Celtic Connections 30th Anniversary: When it’s on, where to get tickets, and full line-up

Celtic Connection is back in-person this year with a star-studded line-up of folk artists from Glasgow to Mali.

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Celtic Connections, the home of world-class music, one-off collaborations, and genre-defying spectacles, is set to celebrate its 30th anniversary next year.

The internationally renowned festival will mark this milestone with an ambitious and eclectic programme of music that will be showcased between Thursday, January 19 – Sunday, February 5 2023.

It would be fair to say that there was a sense of apprehension for that very first festival back in 1994 – many questioned the idea of celebrating Scotland’s folk music on such a large scale during the dark month of January.

The first festival, held in 1994, was hailed a huge success, staging 66 events across one venue and welcoming 27,000 attendees. Celtic Connections, which is delivered through Glasgow Life with funding from Glasgow City Council, is now internationally recognised as a world-class event and has grown to over 300 events across 30 stages, with an annual attendance figure of over 110000.

The festival will pay homage to the last three decades with a variety of concerts that shine the spotlight on musicians or groups who have been involved with the festival since the inaugural event or have come together thanks to the Celtic Connections platform.

This year’s Opening Concert will celebrate the history of the festival with a range of artists who’ve featured prominently over the years, alongside those emerging from the vibrant folk scene - reflecting Celtic Connections’ multi-generational breadth, its Internationalism and collaborative, cross-genre spirit.

The line-up includes:

  • Karine Polwart
  • Sierra Hull
  • Basco
  • Peat & Diesel
  • TRIP
  • Fergus McCreadie & Matt Carmichael
  • Maeve Gilchrist
  • Rachel Sermanni

A unique ‘Big Band’ that was originally conceived for the 2021 digital festival will also play - this will be brought together in full live glory for this year’s Opening Concert and will feature many of the musicians who have lit up the Celtic Connections stages over the years with Patsy Reid, Graham Mackenzie, Laura Wilkie, Michael McGoldrick, Hannah Fisher, Ross Ainslie, Anna Massie, Alyn Cosker, James Mackintosh, Duncan Lyall and Sorren Maclean, alongside surprise guests.

This year’s festival welcomes a world premiere of Moving Cloud – an exciting collaboration of contemporary dance and traditional music created by Celtic Connections and Scottish Dance Theatre led by Artistic Director Joan Clevillé and featuring a new score performed by a 14 piece folk ensemble featuring the musicians of TRIP and Sian, along with Greg Lawson and Alice Allen.

A star-studded cast of internationally renowned artists will present ‘Celtic Odyssée’, in association with the Festival Interceltique de Lorient. The aim of this collaborative show is to foster new inter-Celtic encounters between artists from the eight European Celtic nations. Musical Director for the night is Breton virtuoso piper Ronan Le Bars who leads his all Breton band.

All women Irish-American powerhouse, Cherish the Ladies, Scots ambassadors of strings Blazin’ Fiddles who will perform in the grandeur of Glasgow’s Theatre Royal, trad fusion powerhouse Treacherous Orchestra who will bring the Fruitmarket to life with their energetic piping lead arrangements and Scotland’s very own Colin Hay, best known as ex-frontman of Australia’s Grammy-winning Men at Work who sold more than 30 million records during the 1980s, will also be back to perform at this year’s festival.

For the first time Celtic Connections will welcome the Irish Chamber Orchestra for the innovative Róisín ReImagined a special project featuring award-winning singer Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh’s renditions of classic sean nós songs, bringing a new generation of listeners to these melodically complex and richly ornamented songs. This new project has breathed new life into the noble, classical songs of Muireann’s ancestors and it will pair her peerless vocals with fresh orchestral arrangements from the Irish tradition.

A special show, entitled Strands: 30th Anniversary Youth Concert will be a joint celebration of Celtic Connections’ 30th edition and its pioneering education programme. Since 1999, over 200,000 children, from 70% of Glasgow’s schools, have taken part in Celtic Connections’ education events – often their first ever experience of live music.

This unique show will see young musicians come together from regions across Scotland, showcasing their home traditions before premiering a brand-new ensemble composition from Treacherous Orchestra co-founder John Somerville.

International performances at the event include:

  • Rokia Kone
  • Amadou and Mariam
  • Bab L’Bluz and Yousra Mansour
  • Orchestral Qawwali
  • Penguin Cafê
  • Manu Delago
  • Moonlight Benjamin

Among the many Hebridean artists appearing at the festival are Gaelic-blues-indie sensation Peat & Diesel who will celebrate their rise to fame over these last few years, since their Glasgow debut at Celtic Connections, by performing a headline show in the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall alongside Haitian voodoo blues rock singer Moonlight Benjamin.

Another fiddle-playing extraordinaire John McCusker will celebrate 30 years in the industry with the launch of his Best of album in 2023. His 30th celebration will culminate with this big gathering of musical pals. John has made his mark in many different settings and genres, playing his own music, playing with, or producing his peers. Longstanding membership of the annual Transatlantic Sessions house band and of Mark Knopfler’s band are among the many highlights of John’s career.

Joining John on the night will be a who’s who of Scottish folk music, including James Mackintosh, Ewen Vernal, Ian Carr, Helen McCabe, Phil Cunningham, Simon Thoumire, Graeme Blevins andTom Walsh. Guests also include Eddi Reader, Julie Fowlis, Karine Polwart, Kris Drever and Roddy Woomble.

Anniversary celebrations continue with Colin MacIntyre weaving magic on-stage with his musical storytelling to celebrate 21 years of Mull Historical Society.

Americana will once again feature prominently across the programme. Tennessee’s singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Sierra Hull will make a welcome return to the festival, sharing the bill with Nashville’s singer-songwriter and fiddle extraordinaire Rachel Baiman.

Canada’s Lonesome Ace Stringband will showcase their blend of bluegrass, folk and country while Bonny Light Horseman, made up of Americana royalty Anaïs Mitchell, Josh Kaufman, and Eric D. Johnson, will also perform.

Gaelic talent will take centre stage at this year’s festival with the acclaimed contemporary Scottish folk band Breabach showcasing music from their recently released album Fàs - a Gaelic word meaning ‘growth’, ‘developing’ and ‘sprouting’ - with the album heavily inspired by the natural environment of Scotland.

The who’s who on the Scottish Gaelic scene will be part of a newly created show that will launch the reworked Gaelic song collection of Frances Tolmie: Gun Sireadh Gun Iarraidh. Ainsley Hamill, Ceitlin Smith, Mischa Macpherson, Màiri Callan, James Graham, Rachel Walker, Mary Ann Kennedy, Seumas Campbell and Kenna Campbell will all perform on the bill.

Celtic Connections will also showcase an array of bands at the cutting edge of Scotland’s thriving contemporary trad scene. Artists who continue to draw inspiration from the tradition while putting their own distinct mark on their music. Bands include Ímar, Talisk, Gnoss, Siobhan Miller, Dallahan, Fras, Project Smok, Ciaran Ryan, Kim Edgar and Staran, who are set to take to Glasgow stages across the 18 days.

2023 will see Brittany showcased as international partners, alongside Wales who return again from last year, as the festival celebrates the folk traditions of two of Scotland’s closest Celtic cousins.

Donald Shaw, Creative Producer for Celtic Connections, said: “Our 30th anniversary is a hugely important moment for the festival, especially considering the last couple of years. We will, of course, be paying homage to the musicians, bands and artists who have contributed, supported and inspired the festival over the last three decades, but importantly this is also a moment to look to the future. The last two years have been incredibly tough for so many musicians and the live entertainment industry in general, so Celtic Connections 2023 is an opportunity to commemorate how far the festival and the Scottish music scene has come, and to also celebrate the fact that we are still here.

“Celtic Connections is still showcasing some of the best music Scotland and the world has to offer, established and emerging musicians are still here creating and performing, audiences are still here enjoying the cultural exponents of our country and other nations from across the world. Sharing our music and our arts is a vital part of our human existence, connecting us and enriching lives, and we have missed that. I can’t wait to revel in a live festival once again and celebrate the resilience and the longevity of our sector.”

Tickets for Celtic Connections 2023 will be available from 10am on Wednesday October 12 at www.celticconnections.com.

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