The other day I received an email advising me of the line-up for the next Celtic Connections in Glasgow. But who were the Celts – these people who now lend their name to a festival that ‘celebrates Celtic music and its connections to cultures across the globe’?
Hoping for an answer to this question, a few weeks back I watched the BBC 2 series The Celts: Blood, Iron and Sacrifice with Alice Roberts and Neil Oliver. Yes, that was the full title of the series, and, though Roberts and Oliver (as you would expect) presented some serious archaeology, what with all the dramatic reconstructions of blood, iron and sacrifice I was left as confused as I had been at the outset. Were the Celts one people who shared a highly sophisticated culture? Or were they barbarians from the western fringes of Europe as the BBC’s dramatised battle scenes strongly suggested?
Looking for answers to these questions, I visited the British Museum’s current exhibition, Celts: Art and Identity, ‘the first major exhibition to examine the full history of Celtic art and identity’. Not surprisingly this stunning show presented a much clearer account of a story that begins over 2,500 years ago, with the first recorded mention of ‘Celts’. But, the story the curators give us is one in which Celtic identity has been revived and reinvented over the centuries – across the British Isles, Europe and beyond. The exhibition articulates the currently-accepted view that ‘Celtic’ has had many different meanings over 2000 years, identities that have been reinvented time and again, and are cultural not genetic. Continue reading “Celts: Art and Identity”
During the 1950s, the small harbour town of St Ives in Cornwall played host to an astonishing group of painters that included some of the leading modern artists of the time. Among them were Alan Davie, Terry Frost, Patrick Heron – and Peter Lanyon. Of them all, only Lanyon was actually Cornish.
He died too young – a fact underlined by Soaring Flight, the superb exhibition currently showing at the Courtauld Gallery which gathers together a considerable number of his paintings inspired by gliding, the pastime which ended up taking his life.
Continue reading “Peter Lanyon: Soaring Flight”
Play like you think it’s going to be the last time. That’s the only way to play.
– Keith Jarrett
Precisely one week after the atrocities began in Paris we were in the Royal Festival Hall watching Keith Jarrett give one of his most intense and impassioned solo performances. Hunched over the Steinway, his face at times just inches from the keys, the man in the single spotlight and all of us gathered together to hear him play represented everything that the killers seek to destroy – a shared pleasure in music and the freedom to mingle at peace on a Friday night with other human beings from anywhere in the world, of all faiths or none.
Continue reading “Keith Jarrett at the Royal Festival Hall: music can heal”
The love you lost with her skin so fair
Is free with the wind in her butterscotch hair
Her green eyes blew goodbyes
With her head in her hands
and your kiss on the lips of another
Dream Brother with your tears scattered round the world.
Jeff Buckley, recorded live at the Bataclan, Paris, February 11, 1995.
I posted this as a response to reading of the horrific scenes at The Bataclan on Friday night because as soon as I heard of the terrorist attack there I remembered that in my music collection I have an EP of tracks recorded there on 11 February 1995 during a stunning performance by Jeff Buckley acclaimed by a rapturous audience. It’s always had a special meaning for me because I saw him perform a very similar set at the Luxor in Cologne just over a week later, on 20 February 1995.
Now I discover that Aaron Goldstein has posted a similar response to mine on The American Spectator Spectacle blog. This is what he wrote: Continue reading “The Bataclan: Your tears scattered round the world”
The writer and broadcaster Kenan Malik, in an article for Al-Jazeera has made an interesting analysis of the Paris attacks that is, I think, well worth reading.
What the terrorists despised, what they tried to eliminate, were ordinary people, drinking, eating, laughing, mixing. That is what they hated – not so much the French state as the values of diversity and pluralism.
It’s the first of the two articles he has posted on his blog here: AFTER PARIS Continue reading “After Paris”
The words of Martin Luther King, from Jeremy Corbyn’s Twitter feed. What more is there to say this morning?
To face history is to face the tragic. Which is why many prefer to look away. To decide to engage oneself in History requires, even when the decision is a desperate one, hope.
– John Berger, Bento’s Sketchbook
This is the third post in which I recall some of the music I’ve enjoyed in 2015 but never got round to writing about. This one is dedicated (with two exceptions) to music recorded on the record label that is, for me, indispensable – ECM. There’s a lot of jazz, examples of the gift of ECM’s guiding spirit Manfred Eicher for bringing together musicians from different contexts to create wonderful sounds, and some of the contemporary music released on the ECM New Series label. Continue reading “The music in my head (part 3): jazz and beyond”