Olivia Newton-John to get top billing at Celtic Connections

She is one of the most successful artists of all-time, having sold more than 100 million albums, notched up four Grammy Awards and starred one of the biggest-selling soundtracks in Hollywood history.

Thursday, 27th October 2016, 9:55 am
Updated Thursday, 27th October 2016, 5:31 pm
Olivia Newton-John will appear with fellow singers Amy Sky and Beth Nielsen Chapman at Celtic Connections.

Now “Grease” star Olivia Newton-John is set to become the latest high-profile artist to get surprise top billing at Glasgow’s Celtic Connections music festival.

The 68-year-old superstar, who was born in England and brought up in Australia before finding fame a country music star in the United States, will be appearing in Glasgow with fellow singers Beth Nielsen Chapman and Amy Sky.

Sky, Chapman and Newton-John - who last appeared in the UK in a series of concerts at London’s Royal Albert Hall - will be performing a live version of an album of songs they released together this year of songs inspired by their experiences of grief, loss and illness.

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Scottish percussionist Evelyn Glennie is expected to be one of the hottest tickets at Celtic Connections.

Newton-John, who had a high-profile battle against breast cancer in the early 1990s, will follow in the footsteps of Sir Tom Jones, Jarvis Cocker, Mogwai and Robert Plant when she makes her debut in the folk, roots, world music and indie festival.

The “Liv On” night with the three singers at the Royal Concert Hall is expected to be one of the hottest tickets at the 18-day festival in January and February, which launched its 2017 programme today and will celebrate inspirational women as its main theme.

They will include the singer and actress Aziza Brahim, who was born and raised in the refugee camps lining the frontier betwene Algeria and the Western Sahara.

Brit Award winning singer and four-times Mercury Prize nominee Laura Marling, who became a MySpace sensation at the age of just 16, will headline the opening night gala when she performs with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra - five years after she was first approached by the festival’s artistic director, Donald Shaw.

Former Scots Makar Liz Lochhead will appear with the indie outfit The Hazey James at the festival.

The songs of Kate Bush, Joni Mitchell, Nina Simone, Aretha Franklin, Dolly Parton, Bjork and Joan Armatrading will be celebrated at the festival’s annual ”Roaming Roots Revue” night.

Award-winning Scottish percussionist Evelyn Glennie will join forces with Indian star Trilok Gurtu for one of a series of concerts marking the 70th anniversary of the partition of India.

Roberta Star, who starred in the closing ceremony of the Rio Olympics, will be part of a major showcase of Brazilian music at next year’s festival, while Martha Wainwright will be among a host of visiting acts from Canada to mark the 150th anniversary of its foundation.

Scottish singer-sonwriter Karine Polwart will revive Wind Resistance, her sell-out Edinburgh International Festival show inspired by a protected peatbog near her home on the outskirts of the city. It is one of two EIF shows transferring to Glasgow, the other being Flit, a show masterminded by Lau accordionist Martin Green.

Scottish percussionist Evelyn Glennie is expected to be one of the hottest tickets at Celtic Connections.

Other leading female Scottish artists in the festival line-up include Anna Meredith, the reigning Scottish Album of the Year winner, former Scots Makar Liz Lochhead, who will be performing with the Dundee indie band The Hazey Janes, Robyn Stapleton and Siobhan Miller.

The festival’s main response to the Brexit vote will see the musician, composer and producer Jim Sutherland revive his La Banda Europa project by bringing together 36 musicians from 15 different countries.

An emotional night is guaranteed when the bandmates of the long-running Edinburgh outfit Shooglenifty reunite to celebrate the late Angus Grant, their fiddler and frontman, who died earlier this month.

Gaelic supergroup Manran will headline a night at the iconic Barrowland ballroom, supported by Highland favourites Blazin’ Fiddles and Kentucky outfit Lindsay Lou and the Flatbellys.

Former Scots Makar Liz Lochhead will appear with the indie outfit The Hazey James at the festival.

Other highlights of the festival include a night of American railroad music with Billy Bragg and American composer and producer Dick Powell heading up a live version of the soundtrack he has masterminded for the forthcoming adaption of James Kelman’s US road movie Dirt Road.

Mr Shaw said: “A breath-taking range of styles and traditions radiates throughout Celtic Connections next year.

“Artists who have shaped the present day and artists who are re-defining music for the future will take to the stage. Artists whose lives and cultures could not be more different will come together to share their stories, passion and skill.

“At the heart of it all is the simple life-affirming experience of being at a live music performance during a world-leading festival.”

Alan Morrison, Head of music at national arts agency Creative Scotland, said: “Celtic Connections is now firmly established as the winter destination of choice not only for lovers of folk and traditional music, but also for anyone who wants to embrace culture on a global scale.

“This is the place where Scotland’s music connects to the world, and we welcome its greatest musicians to Glasgow, old friends and new.

“It’s also fantastic this year to see the spotlight shone on female artists, as women have long since provided a strong, defining voice in Scotland’s traditional music and national identity.”

Celtic Connections runs from 19 January to 5 February. Tickets are on sale now.