Celtic Connections, and new beginnings

Jan 22 | Posted by: Andrea Zonn |
Happy 2007. We’re already nearly at month’s end, but the newness of the season still fills the air and my spirits.

I just returned from Glasgow, Scotland last night. Somehow, I always seem to come down with a cold when I get home. I even tried to stave it off this year by ingesting ample amounts of Indian and Thai food. Bring on the spices. Whole chili pakora? Yeah, you betcha. But the cold, rainy and snowy walks back to hotel every night, coupled with very little sleep and non-stop activities must have contributed. And then there were the pints of Guinness and a few proper whiskeys. But oh, the cold is worth it. What an amazing festival.

I had the great honor of seeing the first live performance of Hands Across the Water come to fruition. Donald Shaw, the new musical director of the festival, invited Compass Records president Garry West to assemble an all-star cast to launch this year’s festival in the Royal Concert Hall. Garry, in turn, asked me to help him put the show on. The lineup was stunning: Jim Lauderdale, Maura O’Connell, Altan, Karen Matheson, Flook, Michael McGoldrick, Solas, Donald Shaw, Beth Nielsen Chapman, Flook, Muirean Nic Aublasjkfdldg, Darrell Scott, Jon Randall, and Jessi Alexander, all backed by a stellar house band comprised of Garry West, David Heyer, John R. Burr, Joe Craven, and John Doyle. Erick Jaskowiak and the local tech staff job did an amazing job making everything sound beautiful, and keeping the constantly changing lineup fluid. Oh, and I was there, too.

The spirit of the concert was much like the spirit of the album. An extended family of sorts, full of admiration and respect for one another. The compassion to help children affected by the tsunami continues to be overwhelming. A portion of the ticket price was contributed to children’s charities. And did I mention that we were a sell-out?

Memorable moments? Far too many, but to hear Darrell and Muireann sing together for the first time live – stunning. We had a couple of last minute cancellations. Maraid, from Altan, was down with the flu. So all of the lovely ladies form the concert stood in and sang her song, Let’s Heal. Gorgeous. The Duhks tried like hell to get there – a harrowing journey from Alaska. But their flight from Chicago was cancelled due to weather. So Mic McCauley, Michael McGoldrick and I stood in. Alison Brown was put on bedrest by her doctor 2 days prior to her departure, but Seamus Egan and Mic McCauley stepped in and played with Jon Randall with a gorgeous flair. Flook brought the house down with an instrumental, and I was gleeful at the opportunity to perform Standing Still with them live.

All in all, a beautiful night.

The following night, I opened for Mary Chapin Carpenter. Again, we were in the Royal Concert Hall, and I was so pleased to be able to share the stage with my brother Brian, and my old friend Rune Kjeldsen. Rune and I survived the great campervan tour of the UK last fall opening for Kevin Montgomery. I was pleased to offer him nice accommodations and not a moment in a bumpy campervan. Chapin was, as always, the epitome of grace, elegance, and fabulous songwriting. She is one of those rare, enduring talents.

We played at the Festival Club on Friday. This is the after hours party that takes place in the basement of the hotel every evening. It’s like a sampler plate of all the acts. Celtic Connections happens over 3 weeks in something like 15 venues, so there’s no way to see everything you want. The Festival Club offers 20-30 minute sets of most of the performers. We followed Richie Havens. I was in heaven.

Saturday, we played a lovely small theatre called The Tron, co-billing with the Daniel Lapp Trio. They were smashing, but I dashed off to the BBC Scotland Radio studios to do a lovely live interview with Karen Kirby.

The week was action-packed. Wonderful friends, great music, one of my favorite cities, yummy food, and doing what I love.

Now that I’m home, I’m looking to the year ahead. I’ve been writing quite a bit, and am heading into the studio this week to record some new songs. Larry Goldings (piano with James Taylor) will be in town, and I’m taking full advantage. The band will be stellar: Larry, Byron House, Tom Bukovac, Steven Sheehan and more. We’ll be cutting some brand new stuff – co-writes with Kristen Hall and Luke Bulla, among others. I may even cut an old standard.

And I believe James has us slated for some touring in August. I can’t wait.

Ok, so that’s the news update. I sincerely hope 2007 is full of beautiful surprises for all of you.

AZ

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