Grit Orchestra/Celtic Connections review – filmic fusion from an 80-strong band

Greg Lawson’s boisterous ensemble celebrate freedom and the Declaration of Arbroath while US duo Béla Fleck and Abigail Washburn add festive moonshine

Glasgow’s annual roots music jamboree Celtic Connections may have only just launched but the breakout star of the 27th edition has already emerged. A 10-meter-high sea goddess made of driftwood stalked the city as part of a mini festival celebrating Scotland’s coastal cultural heritage. The aptly named Storm – guided by puppeteers in fetching yellow sou’westers – strode from the Clyde to the Royal Concert Hall, causing ripples among awed Saturday morning shoppers. With her slo-mo gait, seaweed vestments and startling blue eyes, Storm cut a rather majestic dash.

Making waves … the Celtic Connections festival puppet Storm on walkabout.
 Making waves … the Celtic Connections festival puppet Storm on walkabout. Photograph: Michael McGurk/Rex/Shutterstock

The opening concert was similarly larger than life, featuring the return of the multifarious Grit Orchestra with a new six-part piece commissioned to mark the looming 700th anniversary of the Declaration of Arbroath. That document was an assertion of Scottish autonomy, but bandleader Greg Lawson introduced the 70-minute suite – composed by six members of the ensemble – as a celebration of the concept of freedom rather than the currently prickly topic of independence. Continue reading