Carlos Nuñez and Special Guests – Celtic Sea – Celtic Connections – Glasgow Royal Concert Hall – January 30, 2024

Written by on February 1, 2024

From the explosive, opening number through to the incredible finale with everyone on stage and the audience on its feet, this was an amazing performance.

We first encountered Carlos Nuñez when we interviewed him in Galicia, a lifetime or so ago. We’ve followed his musical career ever since. Here he was joined by his brother, Xurxo Nuñez, on percussion, Itsaso Elizagolen, from the Basque Country on Trikitixa, a small accordion,  Pancho Alvarez , from Pontevedra in Galicia, playing guitar and Atlantic lyre, Tim Edey on guitar and accordion, Breton Harpist Bleuenn Le Friec and Canadian fiddler and step dancer, Jon Pilatzke, formerly a regular member of The Chieftains. Carlos played a variety of bagpipes from the traditional Gallician Gaita, the Breton biniou, considered to be the world’s smallest bagpipe and the Irish Uillean pipes, plus lots of whistles and even a tiny ocarina.

The first set was long, although it didn’t feel like it.  Celtic Sea is his recently released album, commissioned by Brittany Ferries to mark its 50th anniversary. It’s a symphony which is an historical and geographical journey through Celtic music and the ancient links between Galicia, Asturias, the Basque Country, Cantabria and Brittany to Ireland, Scotland, Wales and Cornwall.  At the end six young pipers from the National Youth Pipe Band of Scotland appeared on each side of the auditorium to join in.

The audience went wild.

Then we were treated to some Beethoven. He apparently fell in love with Irish, Scottish, and Welsh music and the band played three pieces, the Irish, Return to Ulster, from Scotland, Massacre of Glencoe and the Welsh, Fair Maid of Mona.

When it seemed that it couldn’t get any better, Carlos introduced the guests. Donald Shaw and Karen Matheson performed a song about the clearances and a piece from a 17th century manuscript from Skye that Donald had composed a tune for. It was a haunting melody with accordion, whistle and fiddle. Then the young pipers joined in again.

From Nova Scotia came the fiddler Natalie McMaster and her eighteen-year-old daughter, who accompanied her on piano. A switch in tempo, and Natalie took her shoes off and started dancing then her daughter took over the dancing, doing impossible things with her legs and feet.

Glen Hansard and Brendan Begley, a couple of fine Irish musicians followed, finishing their set with one of the most passionate versions of the Foggy Dew we’ve ever heard.

The finale was one huge jam. Glen sung the Rocky Road to Dublin, Brendan did a solo accordion piece, then swing music from both the Nova Scotia musicians on fiddle and Tim Edey on guitar, and finally a wee bit of puirt-a-beul from Karen Matheson.

The atmosphere was electric. The audience was on its feet, some of the guests started a chain dance and headed into the audience until the dance snaked right round the room. Then everyone was back on stage. Carlos on whistle, the band and guests round him, and the twelve young pipers along the back.

It was, as someone beside us remarked: ‘Unbelievable’.

Moira McCrossan and Hugh Taylor


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