Cherish - or else

​That vital Celtic Connections cornerstone, the House of Song with Doris Rougvie, at the Holiday Inn Theatreland, seems to have contracted something of a jinx thus far in 2019. Last weekend’s sessions were cancelled last-minute after Doris sadly fell ill, and had to pull out of all this year’s dates. Just a couple of days ago, it was announced that the highly capable hands of Amy Lord would be taking the reins from tonight, for the rest of the festival – followed yesterday by a further announcement that Amy, too, was unwell and having to bide at home.
But never fear, all ye singing devotees of Celtic Connections: however much the HoS hosting role might suddenly have appeared as a potentially poisoned chalice (conventional folk wisdom being that things always happen in threes), a Plan C has been conjured, and a pre-eminently suitable replacement found in the person of Alison Mackinnon, Vice-Convener and Secretary on the board of the TMSA, who’ll be welcoming the company from tonight through till Sunday. Many of those she’ll be welcoming will need no introduction, but for any who don’t know her, here’s her potted biog from the TMSA website:
“Born and brought up on the Isle of Skye with a Shetland mother, a Skye father, and an Aberdeen grandmother, Alison was lucky to have a number of musical cultures around her from a very early age. She started going to festivals in 1970 and after moving to Aberdeen in 1978 immediately became involved in Aberdeen Folk Club as a committee member including a stint as Organiser and was involved as a committee member of the Aberdeen Alternative Music Festival in its early years.
A move to Blairgowrie saw her involved in the attempted revival of Blairgowrie Folk Festival. Shortly after moving to Inverness in 2000, she became involved in the setting up of the Inverness and District branch of the TMSA as well as serving on the committee of Accordion and Fiddle Clubs in Inverness and Dingwall. Alison cannot imagine life without music, and she feels that we must continue to promote the traditions of our country forcefully.”
Arrangements for the final weekend’s singarounds are currently in progress, as Alison can’t make it, but patrons can be confident that something will be sorted - barring some outbreak of fire, flood and locusts as well as pestilence - and should watch this space/Celtic Connections’ social media for further announcements.
Cherish the Ladies were righteously holding court in La Bonne Auberge into the wee hours last night, following yet another triumphantly stonking show in the Main Auditorium. Frontwoman/all-round force of nature Joanie Madden, at the bar between tunes, was still somewhat wonderstruck a good couple of hours later – and she’s a true Celtic Connections veteran, having visited near-annually with the band since 1995. “Even by our standards, at this festival, it was amazing,” she affirmed.
A key element in this enduring Glasgow/Cherish the Ladies love-in is the troupe of crème de la crème Irish dancers they always bring with them – this time including some additional fresh stardust in the shape of 23-year-old five-time World Champion David Geaney, aka ‘the Dingle Dancer’, recognised by many of last night’s crowd as a 2017 semi-finalist in Britain’s Got Talent. This was during his final year at Limerick University, before he graduated with honours in Economics and Mathematical Sciences. On current form, his degree looks likely to remain redundant following the recent première Broadway run of Geaney’s own solo/headline show, Velocity, and his now being on tour with Cherish through till March.
Irish Central has described his phenomenal trad/freestyle technique as, “somewhere between Michael Flatley and his true idols, Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire, including all of his favourite moves from classical Irish Dancing to tap to flamenco.” Geaney is being hailed, in fact, as the natural successor to Flatley – an icon whom, by all accounts, he’s already surpassing, not only with his footwork, but as an authentically all-round lovely dude.
Also last night, we discovered a canny secret to Cherish the Ladies’ success in gracing the Celtic line-up year after year. Having already known that whenever Donald Shaw announces the programme each October without Cherish in it, he gets bombarded with fans’ complaints, we further learned - from a different source - that Joanie herself starts badgering him by email in early spring. After a while, in the absence of a reply, she simply starts forwarding the emails she receives from said fans, especially those devoutly wishing for the band to come back yet again: apparently these can number two or three a day.
Hence the evolution of the following admonitory shorthand within Donald’s festival vocabulary, reserved for artists’ agents who importune over-zealously on their clients’ behalf: “Don’t be Joanie Madden.”