Celtic Connections

Various venues, Glasgow, Wed 17 Jan-Sun 4 Feb

CELTIC AND BEYOND

Glasgow’s massive Celtic Connections festival comes in with the New Year and a new man at the helm. Musician, producer, radio presenter and now CC’s artistic director, Donald Shaw (pictured) admits, ‘It’s been a nightmare - but enlightening.’ He goes on: ‘Finding out how the festival is controlled, trying to organise the simultaneous gigs so that you don’t split the same audience. Changing venues. (One of the new ones was once Glasgow’s porn cinema!) Stuff like that. But it’s been a buzz talking to the musicians.’ He smiles, ‘Although I did get my knuckles rapped by their agents. Well you know how it is, you’re chatting away to the States and swapping stories and saying do you fancy coming over and playing this great festival, and they’re going yes great - but that’s not quite the way that it should be done!’

Shaw is, however, genuinely excited about the upcoming festival, and points up some of its innovations. ‘Obviously there are the big-scale gigs like the opening concert Hands Across the Water, which has a huge line up including Altan, Solas, Flook, Beth Nielson Chapman and more, linking Nashville with Celtic artists to help kids, the tsunami victims, in Indonesia. Then there’s John Martyn doing a live gig of his Solid Air album. There are some slightly unusual concerts with a political edge, like Richie Havens - or the Women’s Night with Odetta, or a night with Bruce Cockburn. Another new thing is a series of Tribute Concerts - for instance to Matt McGinn or Hamish Henderson. And then there’s just great musicians from the sort of left field, like Bela Fleck and the Flecktones (the Miles Davis of the banjo) and the Duhks (Canada’s bluegrass/celtic crossover).’

Not surprisingly, as keyboard player and accordionist in Capercaillie, Shaw is delighted that it’s all signed off, the programme published and tickets on sale. ‘It’s the longest time I’ve spent away from playing music,’ he marvels. ‘Three months in an office. I was starting to wonder . . . who am I?’

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