Celtic Connections

Celtic Fiddle Festival with Finlay MacDonald & Chris Stout

RSNO Centre, Glasgow Royal Concert Hall

Rob Adams


The RSNO Centre has been hanselled, Celtic Connections style. The handsome, recently opened auditorium has had its first taste of the drolleries that come as an entertaining bonus to the frequently exquisite musicianship of Celtic Fiddle Festival.

CFF themselves had a new acquisition, with Charlie McKerron, of Capercaillie and Session A9 giving his first performance with them and restoring a marvellously cultured Scottish accent to a group that began almost a quarter of a century ago with the sadly now departed Johnny Cunningham aboard.

Cunningham was celebrated here, as were Breton and Quebecois dance metres, Irish fiddle heroes and Cunningham’s Silly Wizard colleague, Andy M Stewart, the singer being remembered through McKerron’s lovely reading of Scott Skinner’s Cluny Castle Inverness-shire. As ever with CFF, the music was played with expertise and sensitivity in inverse proportion to a presentational style that makes it a wonder any notes ever get played at all, let alone with such refinement.

In solo features and ensembles Kevin Burke’s relaxed bowing, Christian Lemaitre’s Breton steeliness, guitarist Nicolas Quemener’s affable adaptability and McKerron’s strathspey character and eloquence produced music with great richness and flair, culminating in a by turns mad and lyrical romp through the late Simon Jeffes’ naturally exuberant Music for a Found Harmonium.

Refinement, exuberance and spontaneity were at the heart of pipes and whistle master Finlay MacDonald and Shetland fiddle virtuoso Chris Stout’s group’s opening slot. This was music from both the pibroch tradition and a contemporary compositional strain delivered with superbly realised dynamics and melodic shape but, above all, pitched to achieve big time excitement.