The Holiday Inn

​Whatever your take on the issues raised, there’s no disputing that this year’s festival focus on female musicianship has certainly got people talking. Last night’s sellout double bill in the Concert Hall’s main auditorium implicitly contributed its tuppence-worth in featuring two fabulous acts, both of whom brought the house down, who happen to consist entirely of women – Orkney’s Fara and Irish-American superstars Cherish the Ladies. Back to delight their many Glasgow fans after three years’ absence, Cherish put an additional sly spin on traditional formats by featuring an all-male squad of Irish dancers, one of whom, Oscar Donnelly from Kilkenny, totally stole the show with a jaw-dropping solo hard-shoe turn, making his Celtic Connections debut at just five years old.
On a sadly sour note, Fara returned backstage to discover their dressing had been robbed while they were performing, with phones and other valuables taken. Celtic Connections swiftly stepped in with all possible assistance and compensation and the lasses managed something of a last laugh, sending the thief a final message via an iPhone’s ‘Lost Phone’ function: “TO THE A*****E THAT TOOK THIS PHONE, THERE WAS A WAD OF CASH SITTING UNDERNEATH IT YOU GIANT WALLOPER” This latter epithet is a new one on us, but we may well make use of it in future.
Amid the merry after-hours maelstrom of the Holiday Inn bar last night (including a mammoth Quebecois fiddle session, also complete with stepdancing), we were tickled to hear about a certain leading English folk singer, often regarded as something of a poster-boy, being taken down several pegs by the former duo of our own Jeana Leslie, from Fara, and Siobhan Miller, who’d earlier launched her second solo album, Strata, in sublime style at the Mitchell Theatre. They may no longer perform together, but they still make a formidable double act – and had previously encountered this same gentlemen after winning the BBC Young Folk Award back in 2008: while deigning to share a photo opportunity with them, he’d requested – not being the tallest himself - that they remove their high-heeled shoes: the request was declined. And so last night, amid some polite chit-chat, they were further outraged to learn firstly that he’d never heard of immortal Glasgow balladeer Adam McNaughtan, then that his ignorance of Scots song as a whole, in fact, was fairly comprehensive. By the time our two ladies had finished with him, he had the distinct look of a man heartily wishing he’d stuck to talking about the weather – or perhaps opted for an early night.
It seems a long time ago now, but Karine Polwart’s magnificent contribution to last week’s opening concert, the poetic address to Donald Trump titled ‘I Burn, But Am Not Consumed’, continues to resonate around the world, with the video clip of her performance being shared earlier today by none other than Rosanne Cash, who introduced it as “something to start your weekend with inspiration and beauty. . . spectacular” - while also crediting Celtic Connections as “one of the best music festivals in the world”, even though she’s not here this year.