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VARIOUS ARTISTS - Cẹlas Aig Celtic (DVD)

VARIOUS ARTISTS - Cẹlas Aig Celtic (DVD)

The performances on this wonderful 2-hour-long DVD were recorded in front of a full house at Glasgow’s Old Fruitmarket during the final week of Celtic Connections 2014. It’s a superb roster, assembled by Iain MacDonald from artistes who give unstintingly high quality, and the programme is well balanced between songs and instrumental items, faster and broader tempi. A majority of the music performed is of Gaelic origin, and mere mention of the names of those involved should be sufficient to indicate the calibre of the music-making (the line-up of singers comprises Gillebride MacMillan, Cathy Ann MacPhee, Linda MacLeod, Kathleen MacInnes and Sineag MacIntyre). Sterling, sensitive accompaniment is provided by a house team including (among others) Allan and Ingrid Henderson.

The concert also makes occasional excursions into other connected musics; there’s some Cape Breton fiddle from Kimberley Fraser with Howie MacDonald (the Mrs Campbell’s set really whips up a storm) and Dwayne Côté, some brilliantly energetic Breton singing from Brigitte Kloareg, and an interlude of Old Finnish (Runosong) singing from Pekka Huttu-Hittunen, accompanied by Märi Mäntyla. Anna Wendy Stevenson and Simon Bradley fiddle their way spiritedly through some Irish jigs, and are joined by piper Fin Moore for a second set. Fin also crops up as one member of the quartet of pipers (the other three being Angus MacKenzie, Angus Nicolson and Seonaidh MacIntyre) on a stomping set of tunes, where somehow room was also found for Jayne MacLeod to stepdance on the crammed stage.

Earlier, a rousing solo pipe set from Seonaidh opens the proceedings, before Kathleen and Sineag take I Believe In Glasgow as a cue to introduce Gillebride’s first item; their duties as co-hosts also involve providing a specially written intro for Linda’s well poised solo song. But however many performers appear on stage at any one time, the feel is intimate while preserving a sense of occasion befitting the event; there’s a tangible bond between artistes and audience, a unique atmosphere that’s very well captured by the excellent recording, as is the rapt and enthusiastic reception afforded to the performances.

It’s a pity that the DVD’s presentation lets it down – the package is, lamentably, bereft of any form of documentation: no booklet, no background notes on the material, just a bare list of artistes and titles on the back cover. Non-Gaelic speakers will have an impossible task making sense of most of the material (which after all will be unfamiliar to them) and even the stage intros in English don’t always illuminate matters. What a shame we’re denied the full impact of this faithful record of an evening that definitely brought the house down.

David Kidman

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This album was reviewed in Issue 114 of The Living Tradition magazine.