A MUSICAL celebration of the Moray Firth is among the attractions at the 2016 Celtic Connections Festival, which is now underway in Glasgow.
Among the 2000 performers from locations as far away as New Zealand, North America, the Middle East, Argentina, Brazil and Africa, are several from the Highlands, including a number singing the praises of the Moray Firth area.
The Gathering Stream, which takes its title from a book by former Inverness Courier and Caithness Courier columnist James Miller, feature musicians from both sides of the firth.
They include Black Islers Anna Massie and Angus Binnie, Mike Vass from Nairn, Shona Donaldson from Huntly and Jack Smedley from Cullen, as well as Hamish Napier from Grantown. The concert, at St Andrew’s in the Square on Saturday January 23 is supported by recent Scots Trad Award nominees Talisk, who include Inverness guitarist Craig Irving.
Napier’s brother Findlay resumes his duties as host of the festival’s late night sessions at Drygate Brewery each weekend during Celtic Connections, but like Hamish will also pop up in other events over the course of the festival, including a show at the O2 ABC on Sunday 31 alongside Bella & The Bear, Donna Maciocia and Declan Welsh.
Fellow Speyside songwriter Rachel Sermanni will join Admiral Fallow’s Louis Abbott, RM Hubbert, The Pictish Trail and Jo Mango in the Fields of Green songwriter’s circle at Platform on Thursday 21, and Sermanni will also support songwriter John Grant in the Royal Concert Hall main auditorium on Tuesday 26.
Another native of Sermanni’s home village of Carrbridge, Ewan Robertson from the band Breabach, will premiere his own New Voices commission Transitions – inspired by the Celtman extreme triathlon in Torridon – at the Strathclyde Suite on Sunday 24.
Inverness musician Bruce MacGregor will as usual present live editions of BBC Scotland music show Travelling Folk from the event, but he and Massie can also be found performing with their band Blazin’ Fiddles at the O2 ABC on Saturday 30 with support coming from another award-winning north act, Elephant Sessions. Massie will also be found performing with regular duo partner Mairearad Green from Wester Ross at the National Piping Centre on Sunday 24.
Fèis Rois, which has produced many musicians who have gone on to appear at Celtic Connections as professionals, will mark its 30th anniversary with a concert at the Mitchell Theatre on Saturday 23, which includes The Voyage of the Hector, a specially commissioned suite composed by a former Fèis student, accordionist John Somerville from Loch Ness.
Another Fèis Rois graduate, fiddler Lauren MacColl from Fortrose, will launch her latest solo album at the Glasgow Art Club on Wednesday 27. She also appears as part of fiddle quartet RANT alongside Inverness fiddle player Sarah-Jane Summers and Shetland sisters Jenna and Bethany Reid supporting Mongolian band AnDa Union at the Mackintosh Church on Friday 29, two days before AnDa Union perform at Eden Court Theatre in Inverness.
Gaelic singer Margaret Stewart, who is originally from the Isle of Lewis but is a long-term resident of Nairn, will be performing with her new trio, which also includes Ingrid Henderson and Angus Nicolson, at St Andrew’s in the Square on Wednesday 20 in a joint show with former Blazin’ Fiddles musician Iain MacFarlane.
However, one of the most poignant events on the Celtic Connections programme will be an exhibition of work by Black Isle artist Caroline Hewat, who died unexpectedly just before Christmas. Some of her last work will be on display at the Old Fruitmarket throughout the festival.
Other Scottish acts appearing at the festival this year include Peatbog Faeries, Skerryvore, Daimh and Skipinnish, while international acts are led by The Chieftains, Rickie Lee Jones, Lucinda Williams, They Might Be Giants and Baaba Maal.