2018 Opening Night

There are precious few certainties in this world, but (death/taxes aside) indubitably one of them is the fact that none of the several hundred excited people who foregathered in the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall on January 9, 1994, opening night of the very first Celtic Connections – nor indeed any of the 35,000 who attended over its inaugural fortnight – could remotely have dreamed of this year’s 25th festival.


Artistic director Donald Shaw certainly didn’t. “I thought it was a very strange thing to do, myself,” he recalled in a recent Scotsman interview, looking back to that long-ago maiden outing. “I thought it would lose a lot of money, die a death and never be heard of again.”


In similarly retrospective mood, in his latest newsletter, adoptive Glaswegian Findlay Napier – of Late Night Sessions, Hazy Recollections and solo-artist fame - distilled his own 21 years of Celtic Connections into a typically eloquent eulogism, as he looked forward to this year’s “marvellous musical circus.”


And so roll up, roll up, and welcome one and all, as Celtic Connections 25 gets under way, raising the curtain in the very same now-fabled auditorium. Tonight’s ludicrously lavish cast – including 2018’s only appearance by beloved longtime companions Cherish the Ladies; regulars since 1995 – certainly chucks all the production staff right in at the deep end, with umpteen additions to the line-up since the first mere 15 acts were announced, and doubtless myriad fresh connections being forged as artists – like kiddies in a sweetshop – work out who wants to play and sing with who. Weather travails notwithstanding (a quarter-century of January in Glasgow will breed a certain hardy resilience), rehearsals and running-orders have been coming together over recent days. It wouldn’t be folk music without a healthy dash of seat-of-the-pants spontaneity and adrenalin, though, and somebody’s surely opened a book on how long things will over-run.


A fair few especially (fool)hardy locals couldn’t even wait for tonight to get this party started. “T’was the night before Celtic,” observed Folkytown impresario Calum MacCrimmon yesterday, announcing warm-up tunes at The Three Judges, as he extends his infamous Celtic fringe empire into the West End – and also to Sundays. There was at least one other specially convened session happening simultaneously in Sloans, too. Remember now, people: it’s a marathon, not a sprint. . .


But as the festivities officially kick off, let’s share a resounding Failte! – and Slainte! here’s to Glasgow’s very own form of winter Olympics.