Connections of Celtic Kind: Karine Polwart recommends Sarah Hayes and Rachel Newton

karine-polwart-traces-review-interviewSomething that absolutely sets Celtic Connections apart from other festivals is the way in which it not just highlights but actively encourages acts, and even genres, to find common ground and collaborate.

Yeah, sure, there’s some sharing at T in the Park and the likes, the odd on stage cover or backstage lover (uh-oh) but Celtic Connections is called so in good reason.


In the spirit of sharing Rave Child has been asking acts from this year’s line-up to help spread the good news and recommend which tickets you spend your precious January pennies on.

Who: Karine Polwart

Karine Polwart’s most recent album, Traces, has been a firm favourite of mine for the last year.

She is a folk singer whose lyricism is to be admired, her songwriting extends so far beyond boy meets girl storytelling or skies and seas poetry; some tracks are personal, others historical and many topical.

I’ve found, that in the age of shuffling playlists and soundcloud selections, Traces is one of the few new albums I sit with and listen.

Where: The Old Fruitmarket

When: Thursday, January 23

“My main festival gig is as guest collaborator with the splendid Greek-Cypriot songwriter, composer and multi instrumentalist Alkinoos Ioannidis, who’s a bit of a folk hero back in Greece and Cyprus.

“I’ve been to Athens twice in the past year to work with Alkinoos on some new eastern infused material in English and Greek and some blending of Scots and Cypriot traditional song.

“It’s a real treat to play with him and his band of Yiorgos Kaloudis (on cello and Cretan lyre) and Nikos Paraoulakis (on ney, a traditional flute), they’re lovely… and exceptional.”

“I’ll recommend two gigs, both are Sunday afternoon New Voices Commissions for emerging composers, some of the most interesting music in recent years at the festival has emerged out of these gigs.”

“First up this Sunday, January 19, I’d recommend Sarah Hayes, singer, flautist, whistler and pianist of indie-popster Admiral Fallow fame.

“Sarah combines also the discipline of a classical music training (she teaches occasionally at the Royal Conservatoire in Glasgow) and the rich Northumbrian folk heritage of her childhood.

“Sarah played beautifully on my last album, Traces, she has tremendous poise and grace and is a really inventive arranger and writer.

“I can’t wait to hear her brand new piece Woven.

“On Sunday, February w, the beautiful Edinburgh harper/singer/fiddler Rachel Newton launches her commission piece Changeling.

Rachel is a gem of a woman, really sparky, I was lucky to have her tour with me last year.

I’m anticipating a dark, intense, supernaturally tinged piece and she’s in great company, performing with a few other pals also, among them Corrina Hewat on harp and Mattie Foulds on percussion.

“Two fantastic women. Well worth checking out!”

New Voices gigs are an important part of Celtic Connections, giving younger artists a chance to showcase their work.

The artists chosen are usually recognisable for supporting or working alongside more established acts.

Often these new voices become familiar faces; Rachel Sermanni, for example, was not so long ago a new voice and is this year taking on Kelvingrove and the Hydro.

In previous years I’ve found that the effort that these acts put into their concerts is wonderful, there is an unbridled excitement and enthusiasm about being the main act, the big deal.

Words: Leonie Colmar


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