Celtic Connections 2012 - review by Campbell Cameron

Photo: campbell cameron. ...and so to bed - the worlds greatest winter music featival is complete.

Celtic Connections is once again celebrating a bumper year as the 19th festival draws to a close tonight. The attendances have reached over 100,000 and gross ticket sales topped £1.1 million for the fifth year running. This was the sixth year that the festival has been supported by its principal sponsor Scottish Power who are the educational arm of the festivals cheerleader.

Spread over 18 days across January and February, 2100 artists from around the globe were assembled in Glasgow to make the greatest winter music festival in the world another piece of magic. The highlights of the 2012 festival included a poignant tribute to Gerry Rafferty (which will still be on the Beeb's iplayer if you are quick), a celebration of the centenary of Woody Guthrie, a spectacular collaboration between Jack Bruce and Lau, as well as performances by Bruce Hornsby, The Average White Band and Hue & Cry, James Vincent McMorrow and Treacherous Orchestra.

We were lucky enough to choose the Treacherous Orchestra last night (Saturday) and were treated to a brand of very unique grooves indeed. The band comprised five fiddlers, three flautists, who became two pipers, two guitarists, a bodhranist (is that a word?) a drummer, a double bassist, as well as banjo and accordion to complete the ensemble. The strobe lighting that opened the show was excessive and incredible to behold. A warning of the audio and light storm that was to come that was but it was fantastic. The Treacherous Orchestra has been encouraged by Celtic Connections since the bands inception 4 years ago. This year the festival was rewarded by its impetuous offspring finally producing a CD for us all to enjoy. We have been very patient. Patience has been a great virtue. Soaring tunes and belting rhythms brought to mind some great images and evoked the sounds of Pink Floyd and Fergie MacDonald at different times.

The sell-out crowd came warm and got hot waving fluorescent lights at times and up for the challenge from accordionist John Somerville to "Jump!" The band - sorry Orchestra, led the way and the ABC jumped.
Gabby and other animals got the gig started and the crowd warm for the headliners. Gabby and her welldressed friends are destined to greater things in the future with their blend of European music made their own. The new album is available at the website and at all good music shops. The new animals will roar!

Music fans have attended approximately 300 concerts, ceilidhs, talks, free events, late night sessions and workshops, which took place in 20 venues across Glasgow over 18 days in January and early February. The festival is renowned for its ambitious programme of one-off shows, world exclusive performances and unique collaborative events. The 2012 line-up explored the connections between Celtic music and cultures across the globe, bringing musicians from all over the world to Glasgow,with acts coming from as far afield as Australia, Greenland, Mexico, Mali, Pakistan, Serbia, Palestine, Senegal, Cuba, as well as most corners of Europe, the USA and Canada. On Thursday we caught up with a band from Tobermory and another one in support from Oban at the ABC02 in Sauchiehall Street.

Mull Historical Society "Colin MacIntyre and friends" and he is one great talent that deserves a much greater audience. Tom Morton on Radio Scotland and my good self on Oban Fm have been playing his new album, particularly City Lights, the new single at the drop of a fore and aft!

MacIntyre is a very clever songwriter who loves what he does and has a passion for the whole music business.At least he has now that he has extracted himself from the big music industry and is directing his own future. He played Samuel Dempster RIP as a tribute to his great Grand dad - lost in the First World War aged 18. This comes from his last self named album recorded back in Tobermory in his old classroom at An Tobar - called Island. It is the stripped down acoustic album whereas City Awakenings is the full four stars fuelled up rock record. Its a great night and the assmbled audience go home well satisfied that the man from Mull is on a roll.

Washington Irving from Oban (in the main) supported MHS and they are a band on the make too! Already often likened to Mumford and Sons, that allows the boys to get all offended and strike out for their own sound. They are original and the early audience laps up the show. Abbey Gallop is the single and the EP is available for you to inspect at the website. They are good and loud - a little too loud at times and as less is definitely more in acoustic music, albeit amplified acoustic music. Their songs deserve clarity and as they will be on the road to stardom, production values are all.

But it is all worth it though as fans have come from all over Europe the US and Canada to enjoy the fuss in the second city of Empire. Did we earn a bob or two in the process? The results of an economic impact survey carried out at the 2011 festival revealed that Celtic Connections generated a total of£7.6m of new output to the Glasgow area and £3.1m to wider Scotland in 2011 alone. So yes we definitely did!
This year in the middle of the worst economic downturn since Woody Guthrie was at his height, the festival baulks that trend with sold-out showsincluded Admiral Fallow, Treacherous Orchestra, "Bring it all home" Gerry Rafferty Remembered,Bonnie Prince Billy, The Big Dish, Jack Bruce with Lau, James Vincent McMorrow, 'Far, Far from Ypres', Song For Ireland, King Creosote & Jon Hopkins, Skipinnish, Blazin' Fiddles and the hugely popular Transatlantic Sessions. The Aly Bain and Jerry Douglas directed Transatlantic Sessions is now touring, bringing a dazzling international cast of Scottish and Irish Celticana fused with Americana's best musicians to entertain and amaze across the UK following its sell-out success at the last few festivals. The team set off for Lerwick after Thursdays show before returning for tonight's finale back at the Royal Concert hall.

The Danny Kyle Open Stage brings the cream of new musical talent together and they get a chance to perform in the Royal Concert Hall.
Some great talents have first played here in the last few years - David Ferrard, Malinky, GiveWay, Phamie Gow, the Lori Watson 3, Breabach and The Chair A diverse panel of judges - from industry stalwarts to members of the general public -then picked six winners from the eighty acts which took part this year. The 2012 winners are Barluath, Realta, Rory Butler, Marit Fait & Rona Wilkie from Oban.

Stop press (is that what you do on the internet?) Fiddle player Rona Wilkie from Oban has just been announced as the winner of the BBC Young Traditional Musician of the year. What a year lies ahead for the Newcastle University student. Check it out at Young Traditional Musician of the Year

So that's it for another year then but the final word goes to Donald Shaw, the Celtic Connections Artistic Director, who is pleased, to say the least, at bucking the economic trends.
"We're delighted that this year's Celtic Connections has been such a success - it's an honour to be able to bring some of the world's greatest folk, roots and traditional musicians to Glasgow. We encourage artists to embrace the festival spirit and try something new when they're here, and I think we've witnessed some very special performances in our 19th year. We're now very much looking forward to staging the Celtic Connections Big Top in Skye this March, when we'll be joined by amazing acts like Rosanne Cash and The Civil Wars."

So a wee jaunt to Skye in March it is then!! All right for as few bob for fuel and food Ed?

Campbell Cameron

5th February, 2012

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