Celtic Connections opinions: Conundrum | Transatlantic Classes | Elephant Periods

As the initially ever on-line Celtic Connections festival reaches its summary, Jim Gilchrist enjoys an eventful closing weekend

John McCusker, Chris Drever, Aly Bain and Phil Cunningham at Glasgow Royal Concert Hall
John McCusker, Chris Drever, Aly Bain and Phil Cunningham at Glasgow Royal Live performance Corridor

Thursday night’s Conundrum (****) piping live performance (named right after a renowned march), observed Finlay MacDonald at Glasgow’s Countrywide Piping Centre guide a salutary showcase of emerging expertise. Malin Lewis, Ailis Sutherland, Bradley Parker, and Conal McDonagh done a shifting sequence in which they performed in ever-switching duet and solo sets on bellows-blown Border and little pipes (in addition, in McDonagh’s scenario, Irish uilleann pipes), accompanied by a crisp trio of guitar, bodhran and keyboard and joined latterly by another noteworthy player, Ross Ainslie.

Down the road at Glasgow Royal Live performance Corridor, the piping collective Tryst’s 10-strong circle of reed energy experienced opened the live performance with engagingly unorthodox Highland pipe preparations. Featuring various notable figures from the people piping scene, repertoire ranged from the stately piobaireachd Lament for Viscount Dundee, its variants emerging from a matrix of harmonies, to a lively closing established of tunes by the late Gordon Duncan.

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The evening’s non-pipes interlude arrived from the trio Job Smok, led by the nimble whistle enjoying of Ali Levack, along with guitarist Pablo Lafuente and bodhran participant Ewan Baird, tight sets this sort of as Mountain Highway establishing from stealthy guitar by means of shifting time signatures and Levack’s avian-sounding actively playing.

A perennial sell-out, Transatlantic Sessions (****) assembled a grand residence band on the Royal Live performance Corridor phase, like regulars these types of as fiddlers Aly Bain and John McCusker, flautist Michael McGoldrick, singer-guitarist Kris Drever and accordionist Phil Cunningham. Their opening figures included the type of plaintive waltz, Frank McConnell’s A few-Move, that Bain and Cunningham have manufactured their individual.

Singer and whistle participant Julie Fowlis gave a wonderful rendition of Bothan Àirigh am Bràigh Raithneach prior to we ended up whisked, many thanks to online alchemy, from Gaeldom to Nashville, where banjoist Alison Brown, bluegrass fiddler Stuart Duncan, Irish singer-guitarist John Doyle and singer-mandolinist Tim O’Brien ended up gathered, with sparkling instrumental interplay and tunes this sort of as O’Brien’s Storms Are on the Ocean (a nod most likely to the virus, relatively than the ocean, that divides us), laced sinuously by Duncan’s western fiddle. Also there was Molly Tuttle, accompanying her music Just take the Journey with glittering clawhammer guitar.

Remotely joining the Glasgow band’s jubilant Wishing Tree established came the dobro sigh of US slide guitar maestro Jerry Douglas, normally the show’s co-host with Bain, whilst Kris Drever’s heartfelt I’ll Usually Depart the Mild On sounded a well timed note of assure.

In Inverness, the high-powered quintet Elephant Sessions (****), enjoying alongside one another for the first time considering that March, undoubtedly made up for dropped time. The extremely-restricted mandolin and fiddle entrance line of Alasdair Taylor and Euan Smillie, founded on punchy guitar, bass and drums with shadings of electronica, saved up an insistent beat, with just occasional lulls, as in the mellow reverb and synth introduction to Summer time or the marimba-like interjections infiltrating some figures.

Seldom did they enable up, and a person couldn’t assistance admiring their identified initiatives, amid flickering spots and flares, to whip up an all-much too-absent group – surely a indicator of these peculiar occasions.

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