Celtic Connections has always cast widely for artists, and jazz musicians have figured in the programme over the years, but few with quite as high a profile as American singer Bobby McFerrin. Actually, singer doesn’t quite seem to cover it in McFerrin’s case – while the voice is undoubtedly his instrument, what he does with it goes well beyond conventional notions of ‘singing’.
For that matter, jazz hardly covers it either. Ironically, McFerrin is probably best know for his conventional pop hit ‘Don’t Worry Be Happy’, an infectiously catchy ditty that still crops up all over the place. If it is the only thing you know by him, then his Celtic Connections appearance might be something of an eye-opener.
With a four-octave range and a musical imagination that regards boundaries as bad news, McFerrin’s extraordinary vocal creations range over a large and unpredictable terrain, taking in jazz, pop, folk and various shades of world music along the way (a lot like Celtic Connections, actually). Oh, and he conducts symphony orchestras into the bargain.
While the main public focus of his debut appearance at the festival will be his concert with some yet-to-be-divulged guests, Celtic Connections has also secured something of a coup by having the star singer agree to perform an invitation-only schools concert, easily the biggest name to have taken part in their education programme. McFerrin is a well-known advocate of music education, and was happy to take on that additional commitment.
Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow, Mon 18 Jan