I was a viola player at school. Not out of choice. Firstly, they told me my teeth were too squint to play the flute. Gutted. Then the violin section, which let’s be honest, everyone wants to be in, was too full. ‘How about the viola?’ the music teacher asked. And so there I was, for multiple school years, constantly moving the bow in the wrong direction, pretending to play my way through quartet pieces and getting fired up for the absolute highlight: the Pirates of the Caribbean theme tune, strings style. Looking back, I’m not surprised I went ahead with any of this; it was free!
So was I converted into loving the viola? Absolutely not. Give me a fiddle any day. Yes, I’d rather a fiddle than a violin, please. I’m only really interested in listening to traditional Scottish folk music, and that’s played on a fiddle. Or better yet, give me 4.
Celtic Connections is a festival which celebrates Celtic music, focusing particularly on traditional Scottish folk, as well as international folk and world music. It takes place in the Scottish heartland of Glasgow which is, more and more, becoming one of my favourite places in the bonny north.
It’s been on my bucket list for a while to attend Celtic Connections and when a work trip coincided with the last weekend of the festival, it was a shoo-in. Not only that, but one of my favourite Scottish bands, the Blazin’ Fiddles were scheduled to play on the Saturday night. It actually could not have been more perfect!
Highlanders, Blazin’ Fiddles are a collective of supreme fiddle players. The band’s members have changed over the years but the aim of the band has remained the same – to celebrate and promote Highland and Island fiddle music. They are an incredibly talented bunch and three of the current members have been winners of the highly acclaimed BBC Young Traditional Musician of the Year title.
“Folk music isn’t cool in England, it’s just not a thing”, said my (English) friend and colleague Dan, after the gig had finished. “But here, everyone loves it!”
I’m not sure about everyone but there is definitely a sense of pride attached to traditional Scottish music. I mean, we did write Auld Lang Syne (thanks Robert). Arriving earlier than my friends to the gig, I wormed my way to the front of the audience where I was captivated for the duration of the set. The ease of speed and intricate skill exhibited by the band’s members, combined with the rousing, fired-up melodies, made for a very impressive performance. Needless to say, my viola days were very, very different.
Cheers Celtic Connections, bucket list ticked – I’ll be back!