FOR countless musicians around the world, being invited to play at Celtic Connections is a major ambition.
But for acclaimed Scottish folk singer Siobhan Miller, it’s hard to imagine the festival not being part of her life.
For more than half of her 31 years, the three-time Scots Singer of the Year winner has featured on the bill at the world’s premier roots music event.
“I was 14 or 15 the first time I played there,” Siobhan smiled.
“I was part of a show Findlay Napier brought together which featured young female vocalists, such as Julie Fowlis, Emily Smith and Gillian Frame, who were all still studying at the time. I think Findlay heard me at the Auchtermuchty Festival and I’ve been lucky enough to perform at Celtic Connections every year since.
“It’s a really important festival for me.
“It’s been amazing to see how much the festival has grown, even in the time I’ve been involved.”
Siobhan, from Penicuik, was brought up in the folk scene as her dad, Brian, is a renowned folk musician. But it wasn’t something she pursued as a career at first.
“I was interested in trad music from a young age and would always be going to festivals at the weekends with my parents. I was surrounded by musicians passing songs on to me.
“But it was only when I finished high school and realised there was a course at the RSAMD that I thought I could do it as a career.”
More than a decade on and Siobhan has released three albums, toured the world, performed on Broadway and had a singing role in hit TV series, Outlander.
Her latest release, Mercury, came out in November and is her first record of entirely original material.
“We toured the UK when it came out and it was interesting to play a lot of that new material alongside the trad music from my previous albums,” Siobhan continued.
“I wasn’t sure how I would tie together my love of trad and folk with the music I write myself, as it’s two very different sounds, but it got a great reaction and felt like it worked.
“Now I can’t wait to play Celtic Connections with a full band show.”
Siobhan Miller, Glasgow Royal Concert Hall: New Auditorium, Feb 3
As well as Siobhan’s show, there are more than 2,000 musicians taking part in 300 events at more than 30 venues between Thursday and February 3.
We take a look at some of the other highlights here.
Syne of the Times
The festival’s opening night carries on one of the traditions of Celtic Connections – giving a world-class platform for young Scots musicians.
Alongside a number of revered performers from the country’s folk scene, around 70 budding talents will assemble to perform excerpts of commissions such as Kin & The Community, The Seer and Harvest, with some very special guests.
Concert Hall: Main Auditorium, Jan 17
Brave In Concert
The hit Disney animation receives the “in concert” treatment, with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra performing the soundtrack live while the film plays on the big screen.
The film will be brought to life further with guest performances from Chris Stout, Lorne MacDougall, Jim Sutherland and Jarlath Henderson.
Concert Hall: Main Auditorium, Jan 19
This Is Caledonian Soul
Ross Wilson, better known as the award-winning Blue Rose Code, explores what Caledonian Soul is by offering his take on generations of cult, iconic and classic Scots songs.
He’ll be backed by a 14-piece band and joined by Eddi Reader, ex-Average White Band and Paul McCartney guitarist Hamish Stuart, Gaelic singer Julie Fowlis, John Douglas from The Trashcan Sinatras and Duke Special.
City Halls, Jan 19
Roaming Roots Revue
It’s 50 years since The Beatles recorded together for the final time, with their Abbey Road album one of the great musical swansongs.
Roaming Roots Revue celebrates that album, performing it in full, with BBC Radio Scotland host Roddy Hart’s Lonesome Fire as house band, alongside the Sun King Orchestra and special guests including KT Tunstall and The Staves.
Concert Hall: Main Auditorium, Jan 20
Esten will be better known to many as Deacon Claybourne, the lead actor of hit TV show Nashville, which followed the fortunes of the stars and wannabes of the country music capital.
That’s led to him performing sold-out arena tours in the UK, as well as performing at the Grand Ole Opry.
Now he’s making a name for himself in his own right, as well as performing songs from the show.
Old Fruitmarket, Jan 20
Ronnie Spector & The Ronettes
One of the living legends of the girl group era and an influence on so many female musicians, Ronnie headlined over acts such as The Rolling Stones and The Yardbirds in the 1960s.
Be My Baby is regarded as one of the greatest songs of all time and the group continues to perform to a high level, putting much younger musicians to shame with their passion and energy.
Old Fruitmarket, Jan 23
A Celebration of John Martyn
Ten years after the passing of the renowned folk blues musician, and named after his classic 1980 album, Grace And Danger, this is a celebration of his music.
An eclectic line-up of acts performing include Paul Weller, Lucy Rose, Eddi Reader and Ross Wilson, will be joined by a band that includes his long-time friend and double bass player Danny Thompson.
Concert Hall: Main Auditorium, Jan 27
Described as “an intimate evening of songs and stories”, the double Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame and Songwriter’s Hall Of Fame inductee will perform songs from across his long, illustrious career.
Best known for his work with The Hollies and Crosby, Stills and Nash, Graham has performed at some of the most iconic events in music, including Woodstock and Live Aid.
Concert Hall: Main Auditorium, Jan 29
Firmly ensconced as one of the annual highlights of Celtic Connections, it’s almost 25 years since the original Transatlantic Sessions TV series was first shown.
Guests this year include Gretchen Peters and the great Tim O’Brien, while Celtic voices include Cara Dillon. The house band includes, Phil Cunningham, Jerry Douglas, John McCusker and Donald Shaw.
Concert Hall: Main Auditorium, Feb 1&3
10 non-concert events
This one-man play by David Colvin explores how bagpipe music was rocked by the death of virtuoso Gordon Duncan. Tron Theatre, Jan 29.
Inspired by music and nature, this collection of original Celtic art is on vellum, at the Concert Hall’s café.
Masterclasses, talks, food, music and drams at SWG3 on Jan 26.
Stuart Cosgrove’s Soul Trilogy
The broadcaster has published three works about ’60s US soul music and is in conversation at Waterstones on Jan 21.
The Art Of Storytelling
This workshop with storyteller Heather Yule explores techniques and tips for telling a good tale. Concert Hall: Exhibition Hall, Jan 19.
Brew & A Blether
Karine Polwart on Jan 22 & 24 and Adam Sutherland on Jan 29 & 31 chat about life behind the music at Mackintosh at the Willow Tea Rooms.
Tragedy Of The Iolaire
On January 1, 1919, First World War troops were returning home when the ship sank off the coast of Lewis, killing more than 200 souls. Learn more at Waterstones on Jan 22.
Merchant City Trad Trail
Two-hour walking tour tracing the story of Glasgow’s folk and roots scene, leaving from the Scottish Music Centre in Candleriggs. Jan 18-20, 24-27, Jan 31-Feb 2.
Featuring three of Scotland’s best dance bands. Maryhill Community Central Halls, Jan 19, 26 and Feb 2.
Sean Purser presents a selection of spontaneous portraits captured at last year’s festival, on display at the Concert Hall’s Island Bar.
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