Ímar play Glasgow Royal Concert Hall on Wed 31 Jan
Highlights include the GRIT Orchestra performing Bothy Culture, Band of Burns and Lau's late night anniversary party
This year marks the 25th anniversary of Celtic Connections, a festival that aims to celebrate the diversity of Celtic music and its connections to cultures around the world. Having expanded significantly beyond its folk/trad focus, the festival now incorporates musicians from varying genres and countries as far afield as Mali and Cuba. But trad music still lies at the heart of the festival's programme, with legendary acts regularly returning to the Celtic Connections stage for concerts, ceilidhs, talks, workshops, and more. To give you a taste of some of the 300+ events being hosted as part of this year's festival, we've rounded up our top picks in the trad/fusion genre.
Chris Stout & Catriona McKay with King Creosote, Scottish Ensemble and special guests
Longtime collaborators Chris Stout and Catriona McKay released their latest duo album Bare Knuckle back in November, having worked on a range of projects together over the years. This special gig sees the fiddler and harpist reunite with contemporary string orchestra Scottish Ensemble and Fife indie-folk musician King Creosote, along with São Paulo vocalist and body-percussionist Marcelo Preto, for an evening of varying line-ups and full-ensemble arrangements, with a focus on material from the new album. Chris Stout & Catriona McKay, Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, Fri 19 Jan, £21-24
String Sisters with 'Scotland's Wild Heart'
Folk supergroup String Sisters formed back in 1998 at Celtic Connections and have since performed around the world, releasing their Grammy long-listed debut album in 2007. Featuring six of the world's top folk fiddlers, including Shetlander Catriona Macdonald, who started the project, Norway's Annbjørg Lien, Irish-Americans Liz Carroll and Liz Knowles, Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh of Altan and Sweden's Emma Härdelin, the group return to Celtic Connections to launch their much-anticipated second album. In addition, audiences will get to enjoy music and footage from the 2016 BBC series Scotland's Wild Heart in a live immersive experience which features Michael McGoldrick, Patsy Reid, Aidan O'Rourke, Catriona McKay, Sorren MacLean, James Mackintosh, Greg Lawson and a double string quartet. String Sisters, Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, Sat 20 Jan, £20-23
Band of Burns
Celebrate Burns Night the right way and join in with this evening of music that commemorates the life, work and legacy of Scotland's national poet. Band of Burns is a collaboration between 12 musicians that are well known in folk circuits around the UK and Europe, who have played in groups such as The Langan Band, Honeyfeet, The Odd Beats and 58 Degrees North. As well as performing original compositions and instrumental sets, you can expect to hear stunning new versions of classic Burns pieces like 'Ae Fond Kiss' and 'A Red, Red Rose'. Band of Burns, Old Fruitmarket, Thu 25 Jan, £16
Peatbog Faeries with special guest Vieux Farka Touré
Skye's Peatbog Faeries celebrated their 25th anniversary in 2016, having taken their eclectic brand of Celtic dance music all over the world since their formation. Their 1996 debut album Mellowosity saw the band receive wide acclaim for their fusion of trad arrangements and electronica, jazz and rock. Since then, they've released six more studio albums and were twice named Live Act of the Year at the Scots Trad Music Awards. The Faeries return to the Celtic Connections stage for another rousing live show, with Malian singer and guitarist Vieux Farka Touré in tow. Peatbog Faeries, Old Fruitmarket, Glasgow, Fri 26 Jan, £18
Bothy Culture & Beyond
The late Martyn Bennett's presence is felt in the releases of many up-and-coming trad acts, who continue to be inspired by the innovations of the musician's influential fusion of traditional Celtic and modern music like techno. Bennet's groundbreaking fifth album Grit was recreated with an orchestral score by violinist Greg Lawson, who conducted the GRIT Orchestra at Celtic Connections in 2015. Lawson returns with around 80 folk, jazz and classical musicians to present a live version of Bennett's second album Bothy Culture, which will include an aerial dance spectacle from Scotland's leading aerial dance company, All or Nothing. The show also includes an appearance from stunt cyclist Danny MacAskill, whose 2014 film The Ridge was soundtracked by Bennett's 'Blackbird'. Skye four-piece Niteworks will open the concert. Bothy Culture & Beyond, SSE Hydro, Sat 27 Jan, £39.75
Ímar and Kaia Kater
Glasgow-based five piece Ímar have quickly become one of Scotland's most exciting instrumental groups, having launched their debut album Afterlight at last year's Celtic Connections to rave reviews. Made up of current and former members of Mànran, RURA, Talisk, Barrule, Cara, Mabon and The Lowground, the quintet can boast a number of awards between them, including the BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Award and many All-Britain/All-Ireland titles. Joining them at their upcoming Celtic Connections gig is Grenadan-Canadian artist Kaia Kater who is known for her use of the banjo and her interesting approach to Appalachian music. Ímar and Kaia Kater, Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, Wed 31 Jan, £14
Lau-Land: Lau 10th Birthday Party
Singer/guitarist Kris Drever, accordionist Martin Green and fiddler Aidan O'Rourke have been described as a British folk super-trio thanks to the many accolades they have picked up since forming in 2007, including Best Group at the BBC Folk Awards 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2013. To date, the band have released four studio albums, a live album and most recently, Decade, 2017's anniversary compilation made up of tracks picked by fans. To bring their 10th anniversary celebrations to a close, Lau are hosting a show where the trio will perform solo and collaborative sets, inviting Sam Amidon, BBC Young Folk Award winner Brighde Chaimeul, Jaimini Jethwa and Pictish Trail along for the party. Lau-Land: Lau 10th Birthday Party, CCA, Glasgow, Sat 3 Feb, £14
Celtic Connections Closing Party – Manran & Special Guests and The Young Folk
What better way to end your Celtic Connections journey than with a huge party courtesy of two top Scottish/Irish trad outfits? Mànran released their highly-anticipated third album An Dà Là – The Two Days at a sold-out show at Barrowland Ballroom, as part of Celtic Connections 2017 and they now return to close the festival, alongside some surprise special guests and Irish quartet The Young Folk. Both bands promise an uplifting and epic finale to the 2018 festival, with their vibrant instrumentals and mix of traditional and modern music. Celtic Connections Closing Party, O2 ABC, Glasgow, Sun 4 Feb, £18
Celtic Connection, Various venues, Glasgow, Thu 18 Jan-Sun 4 Feb
Glasgow’s annual folk, roots, indie, world and traditional music festival celebrating the links between Celtic music and cultures across the globe. An international cast of over 2000 artists descend upon Glasgow, to create over 300 events. These include ceilidhs, workshops, talks, dancing, art exhibitions and free events.