Europe’s premier winter music festival Celtic Connections opened in Glasgow, Thursday 20 January, showcasing uplifting performances from some of folk’s brightest emerging talent.
The Opening Concert ‘Neath the Gloamin’ Star was staged at Glasgow’s Royal Concert Hall in front of 200 lucky audience members. Named after a beloved old Scots love song, the show marked a poignant opening moment for the much-loved roots festival as it celebrated how precious heritage is being taken forward into a new tradition.
This year’s hybrid Celtic Connections programme spans around 60 lively in-person concerts, a number of intimate filming sessions, an exciting digital offering and a number of talks and exhibitions, with more than 500 artists involved across the festival.
Tickets for live in-person shows are already on sale now, while tickets for online festival passes go on sale at 3pm today. Digital passes will give audiences from around the world access to more than 12 hours of exclusive performances available to watch from Wednesday 26th January.
Artists involved include Dublin-based quartet The Jeremiahs, flute / whistle genius Brian Finnegan, world-folk sensations Dallahan, Nordic-inspired folk group Stundom and Gaelic singer Megan Henderson. Magnificent duo performances from Heal and Harrow (Rachel Newton and Lauren MacColl) and Ross Ainslie and Tim Edey are also on the bill.
The New Tradition: Rejuvenation show will showcase young emerging artists, led by musical director Rory Matheson and a New Voices commission from singer songwriter Jack Badcock will also be available to enjoy as part of the pass.
This weekend will also see two specially-commissioned Shetland 550 shows filmed for the online programme in front of limited-capacity audiences and sponsored by Promote Shetland. 550 years on from the islands becoming part of Scotland, Norn Voices and A Peerie Foy - part of the festival’s Whisper the Song strand for Scotland’s Year of Stories - will celebrate Shetland’s unique cultural history and identity.
Saturday night’s Shetland spectacular will open in style with a celebratory Viking torch-lit march through the streets of Glasgow. A group of more than 30 male and female Vikings, will journey to the bottom of the steps of the Royal Concert Hall to welcome audiences with flaming torches, cheers and songs celebrating Up Helly Aa. The spectacle will mark an unforgettable start to an evening involving Shetland’s foremost cultural ambassadors.
From Monday 24th January, live music in front of in-person audiences will take centre stage, breathing life and joy into venues across Glasgow - from Mackintosh Church to The Old Fruitmarket - with the usual dynamic array of traditional folk, roots, Americana, jazz, indie, soul and world music brightening up the city for two weeks.
Highlights include the renowned British Indian sitar player and composer Anoushka Shankar who will perform her father’s iconic Concerto No.3 with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra on Friday 28th January in the Royal Concert Hall. Support comes from the incredible Orchestral Qawwali Project featuring the soaring vocals of Abi Sampa, the UK’s first female qawwal, together with tabla player Amrit Singh, and singer/composer Rushil, who combine the ancient Sufi devotional tradition of qawwali with modern orchestral arrangements.
Elsewhere, the iconic Mitchell Theatre will play host to some exciting events putting Scotland’s rich oral traditions in the spotlight for the Year of Stories 2022. The Scottish World, featuring writer, performer and broadcaster Billy Kay and singers Siobhan Miller and Robyn Stapleton will look at how tales of Scotland travelled with and were reimagined by the Diaspora, while Sing Me a Story will see the storytelling tradition of the Gàidhealtachd championed.
Grammy-nominated, Brooklyn-based Pakistani composer, songwriter and vocalist Arooj Aftab - who names Barrack Obama among her legion of fans - will bring her critically-acclaimed sound to the Mackintosh Church, and sparks are set to fly when the mighty RURA play The Theatre Royal.
Maverick musical duo, Nae Plans, aka fiddler Adam Sutherland and pianist/flautist/singer Hamish Napier, will perform as part of the festival’s Tradovation strand supported by The Scottish Government Festivals Expo Fund.
With support from polish-born cellist Justyna Jablonska and South Indian violinist Jyotsna Srikanth, multi-award-winning Scottish pianist Fergus McCreadie will treat fans to his brilliantly original music, rooted in Scottish folk and international jazz. Additional New Voices commissions come from harp player and vocalist Esther Swift and fiddler Ross Couper.
Donald Shaw, Creative Producer for Celtic Connections, said: “The opening weekend of Celtic Connections is always a memorable moment for us but this year, we are particularly proud to lift the curtain on our 29th edition. The festival has never shied away from ambition and we’re very excited to still be able to present such a vibrant programme, covering live shows, filming sessions and digital content. Despite the challenging environment we’ve been operating in, we have been driven by our passion for Scottish music and culture and opportunities for unforgettable collaboration. We look forward to reconnecting with our audiences at home and around the world over the next few weeks.”
Councillor David McDonald, Chair of Glasgow Life and Depute Leader of Glasgow City Council, said: “We’ve been working hard to retain an exciting programme and live festival experience for Celtic Connections this year, which continues to meet the Scottish Government’s guidance and ensures the safety of our audiences, artists, staff and suppliers. The importance of Celtic Connections to profiling Scotland’s cultural and musical legacy to the rest of the world cannot be understated, and it’s testament to the efforts of everyone involved that this year’s programme presents a rich and diverse mix of content; from some 60 in-person concerts to an extensive digital offer, which will delight global and local audiences alike.”
Culture Minister Jenny Gilruth said: “We welcome Celtic Connections’ plan to stage live indoor events at this year’s festival following the First Minister's announcement of a relaxation in restrictions.
“Live performances are not only exciting for audiences, but they are important to maintain the festival’s visibility and support the development of our emerging artists. They are also crucial in driving our cultural recovery from the pandemic.
“We will continue to work closely with Celtic Connections to plan for the remainder of the festival, after the 24th January.”
The safety of audiences, artists and suppliers has been put at the centre of all the plans for this year’s festival, with all necessary public health measures in line with Government guidelines in place.
To see the full programme for Celtic Connections 2022 and buy tickets visit: www.celticconnections.com.