Notes from Celtic Connections 2020, part 4

Tue 28

Our only concert of the day was the 35th anniversary celebration of Cherish The Ladies. The for all purposes sold out Royal Concert Hall was eager to welcome the core ensemble and their numerous guests.

And the people certainly got their money’s worth as the event stretched to over three hours, including a 20-minute break. For our taste and the resilience of our bottoms (doing a CC marathon like ours means a LOT of sitting during the over two weeks of the festival, unfortunately) the duration was a tad excessive, especially as the flow of the concert never really gelled, thanks to the constantly changing guests and the amazing dance troupe that was on and off and on and off stage during the event.

But the performances themselves were delightful and everyone involved in the production seemed to be in the spirit from their heart and only the very last stretch felt genuinely overdrawn. We staggered out fully nourished and not left wanting for more.

Wed 29

Again just one concert. The Mitchell Theater hosted a Finnish-Scottish double feature as fellow Finns Juuri & Juuri opened for the excellent Dallahan.

Juuri & Juuri is a duo of two experienced and ambitious folk musicians, with harmonium and fiddle or nyckelharpa as the entire instruments arsenal. So, very basic and even deliberately archaic; the impression was strengthened by choice of tunes, many of which represented a very old layer of Finnish and Nordic tradition. Not many pretty melodies but lots of shamanistic riffing on very simple structures.

Not really our favorite stuff but the audience seemed to get quite a kick out of it after the initial shock, so a win for the eccentric duo.

Dallahan played brilliantly and the tunes from their albums, reflecting different musical influences, got an extra charge on stage. The band plays so tightly together they really sound like an organic unit; there was little need for any extra antics when the music is this entertaining and some brave guys in the audience actually did take the floor for a happy dance during a few fast numbers. I had been wanting to see Dallahan live for quite some time and was happy to note they really deliver – and then some 😊

Thu 30

We had been lucky to get the tickets to the Charlie Grey & Joseph Peach sold out session where they gave a truly lovely 30-minute performance of the highest quality after which the film Air Iomall was shown. To learn more about the film, documenting the guys’ exceptional 2018 musical Atlantic venture, go here; the music composed during and inspired by the voyage is available on the Air Iomall album.

The evening’s musical menu had Finland’s accordion goddess Johanna Juhola opening for the legendary Session A9. A marvelous evening as Johanna and her guitarist Roope Aarnio were in top form and the set not only musically top notch but also filled with humor and quite stunning hi tech features – thanks to their tech guy Teemu Korpipää – such as her playing as a five-woman band, with four different digital versions of herself projected on a screen behind her, the live and digital Johannas playing in perfect sync.

Session A9 gave what we expected: lots of energetic trad, nice original tunes by the various band members, with one particular piece inspired by the Swindon Roundabout (!) a special highlight for me. Nothing too surprising, with perhaps one Tom Waits cover an exception, but good cheer, good playing and much clapping and stomping – a happy hour indeed 😊

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