Each January, Glasgow thrills to the sounds of the Celtic Connections festival and each January the organisers promise and deliver a festival like no other. Not for nothing is the annual roots gathering viewed as one of Scotland’s cultural gems by both participants and punters. Folk music is an inappropriate description of what the festival offers, but not in the sense that it’s about music and musicians and music-loving folk, and what happens when you combine the three. With maybe a dram or two to help ease the introductions, of course.

But this year’s promise of a festival like no other has new meaning to it and a different edge. Participants and punters there will be, just not in the same space at the same time. We know why. In its 28th iteration, Celtic Connections will follow so many other festivals in the pandemic era and turn to the digital realm to deliver gigs and events, in this case a special channel on video streaming platform Vimeo. A few will also be aired on BBC Alba. Pre-filmed in November and December in venues both new and familiar – among them the Old Fruitmarket, the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, St Luke’s and Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum – or further afield in places such as Nashville, these concerts will bring the 2021 festival to your own home.

“In a world where so much is unknown it is vitally important that as a sector, we do all we can to ensure the longevity of Scotland’s culture,” says Celtic Connections founder and Creative Producer Donald Shaw. “Sharing our music and our arts is a vital part of our human existence, it connects us as a nation both at home and abroad”.

The digital curtain goes up on Friday and the festival runs until February 2. Ahead of the grand opening, here are 10 performances to look forward. Drams, of course, are optional.

Edwin Morgan 100

April 2020 marked the centenary of the birth of Scotland’s favourite modern poet, and August 2020 marked a decade since his death. Morgan’s words were set to music as early as 1970 – take a bow, Linda Thompson, who recorded From A City Balcony with Archie Fisher and Martin Carthy – and in 2002 he collaborated with Scottish band Idlewild on the closing track of their third album, The Remote Part. In this Celtic Connections event former Idlewild frontman Roddy Woomble will be joined by artists such as Karine Polwart to perform songs written to Edwin Morgan’s poems. An additional treat – and this is quite a coup – is a newly-commissioned choral work from acclaimed composer Gavin Bryars. Based on Morgan’s poems and titled Sonnets From Scotland it will be performed by the choir of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.

January 31

The Roaming Roots Revue

A festival favourite curated by songwriter and broadcaster Roddy Hart and featuring an all-star cast performing covers and re-interpretations of classic songs – previous years have celebrated The Beatles and the work of Bruce Springsteen – this year’s Revue serves up a no-less stellar roll-call of musicians. Among the names confirmed so far as Simon Neil from Biffy Clyro, indie favourites Field Music, Ricky Ross and Lorraine McIntosh, Rachel Sermanni, loop pedal-tastic solo act Heir Of The Cursed (think The Durutti Column-meets-avant-folk luminary Beverly Glenn-Copeland), all aided and abetted by Hart and his own band, The Lonesome Fire.

January 30

Bassekou Kouyate

Desert blues stalwart and virtuoso ngoni player Bassekou Kouyate is joined by his musician wife Amy Sacko for a performance filmed in his home village of Garana, north-east of the Malian capital Bamako and situated on the banks of the River Niger. Now in his mid-fifties, Kouyate has collaborated many times with the great Malian kora player Toumani Diabaté, and performed with artists as varied as Taj Mahal (he was part of the American blues musician’s acclaimed Kulanjan project), Bela Fleck and the Kronos Quartet.

January 19

James Grant

Another who has set Edwin Morgan poems to music – on his 2002 solo album I Shot The Albatross – the Glasgow-born singer-songwriter and former Love And Money frontman is joined by the Hallelujah String Quartet for a reprise (of sorts) of a 2016 Celtic Connections show which featured Grant’s songs (and one or two covers) framed by the quartet’s lush and intimate strings. As accomplished a songwriter as he is dapper a dresser, this should be one of the festival highlights.

January 25

Xabier Diaz

Recorded at his home in northern Spain, vocalist and percussionist Xabier Diaz dips into a decade’s worth of work and (hopefully) his impressive 2020 album As Catedrais Silenciadas, a moody collection of rhythmic, drone-based reflections on the folk music of his native Galicia made in collaboration with 10-strong all female vocal group Adufeiras De Salitre. Intense, mysterious, and not to be missed.

January 22

Georgia Cecile

Glasgow-born and Uddingston-raised she may be, but thanks to a jazz-loving aunt young singer Georgia Cecile was schooled from an early age in the music of Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holliday and Nancy Wilson – and it has paid off. Swapping a law degree at Strathclyde University for a career in the more classical end of Scotland’s burgeoning jazz scene, she’s fast becoming one of its leading lights. Cecile appears on a bill which also features jazz pianist Fergus McCreadie, Gambian kora virtuoso Sona Jobarteh, and fiddle and clarsach duo Chris Stout and Catriona McKay.

January 17

Aidan O’Rourke 365

One third of Scottish folk supergroup Lau along with guitarist Kris Drever and accordion player Martin Green, Oban-born fiddler O’Rourke presents highlights from his two 365 albums – music written in response to author James Robertson’s year-long undertaking which involved him writing one story every day, each of 365 words. Among O’Rourke’s helpmates in a concert recorded at City Halls are piano-playing musical jazz polymath Kit Downes and yes, there will be readings.

January 19

Rhiannon Giddens with Francesco Turrisi

The Grammy Award-winning singer and musician is joined by Italian multi-instrumentalist Francesco Turrisi for a performance filmed at the National Concert Hall in Dublin. The pair are regular collaborators (and, currently, partners) and the combination of North Carolina-born Giddens’s all-encompassing Americana and Turrisi’s Conservatory background and experimental jazz leanings make for a winning blend. Unsurprisingly, their most recent collaboration, 2019 album There Is No Other, drew its influences from many styles and musical traditions. And, if she deigns to perform it, her cover of Shake Sugaree by fellow North Carolina native and all-round blues icon Elizabeth Cotten will be worth the admission price alone.

January 31

The Secret Sisters

Hailing from near Muscle Shoals, Alabama – and you don’t need much more introduction than that, given the city’s venerable history as a recording venue and musical nursery – singing sisters Laura Rogers and Lydia Slagle released their fourth studio album, Saturn Return, last year to almost universal acclaim. For the Rolling Stone critic it was “a stunning country-soul opus” and if you want a flavour of their Carter Family-meets-Laurel Canyon sound turn to You Tube and check out their Tiny Desk Concert for American public broadcaster NPR. The Secret Sisters’ Celtic Connections concert was recorded in Happy Valley, California.

January 24

The Staves

Recorded at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum last month, the English trio of siblings Emily, Jessica and Camilla Staveley-Taylor make a welcome return to Celtic Connections. A hit in 2019 when they joined that year’s Roaming Roots Revue to celebrate the 50th anniversary of The Beatles’ Abbey Road album – The Staves performed Because – they appear here ahead of the release of their fifth album, Good Woman, which sees them throw a little Fleetwood Mac into their usual blend of close harmonies and indie folk stylings. This concert will air on BBC Alba at 9pm on January 22.

All Access festival passes for Celtic Connections are available from www.celticconnections.vhx.tv and individual concert tickets can also be purchased. Some concerts will also be aired on BBC Alba.