Celtic Connections by Melanie Chadd

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

We asked Scottish travel blogger, Melanie Chadd from Perth, to sample Celtic Connections - Glasgow's winter music festival. Here's what she has to say about it...

Celtic Connections at Old Fruitmarket, GlasgowAt the weekend we were lucky enough to go to our first Celtic Connections performance over in Glasgow. Last year we watched it on the television, which is great but not quite the same! It is easy to see why anyone who is anyone in the celtic music scene wants to be on the stage with those words “Celtic Connections” behind them. A celebration of celtic music from across the globe in this annual winter festival.

Travelling to Glasgow

Getting to the city by train is easy from Perth. It takes a little over an hour and has very few stops (four I think) and gets you straight in at Queen Street. Our journey on Saturday was dreich – thick fog most of the way and I think driving down the A9 would have been a nightmare, so the train was a great choice. By the time we arrived (on time) in Glasgow, the sky was blue and the sun was shining.

We made the most of the weather and visited The Lighthouse on Mitchell Lane – well worth visiting and it’s free. After that we decided to walk along the river and down to the Hydro. The city seemed to have a great buzz (more than normal) and I am putting it down the festival. With 2,100 musicians and artists, plus people like me visiting for the shows, there was definitely a different vibe in the air.

Celtic Connections at Old Fruitmarket, GlasgowThe Old Fruitmarket

The venue for our performance was in the Old Fruitmarket and is tucked away behind the street-facing walls of the City Halls in the Merchant City area. So after eating at Soba in Merchant Square (just next door) we headed in to find a seat.

Wow! What a place. The clue to it’s previous life is in the name and up until the 1970’s it was a place to buy your fresh fruit and vegetables. In more recent years it has been given a refurbishment and a new lease of life as a place of entertainment, banquets, ceilidhs, and fashion shows. All the original features have been kept – stall name signs, the vaulted roof and cast iron columns. It really is something special.

There were tables and chairs laid out in a rather informal manner and no seat numbers were given so you could pick where you sat. The upstairs balcony which runs around the outside of the hall was full with people standing. I think the venue holds about 1500 people but it didn’t feel like that many.

Ten Strings and a Goat Skin

First of all – BEST name ever!

These three young lads from Canada kicked off our evening of live music and they were fab. This quote is taken from their website biography and explains them really well: “Ten Strings and a Goatskin weave old-school Franco-Canadian, Breton, Irish, and Scottish tunes with wickedly current grooves and clever quirks, flirting with indie’s best moments.” The words “goofy humour” are also used.

A set of about 45 minutes and they played a good selection of music, told tales of their mini Scotland tour and engaged with the crowd well. I enjoyed them and have since downloaded one of their albums.

Celtic Connections at Old Fruitmarket, GlasgowDervish

We had heard of Dervish before and knew that they are musicians from Ireland but didn’t know much else and little did we know we were in for a real treat!

From the second they started their set people were “whooping” and their heads bobbing and feet tapping – us included. A lively set with added bonus of Michael McGoldrick joining in on stage with his flute for some songs. Steve Knightly from Show of Hands came out to sing a rather amusing song called Galway Farmer – it’s about Cheltenham Gold Cup races and as we used to live not far from the spa town where the races are held, we knew all about the tales of the Gold Cup! Another guest appearance was by Irish fiddle player, Kevin Burke.

There was also a couple of songs with local Glasgow musician, Eddi Reader and her husband too.

Sadly we had to leave just before the end to ensure we caught our train in time but we had an amazing evening. Expanded our music collection and added some new favourite songs in too.

The Celtic Connections festival is on until the 5th February and there are plenty of talented musicians to go and see, workshops for all ages and some of them are even free! Go and see something you wouldn’t normally go to – expand your music knowledge.

We were invited by ScotRail to travel to Glasgow and attend a Celtic Connections evening for free in return for this post. Enjoying the Scottish sunshine and walking the along Clyde were an added bonus to the day.

Melanie Chadd

Melanie Chadd is a Scottish travel blogger based in Perth. Here is her blog Full Stop Next Chapter

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