Farewell Rahman, hello final weekend

In addition to the rapturous crowd packed into the Concert Hall last night, Celtic Connections’ landmark performance of Slumdog Millionaire composer A.R. Rahman’s music, featuring the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, also brought the festival to a new and far wider audience, thanks to its being broadcast live on the BBC Asian Network (and it’s still available on the iPlayer). Both the show’s presenter, ex-Radio 1 DJ Bobby Friction, and Rahman himself – who came on to play piano for the last couple of numbers – could hardly have been more glowing in their praise of the event, and of Celtic Connections for making it happen. So enthused was Rahman by the experience, in fact, that he decided to spend the whole of today, his last day in Glasgow, working with students at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland – some of whom had performed in last night’s concert, along with 20 of their counterparts from Rahman’s own KM Music Conservatory in Chennai – right up until the time his airport pickup arrived. As he’s apparently talking already about wanting to work more with Scottish musicians (KT Tunstall, who was at the show, has written a song for one of his forthcoming movies), hopefully it won’t be too long before we welcome him back again.
Talking of farewells, it’s sure to be another emotional night at the Old Fruitmarket tonight (albeit in a sternly Highland fashion), as Scottish supergroup Blazin’ Fiddles take their leave of two founding members – and longtime Celtic Connections stalwarts - Allan Henderson and Iain MacFarlane. We’d like to echo the band in wishing them both the very best for their future endeavours, and in welcoming the two latest recruits to the Blazers’ line-up – fellow former Young Traditional Musicians of the Year, Rua Macmillan and Kristan Harvey.
Celtic Connections is justly well-known for embracing many and varied genres of music, but last night/this morning around 3.30am was surely the first sighting of a punk in full regalia – swathed in bondage-style tartan, topped by a foot-high Mohican – dropping by the session in the Holiday Inn bar. Apparently the lady in question is familiar as a busker around town, but she certainly added a nice surreal touch of local colour to complement some more exceedingly fine tunes from the likes of Kris Drever, Tim O’Brien and Mike McGoldrick.
As they summon their 102nd wind for the big final-weekend push, a couple of Celtic Connections’ core team members were overheard planning something of a whistlestop tour to check out a few gigs tonight, once their desk-work is done. “I really want to make the most of it before it’s finished,” said one. “Though I’m kind of torn - part of me really wants just to go home and watch Graham Norton. But no: I will go and see some music.”