School's concerts are a hit!

Some of us think of today – the start of Celtic Connections’ first full week, after the first weekend’s frenetic frenzy – as ‘Tumbleweed Monday’. There are just two shows happening tonight – the very splendid Juan de Marcos and his Afro Cuban All Stars, bringing downtown Havana to the main hall, while Rachel Lightbody, Tom Gibbs and friends invoke the spirit of Joni Mitchell at Oran Mor, with their sold-out tribute performance of Court and Spark. Beyond these gatherings, we imagine multitudinous folk lying in darkened rooms – many after dragging their sorely puggled selves to work – taking the chance to give their bank-balance and bodily organs some respite, given the full fourteen days still to go.


(Incidentally/randomly, any other word-nerds curious about the etymological kinship between ‘frenetic’ and ‘frenzy, including the fact that they’re not tautologous, but are also related to ‘frantic’, ‘schizophrenia’ and ‘phrenology’, should check out the following link: And in the context of this past weekend – plus the necessary recuperation - the fact that they all derive from the Greek noun phrenitis, meaning ‘inflammation of the brain’, seems no more than apposite.)


Behind the scenes, below the surface and off the main drag, however, there’s still plenty of activity bubbling away. (In many logistical respects, next weekend starts here.) And there’s certainly no tumbleweed in sight for the good folks behind Celtic Connections on Campus, which began its five-day run on Monday, at Glasgow Caledonian University’s Re:Union Bar and Grill on North Hanover Street.


Taking place daily until this Friday, from 12.30 to 2pm, these free performances showcase up-and-coming talent from Scotland, England and Ireland’s universities, colleges and schools, backed by GCU’s Audio Technology and BSc Audio Engineering students. Artists appearing include DLÙ, Imogen Islay, Kirsten & Callum Forsyth, Gasbin Bapeer, Edinburgh College Traditional Music Band, Wilson Noble and Chloe Steele & Jordan Neil, serving up diverse and tasty accompaniment to your lunchtime sustenance.


Also partnering the shows is Celtic Music Radio, who in total will be broadcasting a sterling 150 hours of Celtic Connections coverage over the duration – including the daily Danny Kyle Open Stage - on 95FM and online. So you can lie in a darkened room and still listen to the festival.


Talking of radio, as Elephant Sessions gear up for their biggest Celtic headliner yet, at the Old Fruitmarket on the final Friday, their rapidly ascendant reputation as one of Scotland’s hottest young acts is also underlined by their forthcoming live session on Radio 2’s The Folk Show, from the CCA next Monday, alongside I’m With Her, Karine Polwart and host Mark Radcliffe. We suspect, however, that mandolinist Alasdair Taylor and guitarist Mark Bruce are even more excited about another BBC booking, as special guests on Radio Scotland’s Off the Ball this Saturday.


Following last night’s 20th anniversary performance of her classic album A Few Small Repairs, a Facebook picture of Shawn Colvin having a big cuddle with The Blue Nile’s Paul Buchanan (after they both featured in Saturday’s Laura Nyro tribute concert) alerted us to Colvin’s very longstanding Celtic connection with Buchanan’s band - and thus with Glasgow - a link even older than the festival itself, forged when she supported them on a UK tour, way back in 1990. (The sound crew on Saturday even paid their own tribute, by playing The Blue Nile during the interval.) The pic was captioned ‘Tinseltown in the Rain’ and swiftly followed by a video titled ‘Tinseltown in the Snow’.


Colvin’s only previous trip to Celtic Connections was as a Transatlantic Sessions guest, but it clearly made a big impression. Speaking to Good Morning Scotland on Sunday, she enthused about the ‘fabulous camaraderie’ she discovered, and the joys of making music with unfamiliar collaborators, after minimal rehearsal. “You’re all best pals by the end,” she said, before declaring of the even as a whole, “There really is nothing like it.”

During the same segment, while flagging up the festival’s annual programme of schools concerts – often described by artists as their favourite gigs, despite the 8am soundchecks required – presenter Isabel Fraser also came up with the best description we’ve yet encountered for those shows’ unique ambience, as 2000 kids get their first ever taste of live folk music, when she likened it to the classic cinema scene in Gremlins, where they’re all watching Snow White: look it up on YouTube, and you’ll get the picture.


For guitarist and bodhran ace Adam Brown, of Rura/Ímar fame, Monday morning consisted of precisely this early shift, before a day a day of teaching yet more kids in local schools. Despite this, he still scorned all talk of a quiet Monday night, choosing instead to host tunes in MacSorley’s with Paddy Callaghan.

Finally, we mentioned the other day that artistic director Donald Shaw (or should we just annex The Donald as a snappier sobriquet?) had lost his voice. Apparently it was (mostly) back by last night, when he dropped in to catch some of Lahira’s opening set, before the Paddy Keenan/Frankie Gavin showdown at the City Halls. Spotting a colleague he had a message for, he attempted to whisper it, but residual hoarseness lent his sotto voce an unfortunately carrying resonance, such that a front of house staffer had to tell him to zip it.