Burns Night is almost upon us...

​We hope and trust that all you hordes of music-lovers in town for Celtic Connections bring a boost in takings for the hardy local buskers braving the January weather – at least where musical ability warrants. In which context, a big shout out to the guy giving it his all on a near-deserted Sauchiehall Street last night, delivering a seriously classy version of that oft-massacred classic, Tracy Chapman’s ‘Fast Car’: this particular listener, exiting Tesco’s with her dinner, was very appreciative - even if too ravenous for her Cup-A-Soup and sandwich to stop and express it monetarily. (We’re only in this for the high life and glamour, you know. . .)
Said al fresco singer may or may not be the same as a recent correspondent to the festival’s Facebook page, one Bengas Carlos, who writes: “I Am a lisbon born in the Celtic house....thank good the glasgowegians PEOPLE support music in streets.. I have got the celtic connection in my heart and all support of PEOPLE THAT MAKE GLASGOW.. I am doing the concerto outside come and say hi xx One Love x Love Glasgow xx” – but Bengas certainly scores high for winsome linguistic mangling.
Persistent rumours of bromance between two of Celtic Connections’ longest-serving sound engineers were further fuelled in recent days, after they were spotted strutting their funky stuff together not once but twice, firstly cutting a rug at Saturday’s 25th Anniversary Ceilidh (when one of the couple’s own birthday was the purported pretext), then indulging in some slinky shared salsa moves during Juan de Carlos and his Afro-Cuban All Stars on Monday.
Judging from the feedback, the trailblazing pianist/composer Max Richter’s performance of Three Worlds: Music from Woolf Works last night, with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, was another one for the festival annals, with Richter himself tweeting afterwards “Thanks everyone for a wonderful night. . . That was special”, while conductor Robert Zeigler also added thanks to “you magnificent crowd”, members of whom variously described the show as “truly magical”, “absolutely spellbinding” and the “most moving, emotionally affecting evening of music I think I’ve ever experienced. . . A knockout @ccfest event.” Meanwhile, a very different gig along the road seems to have attained similarly rhapsodic peaks, if another happy customer’s feedback is any guide: “It is just not possible to get any better than the amazing, the fabulous, the glorious Frank Turner performing at the Old Fruitmarket in Glasgow as part of Celtic Connections.”
With Burns Night almost upon us, festivities are already under way, with tonight’s BEMIS Celebrates Burns show at the Fruitmarket, a now-annual Celtic Connections fixture attended by ethnic and cultural minority Scots from throughout the country, promoting the quintessentially Burnsian ideal of a progressive and inclusive Scotland, whose national identity embraces our common humanity. Musical guests include Eddi Reader, Ireland’s Lorcán Mac Mathúna, and aptly multi-cultural Edinburgh band Dallahan, who’ll be spreading the love still further in collaboration with Roma musicians from Glasgow.
In related vein, as we partook of a fine Folkytown session at the Flying Duck last night, the chat at the bar elicited unprompted praise for Celtic Connections’ welcoming openness to all manner of musical styles, cultural backgrounds and audience communities, culminating in one of the best festival similes we’ve heard yet. “This festival is just like someone inviting you to come in for a great big massive hug,” declared its author. “In fact - it’s like being offered a hug by Paddy Callaghan.”
Not that Mr Callghan will be doing much hugging today, we suspect, following his forlorn Facebook plaint of excruciating pain after popping his back earlier on. Nor does it seem likely that he’ll be co-hosting tonight’s Folkytown session, as advertised – but Ryan Murphy and Seán Gray will still be leading the fray from 10.30pm, with the evening’s theme (for both ladies and gents) being Side Burns Night, and the traditional haggis, neeps and tatties available. And we sincerely hope Paddy’s back’s better soon.