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Details of this year's 300 events of Glasgow's 27th Celtic Connections festival revealed


By Margaret Chrystall


THREE hundred events featuring musicians from all over the world will head for Glasgow’s Celtic Connections 2020 which runs next year from Thursday, January 16 to Sunday, February 2.

The 18 days of entertainment will have a mixture of concerts that include one-off musical collaborations alongside talks, workshops, film screenings, theatre productions, ceilidhs, exhibitions, free events and late-night sessions.

It will be the 27th incarnation of a festival that began in 1994, when it offered 66 events at one venue. Since then it’s grown more adventurous, experimental and diverse each year and now offers thousands of events in locations across Glasgow.

Europe’s largest winter music festival will strike a rousing note when it opens with the world premiere of a new orchestral symphony inspired by the Declaration of Arbroath.

Composed of six new pieces by leading Scottish composers, it was commissioned for Celtic Connections 2020 with backing from the Scottish Government’s Festival Expo Fund to mark next year’s 700th anniversary of the 1320 declaration of Scottish independence.

The Arbroath document famously states that “... it is in truth not for glory, nor riches, nor honours that we are fighting, but for freedom".

True to that libertarian spirit, each composer was given artistic licence to respond to the declaration in their own way.

All six pieces will be performed at the opening concert of Celtic Connections 2020 by the Grit Orchestra, a now legendary ensemble of 80 folk, jazz and classical musicians led by conductor/arranger Greg Lawson.

The Grit Orchestra was founded to continue the legacy of the late Scots-Canadian musician Martyn Bennett, who pioneered a genre-defying fusion of Scottish and international folk edged with techno dance beats.

“That cross-cultural, interdisciplinary spirit is at the heart of Celtic Connections,” says Celtic Connections creative producer, Donald Shaw.

“Celtic Connections has always valued cultural ‘connections’, as well as ‘Celtic’ influences, and at this time of UK and global turmoil, it has never been more important to create work with an outward-looking approach. This year’s line-up is rich in cross-cultural collaboration and international, as well as local, talent and the Declaration composition epitomises that.

“By enabling Grit Orchestra musicians to create these brand-new pieces, the Expo funding is allowing Celtic Connections to nurture talented composers and create original and enduring Scottish music of an international calibre rooted in our own folk tradition.”

Grit Orchestra conductor/arranger Greg Lawson said the new work would interpret the concept of freedom expressed in the declaration within a modern context.

“To be really free we need to be equal, we need to be diverse, we need to be open, we need to care.You could say we are taking the declaration and turning it into an appeal: for tolerance, diversity, openness, respect. That's what freedom actually means."

The six commissioned Grit Orchestra composers, who will each frame their own response to the notion of freedom, represent a wide range of musical genres and disciplines.

The commissioned composers are Fraser Fifield, a pioneer of the Scottish jazz-folk scene, alongside Scotland-based South-African-born cellist Rudi de Groote. Clarsach composer Catriona McKay, saxophonist Paul Towndrow and fiddlers Patsy Reid and Chris Stout complete the sextet.

This year’s programme promises traditional folk, roots, Americana, jazz, soul and world music. A Celebration Of Women In Piping will be a cross cultural first that will showcase female stars of the most Scottish of instruments. The pipers include Louise Mulcahy, Alana MacInnes, Síle Friel, Máire Ní Ghráda, Marion McCarthy, Enora Morice and Robyn Ada McKay.

For the Auld Lang Syne Burns celebration on January 23, the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra will share the main stage in the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall with Eddi Reader, Karen Matheson, Jarlath Henderson and Shona Donaldson.

From Celtic Connections home turf come major shows for Salsa Celtica, Blazin’ Fiddles, Mànran, Lau, Rura, Kinnaris, RANT, Hamish Napier, Sarah-Jane Summers and many others, who together will weave a unique tapestry of Scotland’s music.

As always, Americana will feature large, with Iris De Ment, Sturgill Simpson, Anais Mitchell, The Lone Bellow, Frazey Ford, Della Mae and The Felice Brothers all headlining.

A quarter of a century on since the original Transatlantic Sessions programme was aired, the firm festival favourite returns with an all-star line-up.

Australian-American guitar virtuoso and singer-songwriter Tommy Emmanuel, who having performed since the age of six is nearly in his 6th decade playing professionally, will take to the Transatlantic stage alongside Tennessee native and former child prodigy Sierra Hull. Also representing Stateside is singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentals Cahalen Morrison. Dervish lead vocalist Cathy Jordan will represent the Irish contingent, while Scottish singer-songwriter Rachel Sermanni will also join the line-up.

Meanwhile, the spirit of Bruce Springsteen will pervade the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall on January 26, as the ever-popular Roaming Roots Revue returns for the eighth time, this year presenting Born To Run – a celebratory 70th birthday tribute to The Boss, featuring Lisa Hanningan, Karine Polwart, Craig Finn (Hold Steady), Jonathan Wilson, Ryan Bingham, Phil Campbell and The Rails as well as house band Roddy Hart And The Lonesome Fire.

The Big Fling: Dance Band Extravaganza will feature Tom Orr's Mega Ceilidh Dance Band, Marie Fielding, Robert Black Scottish Dance Band, Gary Innes Highland Dance Band, Manus McGuire's Copperplate Sessions and Ellie McLaren & Callum Cruickshank.

Many international starts began their careers at Celtic Connections - and the festival continues to showcase up and coming and emerging artists.

Multi-award-winning Scottish folk band Breabach won the Danny Kyle Open Stage event for new talent in 2005, and this January they’ll command prime billing in the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall’s main auditorium, along with Seamus Egan Project.

Winner of an inaugural Danny Kyle Open Stage Award at Celtic Connections 1999, Scottish harpist, singer, pianist and composer Phamie Gow unveiled her New Voices commission, Lammermuir, at the following year’s festival. Nowadays a regular on Classic FM and Caffé Nero playlists, she revisits the piece 20 years on in a new, fully orchestrated version.

On Thursday, January 23, the festival will celebrate 20 years since the inaugural Young Scottish Traditional Musician Award in Glasgow Royal Concert Hall.

The now titled BBC Radio Scotland Young Traditional Musician of the Year will celebrate this special birthday with a concert showcasing a plethora of talent in the form of its 19 winners who all hold their own in today’s Scottish Traditional music scene.

The festival will then end on a youthful flourish on Sunday, February 2 with the 20th final of the BBC Radio Scotland Young Traditional Musician of The Year Award broadcast live from Glasgow City Halls.

Every Sunday afternoon of the festival the prestigious New Voices strand will showcase brand new work by up-and-coming artists Marit Falt, Padruig Morrison and Catriona Price.

Celtic Connections always has collaboration, and the 2020 event promises a link-up between Quebecois folk sensation Le Vent Du Nord and the Celtic Blues Orchestra.

Kentucky concert violinist Tessa Lark also teams up with the RSNO to present the European premiere of Sky, a Bluegrass concerto written exclusively for Lark by Michael Torke.

There will also be Scandinavian flavour to this year’s festival. Each year since 2000, Celtic Connections has partnered with a different country to create new international links and advance opportunities for their musicians.

For 2020, that international partner will be Finland, and in Glasgow this winter, both leading and emerging Finnish artists will feature in association with Music Finland.

Celtic Connections opens in January with the world premiere of a new orchestral symphony inspired by the Declaration of Arbroath with six new pieces by leading Scottish composers, performedby the Grit Orchestra. They are: Su-a Lee (cello), Paul Towndrow (saxophone), Finlay Macdonald (pipes), Patsy Reid (fiddle) and Greg Lawson (conductor).
Celtic Connections opens in January with the world premiere of a new orchestral symphony inspired by the Declaration of Arbroath with six new pieces by leading Scottish composers, performedby the Grit Orchestra. They are: Su-a Lee (cello), Paul Towndrow (saxophone), Finlay Macdonald (pipes), Patsy Reid (fiddle) and Greg Lawson (conductor).

Expanding those international connections still further, the 2020 line-up, fizzes with global stars, with headline acts including Malian singer-songwriter Fatoumata Diawara, Simon Thacker's Svara-Kanti with Afsana Khan, Portuguese Fado singer Ana Moura, British Indian musician Nitin Sawhney and Les Amazones d’Afrique (whose album République Amazone was listed as President Obama’s top album of the year in 2017).

In 2020, Scotland celebrates its coasts and waters with a year-long programme of events and activities which will shine a spotlight on those elements of our landscape.

Celtic Connections will put on a special coastal-themed event at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall on Saturday January 18, funded through EventScotland’s International Programme supporting Scotland’s Year of Coasts and Waters 2020. More information on this special event will be released in the coming weeks.

For full details of Celtic Connections 2020, go to: www.celticconnections.com



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