A toe-tapping, fiddle blazing, roof raising triumph

​“A toe-tapping, fiddle blazing, roof raising triumph,” was one happy Twitter user’s verdict on last night’s inspirational opening concert, Syne of the Times, which saw a horde of budding Scottish musicians and 50 Galician counterparts, together with a stellar line-up of seniors including Julie Fowlis, Duncan Chisholm, Aidan O’Rourke, Michael McGoldrick, Lauren MacColl and Dàimh, comprehensively demonstrating that folk music’s future is splendidly secure.
Focusing squarely on the very heart of the matter, the show was a lavish literal enactment of tradition’s dictionary definition – “the transmission of customs or beliefs from generation to generation” – and etymology: the word derives from the Latin tradere, meaning to deliver or hand over. (As we were informed by last night’s compère Declan McCarthy, ‘Tradition’ is also the name of a barber’s in Coatbridge, but that’s somewhat less relevant for our purposes.)
Making an early bid for understatement of the festival, in his capacity as the concert’s musical director, Donald Shaw introduced the grand finale, a glorious extended mash-up of Scottish and Galician tunes and songs, featuring all 100-plus performers, as “slightly risky”, but he and they pulled it off in triumphantly climactic style, prompting a well-earned standing ovation.
As well as leading a squad of 40-odd Fèis students in a newly-arranged selection from his repertoire, the aforementioned McGoldrick also brought on two of his nieces, both in their late teens, whose prowess on flute and penny whistle displayed a distinct family resemblance. Following the show, before repairing to his festival home base of the Holiday Inn Theatreland, he was persuaded to join them for a celebratory tipple first, together with a large crew of fellow exhilarated youngsters.
And thus he found himself in a Sauchiehall Street cocktail bar, sampling his first candy martini (a beverage apparently involving both marshmallows and candy-floss), surrounded by star-struck fresh-faced fans, all wanting to shake his hand and tell him how much he’d inspired them. The doorman of said establishment, however, was decidedly less impressed, quizzing him on the threshold as to how he came to be there with a bunch of girls less than half his age. Upon Mike explaining that they’d all just finished playing along at the Concert all, for Celtic Connections, the bouncer stood aside with ill-concealed disdain, delivering the would-be damning sneer, “Oh, that thing’s started again, has it?”
A stowed-out bar at the Holiday Inn’s Bonne Auberge, complete with mass Galician session in the back room, confirmed that yes, that thing has indeed started again, and hits full swing with tonight’s programme of 12 main concerts, collectively featuring over 50 artists, followed by the opening night of both the Festival Club, back at the Art School, and the Late Night Sessions at Drygate.
In the matter of after-hours revelry, though, there’ll be a good few folk keeping their powder dry for now, ahead of tomorrow’s two world-première performances of Brave In Concert. Chaperoning over-excited kids on the back of excess imbibing and insufficient sleep is no-one’s idea of fun, after all – especially when you factor in costumes, too, following a call-out to dress the part if you’re going, in hopes of assembling a record crowd of Princess Meridas. Judging by the enthusiasm of responses on Facebook, it won’t be just the kids – nor indeed just the females – heeding the call, which could make the audiences a pretty entertaining spectacle in themselves, should you be around the Concert Hall at the time.