Opening Concert Celtic Connections 2014, by Pauline Keightley

Photos and Review Pauline Keightley –

Nicola BenedettiNicola Benedetti performed at the Opening Concert Celtic Connections 2014. It was an eclectic night of exemplary world class music, showcasing several of the artists performing at this year’s festival and offering an interesting taster of the three weeks ahead.

Fiddler Duncan Chisholm and Wolfstone, who performed at the very first CC opening night, opened the concert with some well played reels and one lament – Big Archie, Irish Air and Flooded Meadow set. Then Boston based string band Joy Kills Sorrow, with strong vocals from singer Emma Beaton, played progressive bluegrass full of rocking energy and rich harmonies.

Next there was a real treat for festival goers with Scottish classical violinist and world class music star Nicola Benedetti, who has been working on Scottish material for her forthcoming album with Shetland fiddler Aly Bain and accordionist and composer Phil Cunningham. She performed 6 tunes – Hurricane, Chan & Chanaidh, Dean Brig/ Banks, Gentle Light, Coisich, Puirt.

Nicola played a song with Julie Fowlis’s and her pure vocal tones were a delight to hear. Then fiddler Aly Bain and Phil Cunningham on piano  joined her on stage. It appeared Aly had been coaching her on folk music techniques – he is trained in traditional Shetland style with its shifting rhythms and defined edge. The tune Gentle Light, written by Phil Cunningham, provided interweaving pure melodies that offered subtle flights – a joy.  After which they took the tempo up with some energetic reels – collaborations taking us out of our comfort zones and raising us up. After the set Aly, who is a quiet unassuming man, gave Benedetti a big hug and his joy at working with her was evident.

Beth Nielsen ChapmanSecond Half :  Peter Mawanga & The Awaravi Movement provided colourful Malawi culture with dance rhythms. They were followed by beautiful Gaelic singer Julie Fowlis, who sang Smeorachb and An Roghainn, Puirt. She pulled the audience in, explaining that the moving song The Choice was about the wish for second chances.

Montreal’s Yves Lambert Trio took the tempo up with rollicking Cajun style songs and their deep rich sound. Yves Lambert, accordionist and singer, has been a driving force in Québécois music for 30 years and a lead singer with the trio La Bottine Souriante along with multi-instrumentalists Olivier Rondeau and Tommy Gauthier.

The surprise of the night was American country singer songwriter Beth Neilson Chapman, who has written may hit songs for pop and country artists – she sang Pray and Nothing I Can Do About It (a hit for Willie Nelson). The concert was aptly finished by Benedetti and Phil with the fine tune Aberlady.  

I am pleased to see the festival go from strength to strength and raise its game each year with the standard, quality and range of musicianship and artistry. It is a huge boost for Glasgow to host this world class music festival that celebrates not only the folk traditions, but also contemporary and world music.

A heart warming uplifting note to start the festival on!

More Photographs from the concert:

Nicola Benedetti

Nicola Benedetti

Duncan Chisholm

Nicola Benedetti

Joy Kills Sorrow

Yves Lambert

Photos and Review Pauline Keightley –

Nelson Mandela and Seamus Heaney to be celebrated at Celtic Connections International Burns Night, Saturday 25th January
BBC Radio Scotland CCA, Celtic Connections, 21st January

This section: Celtic Connections 2014, Pauline Keightley

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Avatar of PatByrne Publisher of Pat's Guide to Glasgow West End; the community guide to the West End of Glasgow. Fiction and non-fiction writer.

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