Multi-award-winning and multi-tasking

​Those Celtic connections stretched all the way to Hollywood last night, via the multi-award-winning oeuvre and in-person presence of celebrated Glasgow composer Craig Armstrong. The Orchestra of Scottish Opera were joined by some very excited Scottish folk musicians, including Angus Lyon, Seonaid Aitken and Alistair Ogilvy, for a show in which Armstrong performed tracks from his new solo album, It’s Nearly Tomorrow, as well as sumptuous arrangements of excerpts from his film scores. The Great Gatsby, The Quiet American, Orphans and Moulin Rouge all featured – with James Grant’s rendition of that last movie’s ‘Native Boy’ cited as a particular highlight – before the climactic balcony-scene sequence from Romeo and Juliet left barely a dry eye in the house. “Train ticket from Newcastle to Glasgow £26, hotel room £40, gig ticket £26. Seeing @CArmstrongUK play with orchestra priceless,” was one audience member’s subsequent verdict, while another posted: “Best bit? The one between 7.30 and 10pm.”

No less delighted was the sellout audience up at the Old Fruitmarket for Usher’s Island, the new Irish supergroup featuring Donal Lunny, Andy Irvine, Paddy Glackin, Mike McGoldrick and John Doyle, performing after an excellent opening set from Scottish singer-songwriter Ewan McLennan. Playing their first ever live gig, the headliners added another to the festival’s mounting tally of standing ovations, in tribute to a line-up that links all the way back to Planxty precursors Sweeney’s Men, from whose repertoire Irvine sang ‘My Heart’s Tonight In Ireland’ ahead of their first gig in 45 years later this week. That particular song also contained a line that would resonate particularly with the current late-night habitués of the Holiday Inn Theatreland: “We never left that pub until the clock was striking four...”

Further proof of Celtic Connections’ uniquely powerful draw for musicians and music-lovers alike came with a sighting last night of one of the Berklee College students, from Boston, who’d played during the festival’s first weekend as Twisted Pine, in the Wayfaring Strangers show with students from the RCS: fully ten days on from her gig, there she was at Folkytown last night. Another return visitor from those now seemingly long-distant opening days has been Canadian fiddler/singer Qristina Bachand. Currently based in Amsterdam, she was apparently trying last week to find a tune in that city, without success – and so jumped on a flight back to Glasgow from last Sunday to Tuesday. She’s back in Holland today for a job interview apparently, but is planning to be here again for the final weekend.

An enjoyable mellow but very tasty Folkytown session last night saw folkies and jazzers exploring each other’s styles and charting new common ground, with those in attendance including Adam Sutherland, Hamish Napier, Steve Forman, Rachel Sermanni, James Lindsay, Laura-Beth Salter, Euan Burton, Stu Brown and Tom Gibbs. Tonight’s almost certainly noisier shenaningans will be hosted by most members of the Treacherous Orchestra: you have been warned. Mind you, those seeking after-hours tunes were spoilt for choice last night (or, rather, early this morning), as the aforementioned Holiday Inn hosted a truly pinch-yourself gathering of Mike McGoldrick, Tim O’Brien, John Doyle, Danú’s Donnacha Gough. The odd song among the tunes included a somewhat heavily ironic ‘Ain’t No Liquor in this Town’, while another lovely number that commanded rapt silence came from Danny Kyle Open Stage contender Tim O’Connor.
We also bumped into a sound engineer pal last night, who we hadn’t seen about for a while, and he explained that he’d been battling bronchitis, so lying slow and getting the early nights in between his gigs. “Mind you,” he said, “being ill has actually kept me healthier than I’ve ever been at this festival.”

Having been playing into the small hours, Mike McGoldrick was possibly less than delighted at his 11am phone call from Donald Shaw today – summoning him not to fill in or guest on yet another festival show, but to assist Shaw, who was at his studio, in solving some crisis to do with the latest Katie Morag soundtrack. Who says men can’t multitask?