An intriguing cross-cultural encounter

​Celtic Connections brought about yet another intriguing cross-cultural encounter last night, when our own Festival Club took place upstairs at the Art School, while those premises’ regular Thursday club night, PVC (whose strapline is “Be fun. Be flirty. Be fluid.”), occupied the other bar. Mind you, going by the latter’s publicity material, the two crowds may have more in common than first impressions might suggest: “PVC is your FREE [okay, not that bit], fauxy, all-inclusive Artschool night where each & every one of you li’l hot-pockets will get down to the tune of glorious resistance! Come & grace the floor with your immoral fibre & lack of manners.” For the avoidance of unnecessary confusion, however, PVC’s gender-neutral bathrooms policy was suspended for the night.

Musically, though, things upstairs were certainly pretty fluid, with excellent and warmly-received performances from Guinean singer/guitarist Moh! Kouyate, Gillian Frame’s Pendulum band – whose set had guitar legend Ian Carr literally jumping for joy – Highland electro-acoustic sound system Sketch and beatboxing phenomenon (or ‘vocal sculptor’, to use his preferred term) Jason Singh, fresh from his gobsmacking “And Friends” show with Aidan O’Rourke, Giuliano Modarelli and Rahul Ravindran. Singh, by the sound of it on Twitter, certainly had a ball: “Last night I felt completely dissolved in music. Can't quite believe what happened @drygate & Art School!”

As well as the second performance of next weekend’s Bert Inspired show, which sees Celtic Connections 2016 sneaking into February, several other artists have added extra shows, by popular demand, with The Bathers returning to the Mackintosh Church tonight, Gretchen Peters gracing the same venue on the 30th as well as the 31st, and James Grant appearing at the Concert Hall’s New Auditorium on both the 29th and 31st – tickets still available.
One of the many festival-goers burning the candle at both ends this last week arrived at his office the other morning, freshly scrubbed and reasonably (he thought) compos mentis, only to be greeted by a colleague with, “Well, you’re obviously hungover.” Upon his protests, however, and her own closer inspection of his simultaneously bright- and bleary-eyed glow, she amended her assessment: “No, you don’t look hungover – you look Celtically connected.”

As well as our justly celebrated Education Concerts, which fill the Concert Hall on weekday mornings with the exultant din of delighted children, Celtic Connections education programme also sees musicians working inside schools throughout Glasgow, with over 2,300 kids this year getting the chance to try their hand at a variety of instruments, as well as stepdancing and Scots song. One of the programme’s long-time tutors is harpist Rachel Hair, who reckons that over the decade she’s been running these workshops, her own tally of tutees must run well in to the thousands. Venues she’s visited this week include a unit for autistic children, and Hazelwood School, whose pupils have multiple and often severe disabilities. For the latter session, Hair played during their ‘sensory time’, so they could feel the harp’s vibrations while receiving massages and other therapy, and also accompanied their singing at a special Burns assembly. “Such a good experience – really feelgood work,” she says. “It’s been the best week ever out of all the ten years I’ve been doing it.”

Random occurrences in the Holiday Inn lobby, Part 287: Phil Cunningham (in between conjuring tricks) providing Seamus Egan of Solas with an impromptu tutorial in how properly to tie a tie – a life-skill that Egan has seemingly struggled to master until now, despite his fêted dexterity on umpteen different instruments. Having carefully videoed Cunningham’s live masterclass however, he’s now confident he’s got it nailed – look out for the video on YouTube if you suffer with similar difficulties.