And now, the end is near/And so we face the final curtain. . .

​. . . but I think all we at Celtic Connections 2019; and I mean all – all you/us thousands upon thousands of musicians and other music-lovers who’ve come together so joyously and made Glasgow sing over the past 18 days – can safely collectively say, once again, we’ve done it our way. And what a wonderful way it is – plus it ain’t quite over yet.
As ever on the final day, it’s going to be an especially festive final night for this year’s six worthy Danny Kyle Open Stage finalists – out of more than 70 acts who performed, from an original 240 applicants - each of whom now has a gig at Celtic Connections 2020 to look forward to.
In no particular order, hearty congratulations all round to Glasgow-based French/Cameroonian indie-folk songstress Djana Gabrielle; boundary-busting world/folk Edinburgh trio Dowally; contemporary folk/Americana singer-songwriter – and Findlay Napier protégée - Elaine Lennon; US-born self-styled “audio-geek, musician, songwriter, and producer” John Anaya; hot young saxophone/piano duo Matt Carmichael & Fergus McCready, and the likewise firebrand triumvirate of accordionist Sam Mabbett, singer/guitarist Luc McNally and piper Malin Lewis. We look forward to seeing you back.
Such is the Open Stage’s clout and reputation, these days, that some acts in contention are attracting sponsorship to enable them to take part, including one the other day all the way from Kernow/Cornwall, whose travel costs had been subsidised by a friendly local garden centre.
In the same Danny Kyle context, many big pats on the back are also due to the sterling all-volunteer team from Celtic Music Radio, who broadcast the Open Stage every single day, among some 150 hours of live music and craic relayed in total from this year’s festival.
And on the subject of winners, major congratulations, too, for Leith singer-songwriter Dean Owens (who played here last weekend with his new Buffalo Blood line-up), whose composition ‘Southern Wind’ – title track of his latest solo album – just won Song of the Year in Thursday’s Americana Music Association UK Awards, at London’s Hackney Empire.
While this weekend’s squad of musical visitors from Galicia, 2019’s Showcase Scotland international partner, have been capturing hearts and winning new fans/friends all over town, this goodwill offensive hasn’t been limited to their region’s onstage talents. Among their accompanying entourage of cultural movers and shakers – including Culture and Tourism Minister Roman Rodriguez Gonzales, met and greeted by Scotland’s counterpart Fiona Hyslop – was rising-star Galician chef Moli, aka Diego López, cooking up copious delicacies for both the official Galician reception in the Showcase programme, and Friday’s Galician Fiesta show at Drygate. On the ingredients list for his prosaically-translated ‘Galician pies’ were around 400 Scottish scallops.
And as is traditional at Sunday’s closing Showcase Scotland reception, while bidding a fond farewell to one international partner, next year’s was also announced. Given their artists’ long and illustrious history at Celtic Connections, we’re very, very excited to look forward to working with Finland in 2020.
Even as artists and audiences gear up for tonight’s last raft of shows, followed by many a final fling at the Festival Club, La Bonne Auberge and other wee-hours haunts, the army of musical occupation is beginning to decamp and disperse, the first finished-with infrastructure to be dismantled.
We spotted a particularly touching valediction on Twitter from one departing happy/sad audience member, worth reproducing in full: “Homeward bound after my first @ccfest. Saved for a while, 8 gigs & hotel nights, 3 return trips on the train. Can’t explain how, often, the emotion of the music hits you. Lucky & humbled to have met & chatted with splendid folk. It’s been a marvellous experience, hugely grateful.” Thanks back to you too, sir: we certainly hope it won’t be your last.
Ross Wilson/Blue Rose Code also bowed out in beatific mood, after his last blast on Friday: “Well ma hairt is fu’ fit tae burst, what a cracking ending to 2019's Celtic Connections for me. Congratulations to Ross Ainslie and Ali Hutton on a straight up #banger of a show at Glasgow QMU. What with This Is Caledonian Soul, Grace & Danger and last night, Celtic Connections has been unforgettable for me this year.”
Another major hit was Karine Polwart’s Scottish Songbook at the Fruitmarket – one of umpteen sellout gigs over the weekend – which saw Polwart, between her home-grown rock and pop favourites, making an impassioned plea to protect instrumental music tuition in her local Midlothian schools, following that council’s proposal to end it: a cause we can all surely endorse.
Plaudits for her performance included “IAMKP’s celebration of Scottish pop in its myriad joyous, enlightening and heartbreaking forms was wonderful @ccfest. Best of all was her communal spirit, turning the Fruitmarket into a Caledonian gospel dancefloor.”
“So many highlights,” extolled another; “Louis Abbot doing the Associates was something else,” while a third simply tweeted: “Nae words.”
Special mentions also went to the Transatlantic Sessions (“My goodness what a delight! Stellar cast of wonderful musicians. Senses shot, darkened room required); the National Youth Pipe Band of Scotland (“Youth music at the absolute top of its game. What a concert”/ “Kids inspiring other kids. Brilliant”), and Megan Henderson’s rapturously received New Voices, which found linchpin festival staffer Lesley Shaw, “Having a wee greet”.
Among numerous posts from likewise blissed-out performers, a couple highlighted that, while most of us are now dreaming of imminent duvet-days, in certain cases the no-rest-for-the-wicked principle seems to be in play. Certainly Lewis singer-songwriterWillie Campbell, having fronted The Tumbling Souls at Òran Mór for yesterday’s HebCelt night, was giving himself no time to bask in the afterglow today: “What a night! We were blown away by the response we got. Where the heck did you all come from? We are one very happy band this morning. Amazing. I’m in MacCallums Bar Inverness 4-7 then Johnny Foxes & The Den half ten till half 1.”
Trio-as-aural-tornado Talisk, too, had set themselves an especially punishing schedule over previous days, as they posted on Friday, after Thursday’s sellout Young Tradition three-band-bill at the Fruitmarket: “For sure the biggest gig we've done in Glasgow yet, thanks to everyone for coming out. You're all heroes!!
See you all tonight!!
DryGate: 1:30
Festival Club: 2:25
Big Burns Supper 2pm tomorrow!” – this last, early-afternoon show being all the way down in Dumfries. . .
One more social-media paean to the festival as a whole, before we round off for now, which also praised a band we weren’t able to identify: “This is what I love about Celtic Connections - 6 folk you’ve never heard of before all playing strings and breaking your heart in between the laughter.”
One last highly pertinent tweet from the Festival Club: “PS can’t believe we’re still up”.
And one last Facebook poster who was certainly vying for early-bird points, but as of earlier today had as yet received no reply – everyone else presumably being somewhat preoccupied with the end of Celtic 2019: “Anyone know dates of 2020 festival, please?”