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A veritable chain of serendipity

We heard a lovely story last night from the previous day, about a Chinese lady unexpectedly finding herself at Thursday’s opening concert – her first ever taste of Celtic Connections – thanks to a veritable chain of serendipity, including the weather, last-minute ticket availability, and a certain well-kent flautist, whistler and piper. In her own words, via social  media, the tale went as follows:
 
“I am a student from Manchester and I began to start a trip in Scotland from yesterday. At first, I was a little disappointed with the bad weather. However, I met a flute musician Michael McGoldrick on the train and he introduced me about this concert. My friend and I came to appreciate it today. It was an amazing concert I have never seen before and we were enjoying! I am Luck dog, if it did not snow, I cannot meet Michael, because he would choose to drive to Glasgow and I must miss such a wonderful concert, thank him, thank you all!”
 
In other words, McGoldrick was only on the train due to the weather – and thus Celtic music has a new convert.
 
More sleet last night saw us sharing a brolly, while out for a smoke, with another Celtic Connections newbie, whose maiden concert earlier on had been the marvellously resplendent Chris Stout and Catriona McKay extravaganza in the Main Auditorium, with the Scottish Ensemble, King Creosote and others: a show that could surely only have happened at this particular festival. While disclaiming any knowledge of either folk or classical music, our neophyte audience member raved in turn about the lead duo, the Ensemble strings and the special guests, also including Irish button accordion legend Máirtín O'Connor and Brazilian vocal percussionist Marcelo Preto, before she concluded: “I just loved every single second of it.” Haste ye both back, ladies.
 
If you were ever inclined to doubt that they breed ’em tough in the Northern Isles, Orkney duo Saltfishforty’s schedule over the festival’s first 48 hours served as resoundingly irrefutable proof. A (delayed) early-morning flight from Kirkwall on Thursday saw them sprinting into the Concert Hall to round off this year’s actual opening gig, the 10am Schools Concert – with the hold-up forcing a reversal of the running order, meaning that their acoustic two-piece had to follow the monstrously bangin’ young quintet Elephant Sessions: a challenge the Orcadians naturally took in stride, before joining rehearsals for the official opening show. Then their own headline gig was last night, at the Mitchell Theatre, where they were utterly superb - musically and craic-wise – before beetling off to play 2018’s first Late Night Sessions at Drygate, after which they were last on at the Festival, taking the stage at 2.45am and the place totally by storm, complete with mobbed/jumping dancefloor, and a climactic set of tunes segueing into Motörhead’s ‘Ace of Spades’. It was ace indeed – and a hugely impressive stint all round.
 
If you happen to see or have seen artistic director Donald Shaw about the place this weekend, and offer/ed him a greeting, don’t take it amiss if he doesn’t speak: he can’t at the moment, having lost his voice to an opportunistic lurgy. Hardly ideal, at the festival’s outset, but intensive remedies are being applied, from cider vinegar to tea tree oil – and at least no one’s expecting him to sing: he can still manage the box and piano, after all.
 
Taking an early but commanding lead for the most random post to Celtic Connections’ Facebook page is one Gingerfirst Spielhall, seemingly a German lady, who last night emphatically demanded, “wann kommt ihr nach HAMBURG?????” (“When are you coming to Hamburg?”) We’ll take that one under advisement. . .