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The Carrying Stream

​Performers and audience alike were in suitably vocal form late last night, firstly raving about the gloriously diverse panoply of song presented by The Carrying Stream, which triumphed equally as a many-splendoured opening to Celtic Connections 2016, and as the inaugural celebration of the TMSA’s 50th year. It was, too – by unanimous acclaim – a tremendous achievement on the part of its young musical director, Siobhan Miller, abundantly fulfilling her aim of balancing showpiece grandeur with ceilidh-style warmth, while highlighting the vast spectrum of music and lore encompassed by traditional song.
 
Shortly before the show – and after three very intensive days’ rehearsals - Miller was taking a moment to herself backstage, meanwhile changing into her stage frock. No sooner had she picked up the requisite tights and bra, than Liz Clarke appeared at her dressing room door, insisting that Miller had to go back out front, as some people wanted to see her. Miller, understandably (and still clutching her underwear), attempted to plead that surely it could wait ten minutes, but was rapidly reminded that resistance is futile in the face of oor Liz’s determination. So she allowed herself to be led back through to front of house – to be greeted by her sister, who lives in France with her three young children, and had flown in especially for the show as a surprise.
 
Needless to say, the singers were in charge when it came to making music after hours, back at the Holiday Inn, with Doris Rougvie’s House of Song enjoying surely its best opening night ever. Having done with their Day 1 meeting and greeting, a decidedly well-lubricated group of younger vocalists eventually headed through there to join in, only to find that things were finally winding down, and thus to reappear five minutes later. The relish with which one of them declared, “We killed the House of Song!” would have been distinctly unwise at an earlier stage of the evening, but the crowd was thinning out by now, so he just about got away with it.
 
The action then moved through to the main bar, with Sheena Wellington, Fiona Hunter and Maeve Mackinnon among a large circle of voices, trading verses and leading choruses. Wellington was repeatedly heard to claim, “I really should be getting to my bed” – only to repeatedly follow it with “but”, a demurral reinforced at one point by Miller magically appearing before her, relieving her of an empty glass, and replacing it with a full one of red wine, all without a word needing said. This or a subsequent refill may explain why Wellington was later overheard saying, “I told my husband I’d be home at midday – but I never said which day.”
 
In the other half of the bar, meanwhile, Kris Drever was spotted playing Scandi-style fiddle among a tableful of instrumentalists, but we never got near enough to that end to suss out what was going on there.
 
And lastly on the subject of last night (or should that be this morning..?), a big shout out to the inadvertently kindly soul who left a half-full tin of very posh Belgian chocolate biscuits on the floor of the Holiday Inn bar. Discovered soon after 4am, they may very well have saved the lives of several reluctantly departing musicians, in whom the combination of low blood sugar, alcohol and imminent icy fresh air were working their predictable effects. After a brief group impersonation of ravening wolves, the biscuits were pretty much tanned, I’m afraid – but they did make a highly valuable contribution to the cause.
 
Going back a couple of days, to give you a flavour of how busy things are behind the scenes, all was silent in the Celtic production office, everyone intent on screens and keyboards, churning through emails and other admin with urgent concentration - as they had been for some considerable time – when one staff member pushed her chair back and announced, “Well, I’m going to treat myself to a pee.”
 
Quite what it signifies, we’re not entirely clear yet, but seemingly another staff member has coined a new catch-all response to numerous festival-related enquiries, inviting people to “set yourself on fire” – as in “Can I do X?” “Yes, set yourself on fire”. We presume they don’t mean this literally.
 
The Concert Hall stage crew have been doing that above-and-beyond thing already, after the lift going up to the Strathclyde Suite broke down, which meant they had to carry a piano up all those stairs, for tonight’s Dàimh/Les Poules á Colin show. Hats off, guys: you’re definitely better men than us.
 
And so on to tonight, when it all kicks off at the Festival Club, down at the Art School, with the first of this year’s surprise line-ups, including a very special debut performance: we’ll see you there.