Macphail at large

The Oban Times - - Letters - AN­GUS MACPHAIL an­gus­macphail@ya­

JAN­UARY is the month for mu­sic in Glas­gow and with Celtic Con­nec­tions of­fi­cially kick­ing off to­day, Thurs­day Jan­uary 19, and get­ting fully un­der­way to­mor­row, the city is ready­ing it­self for an ex­trav­a­ganza of Celtic and roots-based mu­sic from Scot­land and around the world.

This week­end there are some par­tic­u­lar West Coast high­lights. Màn­ran and Blazin’ Fid­dles join forces on Fri­day to bring the Bar­row­land Ball­room alive and, on Satur­day, Shooglenifty take the stage of the Glas­gow Royal Con­cert Hall’s main au­di­to­rium in what will be an emo­tional night as they pay trib­ute to their late col­league, friend and founder mem­ber, An­gus Grant Ju­nior.

On Sun­day night this venue also hosts the 20th an­niver­sary of Phil Cun­ning­ham’s High­lands and Is­lands Suite, an or­ches­tral col­lab­o­ra­tion with some of the coun­try’s top tra­di­tional mu­si­cians. Also on Sun­day night, and in the Strath­clyde Suite of the same build­ing, is the Mary Ann Kennedy-di­rected con­cert, Tiree Song Book. I hope to be in the au­di­ence for this one, and apolo­gies in ad­vance to any­one sit­ting near by, be­cause I may be a bit over ex­cited and singing along loudly.

Celtic Con­nec­tions is the big­gest fes­ti­val of its kind in the world and it has been a great fo­cal point and source of en­ergy for tra­di­tional mu­sic.

An­other Glas­gow in­sti­tu­tion that has had a sim­i­lar pos­i­tive ef­fect on our mu­sic is the Park Bar. Last Sun­day saw the re­lease of an al­bum cel­e­brat­ing 50 years of mu­sic in this fa­mous High­land wa­ter­ing hole.

The Park Bar has given a plat­form to hun­dreds of High­land bands, singers and mu­si­cians and been a con­sis­tent sup­porter of mu­sic since li­cens­ing laws in Scot­land first al­lowed live mu­sic to be played back in 1966. Un­der the man­age­ment of the fa­mous and highly re­spected Terry Fer­gu­son, the Park Bar led the way in giv­ing ceilidh mu­sic a plat­form in pubs.

There are very few High­land and tra­di­tional mu­si­cians who have not had a help­ing hand in their ca­reer by get­ting the op­por­tu­nity to take the stage in the Park. En­cour­aged by the then man­ager Iain MacLeod (Sgadan), An­drew and my­self per­formed there be­fore we had even thought of a name for our band. The cur­rent boss, Nina Steele did the same for Martin and Daniel Gille­spie of Sk­er­ryvore, and long be­fore that Campbell Brown of Gunna Sound and count­less other young per­form­ers re­ceived a sim­i­lar boost.

The CD is a fine rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the en­ter­tain­ment that has fea­tured in the venue over its mu­si­cal life­time. It fea­tures two tracks from the leg­endary Don­ald McRae, who is un­doubt­edly the artist most strongly as­so­ci­ated with the Park, hav­ing per­formed there for the en­tire 50 years cel­e­brated by the al­bum.

Don­ald is one of the coun­try’s top Gaelic singers and gave a foun­da­tion of song ac­com­pa­ni­ment to count­less ac­cor­dion play­ers, my­self in­cluded. The 2/4 Marches from Wil­lie Cameron, the open­ing set from Trail West, and Robert Robert­son’s stun­ning de­liv­ery of Gru­a­gach Òg an Fhuilt Bhàn were all stand- out tracks. When you walk into the Park, you in­stantly feel at home. Nina, her sis­ter Win­nie, the staff and the cus­tomers are like a fam­ily to peo­ple from the High­lands and Is­lands in Glas­gow.

That feel­ing of ‘Celtic con­nec­tion’ is evoked beau­ti­fully through­out this en­tire CD.

Robert Robert­son gave a stun­ning per­for­mance on Sun­day.

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