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25th Anniversary well under way...

Well, that’s the 25th Celtic Connections handselled in splendid and spectacular style, with last night’s Opening Concert featuring a sumptuous cornucopia of festival friends from far and wide, winning a heartfelt standing ovation after its magnificent massed finale, and the following eloquent tribute from audience member Peter Clayton on Facebook:
 
“Some of the musicians had not met each other before today. They came from a variety of countries and cultures – English, Irish, Scottish, American, Canadian, Indian, Scandinavian, Syrian. Some of their musical styles and life experiences were vastly different. . . And (no buts) they managed to produce this joyful musical masterpiece in an afternoon and perform it tonight. This is what multiculturalism and cooperation is about. . . If this can be achieved by 45-50 people in an afternoon, what could be achieved by 193 nations in a year, decade, century? Difference promotes creativity - separation promotes stagnation!”
 
Couldn’t have put it better ourselves, Peter.
 
A different but equally evocative summation of the evening’s über-connected ambience, and its encapsulation of the festival’s beating heart over its 25 editions, came from Kris Drever, one of the show’s busiest contributors, who said afterwards - shrugging serenely - “It was just like being back in the Central Hotel, really.”
 
Even amid unprecedented demand for festival tickets, with many shows selling out fast, there was a noticeable spike in enquiries yesterday after artistic director Donald Shaw and singer Siobhan Miller’s live TV interview, previewing the delights to come. Asked which concert she was most looking forward to, Miller answered that she was especially excited about “the Joni Mitchell show” – meaning this Monday’s Hug and Pint tribute to Mitchell’s classic 1974 LP Court and Spark, reimagined by vocalist Rachel Lightbody and pianist Tom Gibbs, with members of Admiral Fallow, Pronto Mama and Fat-Suit. Miller’s choice of words, however, triggered a flurry of excitement among people half-listening, who thought Joni Mitchell was playing Celtic Connections – and presumably that the festival had just decided not to bother publicising the fact beforehand. . .
 
As in Drever’s case, the 25th Celtic is already encouraging a reminiscent mood among both festival-goers and regular performers – none being more regular than our favourite Irish-American force of nature, Joanie Madden, of Cherish the Ladies, who flew in exclusively to play last night’s show, and made the most of their one night at the back at the Holiday Inn afterwards, before flying off again this morning. As is her wont, Madden was among those closing the bar, ahead of her 6.30am pickup, safe in the knowledge that – as she fondly recalled – she and the regular festival drivers know each other well enough that the latter have been known, on more than one occasion, to come into her hotel room (after phoning and banging on the door hasn’t worked) and physically shake her awake.
 
Talking of Cherish the Ladies, there was a particularly classy touch from the backstage staff ahead of the Opening Concert, when Cherish and String Sisters found themselves sharing the Concert Hall dressing-room officially reserved for ‘Gentlemen of the Orchestra’.