Ceilidh Culture

Various venues, Edinburgh, Sat 24 Mar-Sun 15 Apr


Edinburgh’s Ceilidh Culture, the council-led celebration that runs for three weeks around Easter, brings together the city’s traditional arts under one umbrella. Eclectic sounds range from the percussion-driven dance grooves of the Peat Bog Faeries, to the ethereal vocals of Clannad’s Moya Brennan to a contemporary take on Finnish ballads accompanied by a super-sized kantele. There are films, exhibitions, dances, ceilidhs, storytelling sessions, workshops, lectures, and conferences - even a whisky tasting. But the jewel of the oral tradition is, yes, singing; and after years of increasing volume from armies of young fiddlers, pipers and accordionists, it’s grand to see song winning back its central position again.

Steve Byrne, Arts Officer for Edinburgh Council’s Culture and Sport Unit, who coordinate the event, is better known as vocalist and bouzouki player in Scots band Malinky. ‘I deliberately use the four-strap line (Song:Music:Dance:Storytelling) on the programme,’ he says, ‘because it covers everything - so, while I’ve perhaps been slow to notice the resurgent interest in singing, it can be nothing but a good thing.’ He adds: ‘It reflects Edinburgh’s importance in the folk revival from the early 50s.’ The Filmhouse screening devoted to seminal Scots song collector Alan Lomax, and the concert celebration of Hamish Henderson’s fundamental role in that era are scheduled later in March, but the festival kicks off with Auld Reekie’s Roses at the Queen’s Hall, opening with two magnificent singers, Kenna Campbell in Gaelic, and Gordeanna McCulloch in Scots.

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