traditions, such as Americana.

“But what I find is that we have a common vocabulary of music, and the language of music - the tradition and the roots. I LOVE it. It’s the mixing of the chemicals, the mixing of the cultures and really finding out that it is all music, and that you are all speaking the same emotional language. One of the beauty’s of my job is the cross-pollination of the music and the cultures. It is like going back to the well -going back to where it comes from, and visiting that with other musicians. And, yes, I definitely bring it back to my own music, it just shows up. I don’t think that music or traditional music is a museum piece. It’s alive, and well and changing and transforming, and it is not meant to stand frozen like a dusty exhibit in a museum. It has to change and be affected, just as we do as people. We don’t stay the same, culturally or spiritually; we evolve and change. And since we do not stay the same, we cannot make our art stay the same.”

“And to me the catch is to keep the essence of the old tradition within what is considered the modern version of it. And that someone from the old will look at it and say, hey we are in good hands - that thread is still there, and I am proud of it, and off it goes and I wish it well.”

Further information about Celtic Connections 2013 is available at:

Celtic Connections