On 11th January 2018, Celtic Connections performed in Valletta for the first time at Offbeat Bar in Merchant Street. Offbeat is usually a jazz venue, and they were taking a chance that their clientèle would appreciate celtic music.

Both the band and our usual followers had been decimated by the Australian flu so we did not have expectations of a large audience. Imagine our surprise when we arrived to a full house, waiting patiently for us to start. The lineup was accordion, cajon, drum, low whistle, cello, harp and two fiddles, aided wonderfully by our sound engineer/roadie/helpmate Steve. It is not a large venue so we went acoustic.

It was evident from the outset that we were in for a good session. From the first note, there was clapping, cheering, and we have recruited two new players! Richard and Gail, who play at a folk group in Gozo brought their melodeon and bodhran in true session style, and Richard even led a few tunes, some of which were in our repertoire and some which were not, but we muddled along with an accompaniment.

We had intended to have a break every third set, but the momentum was such that we just carried on with a short break for a drink. The bar did well, having to send out for more supplies!

Offbeat bar Feb 2018 350

Our combination of reels, jigs, slip jigs and airs went down a storm. There was not enough room to dance, but the bar staff and the audience managed to jig around a bit and the whole vibe was exhilarating. Our old favourite Strip the Willow set ending in Foxhunters brought the house down.

Our audience was new to us, mainly Maltese and international visitors and ex-pats, who had read about us on our Facebook page - thanks to Anne our low whistler - and the Offbeat site. Our usual followers will be joining us next time so we hope for another good crowd.

The next gig there is on 9th Feb, and then we have been engaged for St Patrick's Night on 17th March.

There were a lot of surprised people there who did not know quite what to expect, but we had to do two encores and they want us back, so we must have done something right!!