Europe’s largest winter music festival, Celtic Connections 2020, begins today (Thursday 16 January) with 18 days of music on stages across Glasgow set to light up the city.
Around 2,000 musicians will take part in 300 events in Glasgow venues, showcasing an outstanding array of traditional folk, celtic, roots, Americana, jazz, soul and world music.
Year on year, Celtic Connections welcomes an array of international artists for the January festival, whilst also celebrating homegrown, up-and-coming talent. This year, artists land in Glasgow from all over the world, including Canada, Senegal, Burma, Finland, India, Cameroon, Lebanon, USA, France, Spain, Guinea, Australia, Portugal and Mali.
Closer to home, 70 school pupils from the Western Isles have beaten the odds of Storm Brendan, travelling to Glasgow a day earlier than planned to help launch the festival ahead of their Friday show, Dìleab: Air a’ Chuan. The show at Glasgow Royal Concert Hall will see youngsters from the Sgoil Lionacleit Pipe Band, the Sir E Scott Choir from Harris, Castlebay Community School in Barra and The Nicolson Institute in Lewis take to the festival stage.
This year’s much-loved Opening Concert presents the world premiere of a new orchestral symphony inspired by the Declaration of Arbroath. Composed of six brand new pieces by leading Scottish composers, it was commissioned for Celtic Connections 2020 with backing from the Scottish Government’s Festival Expo Fund to mark the 700th anniversary of the 1320 declaration of Scottish independence and will be performed by the legendary Grit Orchestra, led by conductor/arranger Greg Lawson.
Other world-leading performances include Nitin Sawhney, Tessa Lark, Phamie Gow & the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, The BBC Radio Scotland Young Traditional Musician of The Year 20th Celebration, Anais Mitchell, Michael McGoldrick and anniversary celebration concerts from some of Scotland’s leading talent including Skerryvore, Mànran, RURA, Breabach and Salsa Celtica.
Celtic Connections will also celebrate Scotland’s Year of Coasts and Waters with a full day of special events all anchored to the maritime traditions that have shaped the country’s history. Coastal Connections, a one-off festival within a festival, will take place in the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall on January 18, offering single-ticket access to a packed programme of ocean-themed music.
The dark, wet January nights will also be brightened by a range of talks, workshops, film screenings, theatre productions, ceilidhs, exhibitions, free events and late-night sessions.
There will also be a showcase performance of music created within Celtic Connections In The Community worskshops. Organised in partnership with ethnic minority voluntary sector organisation, BEMIS, this programme involves people from diverse cultural communities in music workshops run by professional Celtic musicians. At Tramway on January 25, workshop participants will take part in a major festival highlight: BEMIS Presents Les Amazones D’Afrique & Special Guests.
Ahead of the evening Opening Concert, thousands of Scottish school children will have enjoyed the first of 4 free morning concerts taking place as part of Celtic Connections award-winning Education Programme. Through concerts and workshops by leading Celtic musicians more than 11,000 children will learn about traditional music through the Education Programme, as Celtic Connections once again puts young people at the heart of the festival.
Each year since 2000, Celtic Connections has partnered with a different country to create new international links and Finland is the Showcase Scotland international partner in 2020.
Donald Shaw, Creative Producer for Celtic Connections, said: “Over the next 18 days we will proudly showcase a rich array of unforgettable music – taking in local talent, international collaborations and inimitable artistic performances. We are a proudly outward-looking festival and this year’s programme sets out to excite audiences and illuminate the depth and diversity of musical talent across the globe. We look forward to welcoming visitors to the festival from near and far to enjoy the inimitable atmosphere of Celtic Connections.”
Councillor David McDonald, Chair of Glasgow Life, said: “Our UNESCO City of Music is bursting with unmissable entertainment during the 18-day festival as thousands descend on our world-class venues to experience the vibrancy and party atmosphere of this unique winter festival. As the UK’s top cultural and creative city, Glasgow is proud to host the best ceilidh in the world, champion celtic music and culture within the city and welcome Scottish, UK and international musicians and audiences to Celtic Connections 2020.”
Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop, said: “Celtic Connections has become an essential part of Scotland’s festival calendar, with hundreds of performances by some of the finest bands and musicians from around the globe.
“I am pleased that £100,000 of Scottish Government Expo funding has gone towards new music celebrating the 700th anniversary of the Declaration of Arbroath, and the fundamental and enduring message of freedom, independence and sovereignty of the people to a truly international audience.”
Alan Morrison, Head of Music, Creative Scotland said: “Scotland’s traditional music is the lifeblood of the nation and the envy of the world - and there’s no better way to warm up the winter months than to put that musical heritage on the global stage that is Celtic Connections. Over the years, the festival has broadened its musical spectrum but kept its roots drawing deep from Scottish culture – past, present and future. Music is what connects us, the hand of friendship we share with the world, and for the next few weeks, Glasgow is its beating heart.”
To see the full programme for Celtic Connections 2020 and buy tickets visit: www.celticconnections.com