Celtic Nordic link

Item Posted: Monday 4th January, 2010

Each year Celtic Connections bring to Scotland a whole range of musicians and styles from around the world. But each year there is a particular country or area that is given a special focus. In 2009 musicians from Quebec were a popular addition to the mix, with masses of those performing at that other great Celtic Festival, Celtic Colours, arriving in droves for our winter festival. Many aficionados of Celtic music already knew many of the performers and their tunes because of the long standing musical and historic link between the two countries. The year before bands from the West of Sweden were a key part of the festival. In both cases the results for the public, and for the musicians, was great. The public saw line-ups rarely, if ever, seen before in Scotland, and a number of foreign bands were enabled to arrange Scottish or UK tours as a result of the exposure they received.

Increasingly Scottish musicians and composers are being influenced by the Scandinavian traditions, and this year Celtic Connections celebrates the connections between Norwegian and Celtic musical traditions. Well known (in Norway anyway) six top Norwegian bands will be performing as part of Showcase Scotland including Majorstuen, Synnøve S. Bjørset, Gjermund Larsen Trio, Unni Boksasp Ensemble, Skaidi and Valkyrien Allstars.

Individual bands have a great opportunity to showcase their music in front of festival fans, members of the media and music industry delegates from around the world.
These acts will appear as part of Showcase Scotland – the largest gathering of the international music community in Scotland – which provides Scottish acts with the valuable opportunity of performing in front of promoters, record labels and agents from twenty different countries. It is a real opportunity for the bands to build their international profile. But for the public it is as important, as they have a one-off chance to see the cream of another country’s music crop. Silje Førland Erdal of the Norwegian Traditional Music Agency says: “We are delighted to be the international partner in 2010. The partnership puts forward a significant opportunity for Norwegian artists to perform at one of the most important showcase stages in Europe, and to present their music to passionate and enthusiastic spectators eager to discover new music.” Donald Shaw, Celtic Connections Artistic Director, added: “Norway has a vibrant music scene, and there are some really great musicians representing the nation at the festival this year. I’m sure these 6 acts will go down a storm at Celtic Connections.”
Celtic Connections will also be exploring the Nordic further musical connections including a Norwegian Fiddle Style workshop, performances by legendary Norwegian jazz saxophonist Jan Garbarek, and a key concert ‘Nordic Tone’, which unites twenty five young musicians from Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark and Shetland. Reprised from the Shetland Folk Festival this dynamic exchange of kindred traditions and contemporary influences creates a “lush, sophisticated, densely layered ensemble sound, imbued with a polish and finesse that plenty of established bands would struggle to emulate.” (Hi-Arts)

Even if you find you don’t know the names of these Norwegian bands, it is well worth the punt for an evening! Apart from anything else they are performing with some of the key established and up and coming musicians on the Scottish circuit. Nuala Kennedy, the mercurial Irish flautist and singer will join in the Majorstuen concert; the Gjermund Larsen Trio will be sharing the stage with the ever popular high-octane Peatbog Faeries; and you can hear Duncan Chisholm with Phil Cunningham the same evening as Skaidi.
This sort of innovative programming involved long term discussion between festival organisers, the Scottish Arts Council, the Norwegian Arts Council and the Norwegian Embassy. Given the results of previous countries involvement in the festival, it is clear that sending artists to key festivals is far more than just a cultural exchange. It can boost tourism to a country more effectively, and more cheaply, than a TV advertising campaign. Maybe supporting Scottish musicians to tour abroad is something SAC and VisitScotland could consider doing more of in the future!
Showcase Scotland 2010 will run from Thursday 28th– Sunday 31st January around Glasgow
Nordic Tone is on 24th January at the Concert Hall


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