Baltimore Fiddle Fair

​While we can’t quite claim that the planets and stars are aligning ahead of Celtic Connections’ final weekend, tomorrow does mark both a rare celestial event and an ancient Celtic pagan festival, so the auguries do appear suitably auspicious. The moon tomorrow night will not only be full, it’s also a supermoon – technically, at ‘perigee’, i.e. its closest position to the earth, and thus 14 percent brighter than usual – a ‘blue’ moon (second full moon inside a calendar month), and in some parts of the world (though not here, sadly) a ‘blood’ moon, with a total lunar eclipse taking place and turning it red: a conjunction that last occurred in 1866. And after snow and sleet throughout the day, the night is forecast to be clear from 9pm, so the full/super/blue aspects will even be visible from Glasgow. (And probably best that it’s happening now, rather than the weekend itself: this festival’s last hurrah doesn’t need any additional lunacy.)
Sunset tomorrow also marks the start of Imbolc (pronounced ‘imulk’), the pagan/Gaelic quarter-day celebrated in Scotland and Ireland since Neolithic times, marking the halfway point between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. While two-thirds of its traditional associations – “purity, cleansing and hope” – may have little relevance amid Celtic Connections (the purity and cleansing starts next week), its celebration of the earth, and its living things, stirring into life after winter, and the return of light after darkness, seems entirely apt. And apparently tomorrow’s nasty daytime forecast is a good sign, as according to one source, “Imbolc was believed to be when the Cailleach - the divine hag of Gaelic tradition - gathers her firewood for the rest of the winter. Legend has it that if she wishes to make the winter last a good while longer, she will make sure the weather on Imbolc is bright and sunny, so she can gather plenty of firewood. Therefore, people would be relieved if Imbolc is a day of foul weather, as it means the Cailleach is asleep and winter is almost over.”
In similar vein, there’s even a school of thought that links Imbolc to the US tradition of Groundhog Day, as it’s a customary time for weather divination, when people would watch to see if hibernating animals emerged from their winter dens. Anyway, if you needed any further excuse for celebrating tomorrow – there you have it.
There was certainly a celebratory atmosphere on one of today’s flights from Dublin to Glasgow, as singer Aoife Scott reported earlier, complete with photo) ahead of her show tomorrow with Kate Rusby: “Ya know it's Celtic Connections week when half the tiny plane to Glasgow is musicians!! (Spot the curly headed Declan O Rourke and Jack Maher in the back! Dermot Byrne and John Doyle somewhere else on the plane!) The gang’s all here now, too, for this year’s two Transatlantic Sessions show, with Danny Thompson’s unmistakably massive white double bass case, containing his precious Victoria, spotted in the Holiday Inn lobby a couple of days back, and co-ringleader Jerry Douglas having flown in with Grammy nominees The Secret Sisters earlier today: rehearsals start tomorrow.
One show that may have flown beneath your radar thus far is Thursday’s celebration of the Baltimore Fiddle Fair, a small but perfectly formed gathering in west Cork which is even older than Celtic Connections, having started in 1992. When he’s not serving as a vital festival linchpin in Glasgow, as Celtic Connections’ production manager, it’s run by our dear friend Declan McCarthy, and Thursday night’s line-up – as well as the previously announced duos of Liam Flanagan & Derek Hickey, with Cormac & Cliodhna Begley - features Martin Hayes and Dennis Cahill, Aly Bain and Phil Cunningham, and the super-trio of Michael McGoldrick, John McCusker and John Doyle.