The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland display their student talent.
This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Glasgow folk, roots and world music festival known as Celtic Connections. Filled with diverse talent, the annual festival showcases the collaborative nature of music and its key role in the celebration of culture. While the festival boasts spectacular acts from all over the world, I was especially excited to see the Traditional Scottish folk showcase. The ensemble had only been recently formed, and consisted primarily of students of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. It was their individual and collective passion for traditional Scottish tunes that brought the Traditional Music Showcase to life.
The concert was hosted at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall in the Strathclyde Suite. The majestic venue was well staffed and boasted of many seats, of which most were occupied. The traditional concert hall was humming with excitement as the last few people found their seats and settled in. Much like a standard orchestra concert, there was no opening act. Instead, the main act promptly took to the stage and began the concert.
Following a short and sweet introduction by the ensemble coordinator, the colourfully dressed collective broke into an enthusiastic tune that highlighted their powerful bagpipe players, and set the tone for what was to be a high energy concert full of passion. After each song, a member of the ensemble would stand up to present the next piece, bringing a moment of humour and a sense of a non-hierarchical structure. It was nice to hear from the different musicians, especially because they were presenting their own compositions. The relaxed yet polished presentation of the group also extended to their playing, which was impressive in its variety and quality as well as entertaining. It was obvious that the performers were having fun on stage, exchanging smiles and moving to the rhythm of the music. It was contagious. Additionally, the showcase of the various instruments on stage, from harps to oboes, drums, and guitars, was done with impeccable taste, highlighting the unique qualities each element of the ensemble afforded to the collective. Furthermore, the playing was of the highest quality and the performers displayed an impressive ability to keep tempo, a feat that is especially difficult without the presence of a conductor, especially when combining pieces and having several speeds and styles in one tune.
Likewise, the work being done off the stage was noteworthy. The sound mixing was amazing, keeping all the instruments well balanced, and even allowing a lonely cello the ability to compete with a hoard of violins. Finally, the lighting was expertly done, giving each piece a new visual landscape, which reflected the emotions conveyed by the musicians.
The only shortcoming of the concert would be the singing. I acknowledge that this is the most subjective element of the concert, however, personally I felt that the singing did not quite live up to the quality of the players, and therefore, was the weakest part of the performance. Nonetheless, I did enjoy the choice to include a variety of languages and singers, which made the singing interesting.
Once the concert was reaching an end, several musicians gave their thanks and showed their appreciation for their colleagues, the festival, and the audience, which was a heart-warming ending to a festive performance. Following their final song, the crowd cheered enthusiastically. I can testify that the audience left with an overwhelming feeling of joy, having enjoyed an hour-long concert that truly flew by.