THE Celtic Connections music festival last night lifted the curtain on next year’s line up – and revealed it will be kicking off the 700th celebrations of the Declaration of Arbroath.

The world premiere of a new orchestral symphony inspired by the 1320 manuscript – which was intended to confirm Scotland’s status as an independent and sovereign state and written during the time of Robert the Bruce – will form the centrepiece of Europe’s largest winter music festival when it opens in January.

The Arbroath document famously states: “It is in truth not for glory, nor riches, nor honours that we are fighting, but for freedom.”

Now six brand new pieces by leading Scottish composers have been commissioned with backing from the Scottish Government’s Festival Expo Fund to mark next year’s anniversary of the 1320 declaration of Scottish independence. 

READ MORE: Celtic Connections Festival 2020 in Glasgow: who is playing, where are the venues, what time to concerts start? 

All six pieces will be performed at the opening concert by the Grit Orchestra, a now-legendary ensemble of 80 folk, jazz and classical musicians, led by conductor/arranger Greg Lawson, which was founded to continue the legacy of the late Scots-Canadian musician Martyn Bennett.

“That cross-cultural, interdisciplinary spirit is at the heart of Celtic Connections,” said creative producer Donald Shaw. 

“Celtic Connections has always valued cultural ‘connections’, as well as ‘Celtic’ influences, and at this time of UK and global turmoil, it has never been more important to create work with an outward-looking approach. 

“This year’s line-up is rich in cross-cultural collaboration and international, as well as local talent and the Declaration composition epitomises that.”

Having begun in 1994 as a small folk festival offering 66 events celebrating music from the Celtic nations at one venue, it has grown to attract 130,000 visitors across 300 events.

And the organisers are not letting up as the line-up for Celtic Connections for 2020 revealed a host of  events in venues throughout Glasgow, providing an eclectic mix of concerts, film screenings, exhibitions, workshops, talks, theatre productions and ceilidhs. Now recognised as a premier celebration of traditional music, the 18-night festival, which launches on January 16, is famous for its experimental and adventurous line-ups.

Artistic director Donald Shaw confirmed last year that in future years his role would focus on developing more of the special commissions, major one-off shows and creative collaborations.

Among the events planned is a 70th birthday tribute to Bruce Springsteen with the Roaming Roots Revue. 

The Born to Run tribute at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall on January 26 features award-winning singer-songwriter Karine Polwart, Irish musician Lisa Hanningan and Craig Finn, the frontman of US indie rock band The Hold Steady, as well as house band Roddy Hart And The Lonesome Fire. 

A Celebration of Women in Piping on January 19 also promises to be a cross-cultural first that will showcase top female performers of this most Scottish of instruments. Among them are those pipers include Louise Mulcahy, Alana MacInnes, Síle Friel, Máire Ní Ghráda, Marion McCarthy, Enora Morice and Robyn Ada McKay.

Alan Morrison, head of music at Creative Scotland, said:  “It’s particularly encouraging to see Scotland’s female pipers take centre stage.

Yet again Celtic Connections is the musical ray of sunshine that lights up the winter months.”

An Auld Lang Syne Burns celebration on January 23 will see the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra share the main stage in the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall with Eddi Reader, Karen Matheson, Jarlath Henderson and Shona Donaldson. 

Each year since 2000, Celtic Connections has partnered with a different country to create new international links and advance opportunities for their musicians. For 2020 that international partner will be Finland and both leading and emerging Finnish artists will feature in association with Music Finland in Glasgow this winter.


Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop said: “Scotland is once again looking forward to welcoming people from around the world to Celtic Connections,  which never fails to bring light to the dark winter months. 

“The focus this year on cross-cultural collaboration is perfect for Scotland, an open-hearted, creative nation that warmly receives people from all backgrounds.

“In the year of the 700th anniversary, it is also particularly fitting that the centrepiece will be a symphony celebrating the Declaration of Arbroath. With funding from the Scottish Government’s EXPO fund, this performance will help to raise the profile of one of the defining moments in Scottish history.”