Celtic Connections 2017: review

Celtic Connections 2017: review

Emily Smith & Jamie McClennan at Strathclyde Suite, The Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, Saturday 28 January 2017. 

Fifteen years ago in 2002, almost to the day, Emily Smith was voted Young Traditional Musician of the Year. It was also the year Emily met New Zealand musician Jamie McClennan who was later to become her husband and musical partner.

Emily Smith has been no stranger to Celtic Connections since then, but rarely has she been involved in such a wondrous night of music as this one was.

Being soul mates for so long Emily and Jamie have developed a near telepathic relationship and link up so very well on stage. This was a night of beautiful harmonies between them and wonderful musicianship. Add that to the humour between them in between the songs this was always going to be a thoroughly entertaining night.

Throughout the night there was a fantastic mix of songs including self penned ones from Jamie’s time in New Zealand, some very traditional songs and songs pertaining to Dumfries and Galloway where Emily is originally from, and where they currently stay with their two children.

cc2017-emily-smith-jamie-mcclennan-280117-2Songs such as Adoon Winding Nith, The Silver Tassie, Caledonia, Firefly and A Life That’s Good were delivered superbly.

Joining this couple on stage for the last few songs was another incredibly talented musician Anna Massie. Another rare treat for the capacity audience was actually hearing Anna join in with backing vocals. Renowned for her skill in playing any stringed instrument and sitting in the background of the stage, rarely is she seen taking to the front of stage and joining in with the singing.

To date, Emily Smith and Jamie McClennan have only recorded one album as a duet, Adoon Winding Nith, however I believe there may be another one in the pipeline. After this performance I would sincerely hope so. This was a quite exquisite show.

Danny Matheson

Celtic Connections 2017: review

Celtic Connections 2017: review

Auld Hat New Heids at St Andrews In The Square, Glasgow, Sunday 29 January 2017.

Throughout the years that Celtic Connections have been running there have been many memorable concerts. This concert will go down as one of them!

It was a truly memorable night and up there with the best concerts over the years. A show designed to rekindle the songs and atmosphere of folk clubs of yesteryear with audience participation it did exactly what it said it would.

Seasoned performers and brothers Fraser and Ian Bruce, accompanied by Gregor Lowrey (accordion) and Pete Clark (fiddle) put on the show of their lives.

Starting the night with Doon In The Wee Room they immediately increased the bands vocal support by over 300 as every member of this sell out audience joined in with the singing. This continued throughout the night and is exactly what this show is all about.cc2017-heids-saints-2

Every single song was a well known one and passionately delivered by Ian and Fraser. There was hardly a dry eye in the house at their renditions of the Loch Tay Boat Song and Silver Darlings.

Another inspired part of this show was the showing of slides onto a large screen paying tribute to musicians, alive and dead, who had been major influences and inspirational to many up and coming musicians.

Also included in the slides were the choruses of many of the songs to assist the eager audience with the words and to encourage their singing. Much of Scotlands’ working past was also remembered with songs such as The Jute Mill Song, The Shoals of Herring and The Wark O’ The Weavers.

cc2017-angela-patterson-islay-heids-290117-2Of all the songs performed few had a rousing reception as great as that given to The John MacLean March.

In between the songs the wit and humour from the Bruce brothers was excellent. These guys put the fun back into music. It was hard to believe that Fraser Bruce had taken a near 30 years sabbatical from performing only returning to stage in 2014. His enthusiasm in getting this project up and running puts a lot of artists half his age to shame.

The ultimate accolade I could give them is to liken them to The Corries in their heyday. The interaction with the audience, the humour and their rendition of many of the songs reminded me so much of Ronnie Brown and Roy Williamson.

This was one of those nights you did not want to finish. People left this historic venue with huge smiles on their faces raving about how good the evening was.

At the start of the evening Fraser recited a poem listing the many folk clubs that used to be open over the length and breadth of the country. Sadly the majority of these clubs are no longer however Auld Hat and New Heids is doing everything in their power to bring back those heady days.

This show continues around the country, it would be foolhardy to miss it. For songs and laughter this is the show to go to.

Picture left:

Auld Hat, New Heids support from Angela Patterson, a singer from Islay at St Andrews in the Square on Sunday night, 29 January.

Danny Matheson

Celtic Connections review: Olivia Newton-John

Celtic Connections review: Olivia Newton-John

An unexpected Christmas present of tickets to see Olivia Newton-John perform ‘LIV ON’ stage at Celtic Connections 2017 at The Glasgow Royal Concert Hall main auditorium on Tuesday 24 January, turned into an unusual but rewarding experience.

It was in fact to promote a new collaborative project called ‘LIV ON’.  This is a CD which came to fruition the way many of the best do – via a series of conversations between friends about what matters most in life:  Love, Loss, Hope and Healing.

A survivor of her own cancer in 1992, Olivia Newton-John founded the Olivia Newton-John Cancer & Wellness Centre in Heidelberg, Victoria, Australia.

The death of her sister from brain cancer was the inspiration for the writing of many new songs together with Canandian singeron-j-2-cc2017-2 songwriter Amy Sky who lost her husband to cancer, and Nashville singer songwriter Beth Neilson Chapman, who lost her mother.

The connection between them was quite palpable onstage and all three tackled the challenges of coping with the loss of a loved one, the importance of end of life care, and the subsequent process of healing the grief.

At the Celtic Connections performance, the second concert of their tour, Olivia displayed her star charisma creating an atmosphere where the emotional and sometimes distressing issues were brought into reality by the three girls sharing their own experiences with the audience.

Accompanied only by acoustic guitar and piano, they enthralled the listening audience with songs that were both meaningful and inspiring: “Liv On”, “My Heart Goes Out to You”, “Stone in my Pocket” and “I will Take care Of You”.

Amy Sky performed a heartfelt solo of the Maya Angelou poem Phenomenal Woman that she put to music. Beth Chapman shared her wonderful song “The Kiss” which she wrote for Faith Hill and the audience loved Olivia’s rendition of “I Honestly Love You.”

The trio also invited members of the audience to share their experiences, which was quite enlightening and inspiring.

They culminated the show by welcoming Phil Cunningham to the stage to provide accompaniment to their finale “Immortality.”

I must also applaud a great first half performance by the John McCusker Band who entertained an enthusiastic crowd with their reels and airs, together with guest vocalists Heidi Talbot and Adam Holmes.

Altogether an uplifting and rewarding concert.

Norman Ross

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The Tiree Song Book

The Tiree Song Book

Revival at Celtic Connections 2017: Review

The Tiree Song Book in the Strathclyde Suite, The Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, Sunday 22 January 2017

In association with The Tiree Association, this was a night of celebration of music and musicians of Tiree.

Who could believe that from an island nine miles at its longest, and five miles at its widest could provide so much beautiful music and such musical talent. A night of passionate singing, bagpipes, accordions, whistles, fiddles etc., was a night of musical heaven.

Every tune played and every song sung had links to Tiree. Arranged by musical director Mary Ann Kennedy, this was a concert that had everything.

The scene was set when the lights went down and the skirl of the pipes started as six pipers paraded down through the audience and onto the stage.

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Picture: Sean Purser

Already on stage was one of the finest backing bands put together. Calum MacCrimmon (pipes and whistles); Ian Smith (accordi       on); Marie Fielding (fiddle); Anna Massie (guitar and mandolin); Euan Burton (bass) and Mary Ann Kennedy (piano and clarsach).

Add to that the six pipers, and on a couple of occasions three extra accordionists in guest appearances from Daniel Gillespie, Campbell Brown and Angus MacPhail.

tiree-from-the-airAlthough all songs were sung in Gaelic, which I for one and most of the audience couldn’t understand, it did not hinder our enjoyment of the concert. Each song was delivered with passion and note perfect. The singers included Linda MacLeod, James Graham, D.I. Brown, Ian Smith, Ishbel Campbell, Murdina Maclean, Bernard Smith and Iain Brown.

This was a wonderfully arranged evening. You could visualise the beauty of the island of Tiree through the music. Everyone left the concert humming away to themselves the tunes they were witness to for the previous two hours.  (Picture shows Tiree from the air).

Danny Matheson