Banish those January blues: here comes Celtic Connections, with 18 days and nights of sparkling entertainment. The festival opens on Thursday with a spectacular, Expo-funded new symphonic work performed by the Grit Orchestra. Here are 12 further highlights to look forward to.

1.A current affair: Coastal Connections

(January 18, Glasgow city centre, then Glasgow Royal Concert Hall)

Catch a glimpse of giant sea goddess, Storm, as she makes her inaugural journey through Glasgow ahead of the Coastal Connections mini-festival. Marking the start of Scotland’s Year Of Coasts And Waters, Coastal Connections offers a full afternoon of entertainment with musicians representing 20 Scottish islands and coastal communities (including North Uist’s Julie Fowlis), plus Launch!, which blends footage from the Royal National Lifeboat Institution’s film archive with beatboxing … and lots more.

Coastal Connections tickets cost £25.85 or £13.20 (child), but Storm’s appearance is free for all the family, as Vision Mechanics' 10-metres tall moving artwork, created entirely from recycled and natural resources, begins her journey from Victoria Bridge (from around 9.30am), moving through the city to the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, accompanied by a specially commissioned soundtrack by Mairi Campbell. Full route details will be announced on Monday.

2. Skirl Power: A Celebration Of Women In Piping

(January 19, 8pm, GRCH, Strathclyde Suite)

Tickets from £16.50 including booking fee (seated)

Bagpiping was long considered a male art, but Limerick-born uilleann piper Louise Mulcahy has uncovered fascinating evidence that women have been practising it for 100 years. For tonight’s show, she’s assembled seven fantastic female musicians from across the Celtic world including Sheila Friel, Maire Ni Ghrada, Marion McCarthy, Alana MacInnes, Robyn Ada McKay and Enora Morice. Creating wonderful music on a variety of different pipes, this is the first ever cross-cultural celebration of women in piping.

3. Get reel: The Big Fling ¬ Scottish Dance Band Extravaganza

(January 21, 7.30pm, Glasgow Royal Concert Hall)

Tickets from £22 including booking fee (seated)

Tom Orr, Gary Innes, Marie Fielding, John Carmichael and other leading fiddlers, accordion-players and whistlers from top dance bands gie it laldy from the main stage, playing a range of Scottish and Irish tunes to set those feet tapping. If you simply can’t sit still, why not take the floor at one of Celtic Connections’ ever-popular ceilidhs at Maryhill Community Central Halls (£15.40, including booking fee).

4. A Portuguese holiday: Ana Moura with Moishe’s Bagel

(January 24, 7.30pm, Glasgow Royal Concert Hall)

Tickets from £22, including booking fee (seated)

Escape the winter chills on a trip to sunny Portugal with world-renowned fado artist, Ana Moura. Her intoxicating live performance is supported by Scotland’s Moishe’s Bagel, an audacious five-piece who blend klezmer, Balkan, Celtic, jazz, Middle Eastern and classical music. Enjoy an unforgettable evening with a truly international vibe.

5. A night on the town: choose from Manran 10th Anniversary Party With Band Of Burns (January 24, 7.30pm, Barrowland Ballroom) and Salsa Celtica 25th Anniversary Big Band And Project SMOK (February 1, 8pm, Old Fruitmarket)

Tickets from £22 each show, including booking fee (standing)

For a top weekend night out, these celebratory events promise plenty of Celtic Connections party spirit. Manran blends Gaelic and English songs with traditional instrumentation and rock rhythms; Salsa Celtica present a unique fusion of Latin and Scottish/Irish music. On both nights, those iconic venues will be jumping.

6.Bard company: Auld Lang Syne with BBC SSO & Special Guests

(January 25, 7.30pm Glasgow Royal Concert Hall)

Tickets from £24.20 including booking fee (seated)

Burns suppers are all very well. Whisky is dispatched, puddings eviscerated, then a whisky-and-haggis-fuelled after-dinner speaker murders the Bard’s lyrical gems. Celtic Connections’ Burns Night offers something different: a chance to enjoy some of Rabbie’s greatest musical poetry, as performed by Eddi Reader, Karen Matheson, Shona Donaldson and Jarlath Henderson, with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra.

7. Art of Africa: BEMIS Presents Les Amazones D’Afrique & Special Guests

(January 25, 7.30pm, Tramway)

Tickets from £18.70 including booking fee (seated)

World music fans shouldn’t miss this groundbreaking show from all-female West African supergroup, Les Amazones D’Afrique. A musical and political force of nature, this band campaigns against misogyny and violence against women. And their music is electric: Barack Obama is among their fans. Tramway presents the UK premiere of their brand new album, Amazones Power, along with the showcase finale of the new Celtic Connections In The Community programme, a partnership with ethnic minority voluntary sector organisation BEMIS. Performances from five Glasgow communities will celebrate the city’s diverse cultural traditions.

8. The Americana dream: Anais Mitchell and Bonny Light Horseman

(January 29, 8pm, Old Fruitmarket)

Tickets from £24.20 incl booking fee (standing)

Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter Anais Mitchell creates sublime, folk-inspired music, and recently won eight Tony awards for her folk opera, Hadestown, as well as a Grammy nomination for the show’s spin-off album. Tonight’s audience can revel in Mitchell’s own band set, as well as a performance by her new folk supergroup, Bonny Light Horseman. The trio – Mitchell, multi-instrumentalist Josh Kaufman and Eric D Johnson of the Fruit Bats ¬ release their first ever album during Celtic Connections, and the Glasgow gig is its UK premiere performance. Not to be missed!

9. The surreal thing: Return To Y’Hup: The World Of Ivor Cutler

(January 29, 7.30pm, Glasgow Royal Concert Hall)

Tickets from £24.20 including booking fee

The bucolic island paradise of Y’Hup was the true home of the late, great musical philosopher Ivor Cutler – or so the Govan-born maverick often insisted. His 1959 debut album, Ivor Cutler Of Y’Hup, joyfully referenced the flora, fauna and “critters” of this fantastical kingdom, which has been summoned back into being by musicians Raymond MacDonald, Matt Brennan, Malcolm Benzie and Andy Monaghan in new album, Return To Y’Hup. It’s launched tonight at this unique Celtic Connections show, presenting new arrangements of Cutler’s music and guest performers including Stuart Braithwaite, Kris Drever, Stuart Murdoch, Emma Pollock, Karine Polwart and James Yorkston.

10.A classical act: Sky & Lammermuir featuring Tessa Lark, Phamie Gow and the RSNO

(January 30, 7.30pm, Glasgow Royal Concert Hall)

Tickets form £24.20 including booking fee (seated)

Classical music buffs are in for a treat as Grammy-nominated Kentucky-born violinist Tessa Lark performs the European premiere of Sky, the concerto specially written for her by US composer Michael Torke. Scottish harpist and composer Phamie Gow shares the bill with a 20th anniversary performance of Lammermuir: the hauntingly evocative piece she wrote as a Celtic Connections New Voices commission back in 2000. A glorious evening, orchestrated by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra.

11.Let’s get musical: Come And Try Workshops

(Various dates, venues and prices)

If you long to enjoy Celtic Connections from the stage rather than the stalls, the festival offers plenty of chances to learn traditional instruments – including fiddle, whistle, bodhran drum, clarsach and ukulele – or sample musical traditions such as beatbox and samba. There are children and adults’ “come and try” sessions for complete beginners and masterclasses for advanced musicians, as well as singing and songwriting workshops.

12.Simon Thacker’s Svara-Kanti with Afsana-Khan, Jackie Shave & Sukhvinder Singh “Pinky”, with Nad-haara

(February 1, 7.30pm, Oran Mor)

Tickets, £22 including booking fee (seated)

Enjoy a cross-cultural celebration courtesy of Simon Thacker’s Svara-Kanti: the Scottish-born guitarist, composer and all-round musical polymath’s Indo-Western group, which combines the classical, folk and spiritual traditions of the Indian sub-continent. He’s joined by top Bollywood star, Afsana Khan, Grammy-winning tabla-master Sukvinder Singh “Pinky” and violinist Jackie Shave – leader of the Britten Sinfonia. Fusion music from brand new Scottish/Indian project Nad-Haara Bran completes the show.

For further information and hundreds more events visit