Celtic Connections music festival unveil lineup for 30th ‘large scale’ edition

Organizers revealed a host of international guests as well as the return of many of the festival’s favorite artists to its stages since its launch in 1994.

Notable anniversaries celebrated at Celtic Connections include fiddler John McCusker’s 30 years in the industry, which will include special guests Eddi Reader, Julie Fowlis, Karine Polwart, Kris Drever and Roddy Woomble, 10 years of Lost Map-based label Eigg, 21 from Colin MacIntyre’s Mull Historical Society and half a century from the Gaelic College of Skye, Sabhal Mòr Ostaig.

Lucinda Williams, Beth Neilson Chapman, Anaïs Mitchell, Sammy Rae & The Friends and Nickel Creek are among the US stars of the lineup, which will also feature Tennessee singer-songwriter Sierra Hull and Nashville star Rachel Baiman .

Other international guests include Austrian percussionist and composer Manu Delago, French-Moroccan band Bab L’Bluz, Nordic band Dreamers’ Circus, African duo Amadou and Mariam, Malian superstars Trio Da Kali and blues rock singer Haitian voodoo Moonlight Benjamin.

The festival partners with the Festival Interceltique de Lorient, the French event that is said to have inspired the creation of Celtic Connections, to stage “Celtic Odyssey”, a celebration of the Celtic Nations, featuring musicians and singers from Brittany, Galicia , Asturias, Wales, Ireland and Scotland. A ‘Celtic Runes’ evening will see musicians from major Scottish and Scandinavian bands including Circus, Frigg and Kinnaris Quintet come together for the night.

The festival will open with a “Big Band” gala, featuring Hebridean rockers Peat & Diesel, pianist Fergus McCreadie and saxophonist Matt Carmichael, nominees for the Mercury Prize, and singer-songwriters Karine Polwart, Sierra Hull and Rachel Sermanni among the special guests.

Other guest performers at the festival, which runs from January 19 to February 5, will include Scottish-born frontman Colin Hay of Australian band Men at Work and Irish-American supergroup Cherish The Ladies.

The Old Fruitmarket is one of the largest venues used for Glasgow’s Celtic Connections music festival. Photo: Gaelle Beri

Canadian-American singer-songwriter Martha Wainwright, Hothouse Flowers frontman Liam Ó Maonlai and Capercaillie Gaelic singer Karen Matheson will appear in the festival’s transatlantic shows, while Roddy Hart’s annual Roaming Roots will feature Irish singer Lisa Hannigan, Del Amitri frontman Justin Currie and Admiral Fallow singers Louis Abbot and Sarah Hayes.

Celtic Connections will present its first major contemporary dance collaboration, Moving Cloud, a joint commission with Scottish Dance Theatre, which will feature a 14-piece folk ensemble made up of members of the bands Sian and Trip. Violinist Chris Stout and clarsach player Catriona McKay will perform with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra.

The 2023 event will also see a reunion for festival favorites Treacherous Orchestra, as well as signature shows from new songwriting collective Hen Hoose, Blazin’ Fiddles, Breabach, Peat & Diesel, Matthew And The Atlas, Kim Carnie and fiddler Duncan Chisholm, who has performed at the event every year since the inaugural festival in 1994.

The 2021 festival was forced to take place entirely online due to the Covid pandemic, while the reintroduction of restrictions in the face of the Omicron variant at the end of last year saw many events postponed or canceled, the festival 2022 having attracted only 23,000 participants, against more than 130,000 in 2020.

Glasgow’s Royal Concert Hall has been home to Celtic Connections since the festival launched in 1994.

Donald Shaw, creative producer at Celtic Connections, said the festival had been planned on the basis that next year’s event would be uninterrupted.

He added: “We don’t really have the capacity or the resources to continually think about a plan B.

“It really will be a full live festival, which will be pretty close to the size of the event in 2020, the last time we had a big festival.

“We didn’t really know where things were going last year, so we paid a little more attention to things like international artists, which we had very little of last year.

Singer-songwriter Karine Polwart will perform at next year’s Celtic Connections music festival.

“We also inherited quite a few shows that had to be pulled at the last minute last year.”

Mr Shaw said he expected festival audiences to return in large numbers for the 2023 event, despite the impact of rising energy bills and inflation, which had forced Celtic Connections to raise ticket prices across the board.

He added: “We have to be passionate about what we do. Folk music is the music of the people and the music of the communities. I think they will rally and get out.

“As much as possible, we try to make our ticket prices a little lower than if people were going to see the same artist another time, because we always try to encourage the buyer of several tickets.

“We have to increase ticket prices, mainly because of external logistics costs. Ticket prices are never as good as people ready to play. I’d rather have 500 people at £10 than 200 people at £20. Whenever possible, we try to assess the market.

Mr Shaw said the 2023 program would feature a careful balance of audience favorites from the past 30 years with showcases for rising stars of Scottish traditional music.

Violin player Eric Linklater and singer-songwriter Beth Malcolm launch the Celtic Connections 30th anniversary program at the Royal Concert Hall in Glasgow. Photo: Craig Foy – SNS Group

He added, “I always think my role is to try to feel the zeitgeist of what’s happening on stage, but also to respond to the needs and wants of a fairly large audience.

“Overall, we’re looking at how much we can try to develop up-and-coming artists and how much we can rely on high profile artists who will definitely draw crowds.

“It makes a lot of sense for us to have a lot of artists performing next year who have been at the festival over the years. “But for a festival like Celtic Connections to grow and survive, you have to invest in the artists of the future. .”

The Kinnaris Quintet will perform at Celtic Connections in 2023.
The Treacherous Orchestra will play a landmark concert at Celtic Connections in Glasgow next year. Photo: Vernon Nash

Gerald R. Schneider