Showing posts with label Martyn Bennett. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Martyn Bennett. Show all posts

Tuesday 13 February 2018

‘Bothy Culture and Beyond’ Celtic Connections 2018

At a packed Glasgow Hydro, the audience was enthralled with a world premier performance of Martyn Bennett’s, Bothy Culture and Beyond, as part of Celtic Connections. The GRIT orchestra and was arranged and conducted by Greg Lawson.

Three years ago I went to the Celtic Connections opening concert Nae Regrets – and what a night it was!  The GRIT orchestra played Martyn Bennett’s first album (conducted by Lawson). Bennett composed Celtic fusion music that successfully mixed the old and the new, Celtic traditions along with electronic techno. He was known as the Techo Piper with his deadlocks and innovative playing. He sadly died young at 33 from Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He performed at Edinburgh Hogmanay and T in the Park.

Aerial dancers All or Nothing
*Lawson introduced the players and the stage was set for an outstanding performance of pipes, dance and celebration. He told us, “To find identity, we need different perspectives (all welcoming Scotland) to find truth and embrace difference, so both sides are enhanced and everyone is enriched – an evolution.”  As well as classical and jazz musicians the orchestra featured renowned folk fiddlers  - Duncan Chisholm, Aidan O’Rourke, Chris Stout, Megan Henderson, Sarah Jane Summers, Charlie McKerron, Eilidh Shaw and Laura Wilkie

This concert was full of ‘joie de vivre’ and the drama of Scotland’s landscapes, from its tallest peaks to its rushing waters and in-between the cultural melting pots of her vibrant cities. Bennet’s music tells of youth, the ancient stone hilltop Bothys along with the rich cultural voices he inherited from his mother, folklorist Margaret Bennett.

Many tracks transcended time and place. The concert began with the sweeping Orcadian Strip the Willow. Then the concert was brought alive visually by aerial dancers All or Nothing who shimmied on hoops and ropes for Aye. There was powerhouse brass and Celtic whistles with Shputnik in Glenshiel. While others tracks had the ‘get up and groove’ to the pipes, such as on Ud the Doudouk.

Fiona Hunter haunting vocals were followed by the Glasgow chapel choir, who were eerily ethereal on Blackbird, when ancient voices met contemporary vibes. At this point stunt cyclist Danny MacAskill rode on his mountain bike around a track laid out around the arena, and then on the Skye mountain backdrop behind the stage.  (His ride of the Black Cuillin Ridge Skye, is sound tracked by Bennett’s Blackbird , 55m Views YouTube).

On the moving track Hallaig, Sorley Maclean’s poem was read by the actor David Hayman -
A wood going up beside the stream, Heartbreak of the tale.”
The crowd in the Hydro were all ages and danced and sang along to Bennett’s life-enhancing music. The set closed with the drama of the lone piper Finlay Macdonald for Waltz by Hector. 

Bennett challenged the norms – with whistles, brass, electronic beats and his chanter.

There were several web kent faces in the crowd  Well done to all the talented performers and to Bennett himself. This was the biggest audience I’ve seen at Celtic Connections and festival director Donald Shaw says he wants to focus on more larger scale productions.

**Skye outfit Niteworks played a blistering set of electronica meets  Gaelic voice to open the concert  - hypnotic. Ruairidh Graham, Allan MacDonald, Christopher Nicolson and Innes Strachan.

I’ve arrived at venues for sound checks when they are cold blue, empty – it’s a strange transformation. People gradually start to arrive – music is played as all changes to the vibrant joy and energy of reds and oranges. Those hilltops Bothys were like this too -  fires were lit, warm drinks were had and traditional songs were sung. It’s the all embracing warmth of the human connection and celebration. Why should we remember? Why does it matter? We live in glossy, shallow times. It’s important to look beyond – to seek truth.
What really matters in the end. On our journeys, over sea or land – to pause, to wonder, to seek renewals. To hope.. To seek shared human joy.  ‘Bothy Culture”

Seeking difference enhances perspective of who we are. ‘
Scotland does not want to silence ‘other’ voices but to embrace them – while we keep our rich heritage alive and well and so she sings for all. * I might have wished for more info on Martin Bennett himself with perhaps clips of him telling his colourful story in the interval before the GRIT performance.

(Scottish Independence is not about ‘identity’ – rather how we can embrace our past, have understanding and build a better Scotland for all.)

1.    "Aye?" (6:22)
2.    "Shputnik In Glenshiel" (5:50)
3.    "Hallaig" (8:19)
4.    "Ud The Doudouk" (5:44)
5.    "4 Notes" (5:55)
6.    "Joik" (3:26)
7.    "Yer Man From Athlone" (6:25)
8.    "Waltz For Hector" (9:20)
All or Nothing Aerial dance
Vocalist Innes Watson
Fiona Hunter vocals
Sorley Maclean’s poem, read by actor David Hayman

Friday 26 June 2015

The Forgotten Stories of Women

Maya Angelou
I wondered recently - Why are the lead characters of most fairy stories female and when were these stories written and who by?  
Is this because many of the traditional stories belong mostly to women and that women through the centuries passed down the oral traditions in ballads, songs and stories?  

Many characters in the old fairy tales though are now out-dated role models for today's young girls. They are not proactive or action women, but rather submissive ones, who have to respond to what life may throw at them. Meanwhile the action women are too often portrayed as either a deranged witch or a wicked step mother. 

Do these stories of pretty princesses in shiny pink frocks wishing for prince charming to kiss them one day have the best effect on young girls? They give the impression that success in life is about relying solely on good looks rather than what they can achieve in the world.  Looks fade while character and actions remain. Many of the real stories of women appear to be lost.    

I read of Agnes Broun, the mother of the famous Scottish poet Robert Burns, who introduced to him his love of songs. 
This meant Burns learned the joy of music and words and he later would become not only Scotland's greatest bard but one of the greatest poet of love, nature, and democratic political views. She passed on the old stories, rhythms and rhymes. Agnes gets little mention.

I began to realise that it was often through the women that stories and stories in song were passed down the generations.
I also read similar of Scottish poet James Hogg, who also learnt poetry and language from his mother's vast oral knowledge of the ballads and traditional tales. 

The week before this I had heard of folklorist Margaret Bennett who was key to influencing her talented musician son Martyn Bennett. I was at the wonderful opening concert at Celtic Connections 2014 which was the first orchestration of Martyn's incredible Grit album - one of the best concerts I have been at when I wondered where he got all these references for his music from, as if he'd pluck them out of the air - now I know it was from his mother. 

Her background is Scots/ Irish and on her mothers side from Skye and the Stewarts. Her father was a piper. Her talented son Martyn Bennett went with her everywhere and heard as a child all these traditional singers and pipers. Martyn sadly died at the young age of 32 and he was influential in the evolution of Celtic fusion music
Margaret Bennett

I read too of Mrs Bach, or rather Anna Magdelena, who was revealed as the author of the wonderful cello suites by forensic musicologist Professor Martin Jarvis of Charles Darwin university in Australia, in a recent film documentary by Glasgow films.
In the Age of Enlightenment (8TH Century’) most women would never write under their own name and so they have been forgotten by history.  Many women writers used pseudonyms.

Why have so many women's voices been lost or ignored?  One problem has been the lack of women reviewers. There is an unconscious bias with regard to literature - a male writer's book will be described as 'an epic sweep', while a women author has written 'a domestic drama'.

I remember my daughter asked if they might study a women author in her English class, to which the boys loudly protested!  Apparently 90% of books studied at school are by male authors! I feel sure it would be much better for girls to study English (and science subjects) separately to the boys. Studies have found that girls perform better in all girls classes, especially in the sciences.  Women read books by either men or women - wheras men mostly read male readers.

Agnes Broun kept a portrait of her poet son, Robert Burns, on her wall all her life. He died before her at the age of 37.    

These are only a tiny few examples of the many incredible lost voices of the many women who have inspired future generations.  There are a great many unsung women heroines of modern art, music and poetry. I began to realise that it was through the women that stories were being passed on. I attend Edinburgh book festival each August and I have been amazed and awed by the talented women authors who attend.   

Sunday 31 May 2015

Folklorist Margaret Bennett

Her background is Glasgow, Irish and on her mothers side from Skye and the Stewarts. Her father was a piper.  
When she was young she was ill with polio and during that time heard stories from her grandfather. 

She went over to Newfoundland Canada with her father and discovered all these old Scottish traditions that had died out in Skye and in Scotland. She had trained as a primary teacher but now decided to become a folklorist and she has been teaching at the school of Scottish studies at Edinburgh university. There she worked with the Scottish poet Hamish Henderson who was always asking her to poetry readings.    

Her talented son Martyn Bennett went with her everywhere and heard as a child all these traditional singers and pipers. He had an excellent teacher at school and when he was doing his higher music students were allowed to play the Spanish guitar but NOT the Scottish pipes!  So he sat his higher music playing the pipes, one of the first to do so.

Martyn sadly died at the young age of 32. I was at the wonderful opening concert at Celtic Connections 2014 which was the first orchestration of Martyn's incredible Grit album - one of the best concerts I have been at. I wondered where he got all these references for his music as if he'd pluck them out of the air - now I know it was from his mother. She said in a recent radio interview that she tries to be thankful every day for the small gifts.  Things that rankle - let them go. 
Martyn Bennett was influential in the evolution of modern Celtic fusion, a blending of traditional Celtic and modern music.

Sunday 18 January 2015

Martyn Bennett’s GRIT, Connections Connections 2015

We were treated to an outstanding Celtic Connections Opening Concert - 'Nae Regrets'
Highly innovative. Multi-talented, multi-layered orchestra. Put a smile on my face.

Martyn Bennett's 2003 GRIT was given its live premier with a colourful score by composer Greg Lawson and the concert proved one of the best events I've been to at Celtic Connections music festival.

Bennett was a Scottish musician and composer and the concert marked the tenth anniversary of his untimely death at the age of thirty-three - poignantly he wrote the album while he was dying of cancer. The album offers a musical journey - producing pounding bass rhythms, hesitant strings, gradual and also unexpected crescendos, brass epic grandeur, haunting Gaelic voices, thematic stirring pipes and also humour. The Grit album is about pushing the boundaries and limitations.
The orchestra of over 80 musicians on the Glasgow concert hall stage tonight consisted of mostly younger folk, jazz and classical musicians. I expect they enjoyed playing a new piece that felt contemporary yet drawing strongly on past traditions. 

Conductor Greg appeared overcome as he reached the summit tonight, after years in the planning and he commented that he needed a crash helmet as it felt like his head might explode!
I The first half was of songs from the Grit album and performed by a cast of accomplished Scottish singers - Quebec quartet LeVent Du Nord began with strong harmonies; followed by Fiona Hunter who sang Berry fields of Blair and Young Emslie with Mike Vass on guitar; Rab Noakes sang MacPherson's Rant and To Each and Everyone of You. Gaelic singer Isabel Ann Martin sang beautifully accompanied by Donald Shaw on piano.

II For the second half the full orchestra played the entire GRIT album. Even the word Grit produces earthy, real connotations. Lawson commented that folk music draws strongly on solid music roots, but  ike a river needs to play and experiment with those traditions in order not to stay stagnant and to be brought into the modern age.

On Blackbird male choral voices were brought into the modern age with dancing African drumbeats, resonating textures and bass beats. On the track Why there were soothing strings and clarinet along with Karen Matheson haunting voice. The Wedding track was heart breaking with hesitant, sad, subdued strings when a song breaks the stillness with happier times and then with a dynamic sax melody.  

Bennet's music shifted on its axis taking sound into new orbits - ground breaking and energizing. For anyone who thinks folk music is backward looking this concert was highly innovative with jazz, rock elements, classical, Gaelic songs, MORE!  I have never seen an orchestra bobbing up and down and enjoying themselves so much - especially all those eight double bass players!

Only a few concerts put a smile on your face but this one did!

Bennett - ‘Try and find those things that make us Scottish. They are not necessarily tartan, but are no less colorful. They are in the sound of the kick drum, the bass line, the distortion, the punk guitar, the break-beat. Try and see the old ways in new surroundings.‘
'This album was a chance for me to present a truthful picture, yet face my own reflection in the great mirror of all cultures.’

In the studio, he traversed and transcended boundaries, of multiple levels, from that of image – as ‘the dreadlocked piper’ – to those of genre, art-form and audience.

PS Renowned traditional Scottish folk singer Dick Gaughan decided to withdraw from the concert as it was being filmed by the BBC and due to his feeling strongly that the BBC bias during the referendum was intolerable for him.  He is performing his own concert during Celtic –
 'Scots music has never sounded like this before. No music has ever sounded like this before’ Mojo
GRIT Track listing
1.      'Move' – 4.10 Minutes
2.      'Blackbird' – 6.10 Minutes
3.      'Chanter' – 4.10 Minutes
4.      'Nae Regrets' – 3.50 Minutes
5.      'Liberation' – 4.20 Minutes
6.      'Why' – 4.30 Minutes
7.      'Ale House' – 3.50 Minutes
8.      'Wedding' – 5.45 Minutes
9.      'Rant' – 4.31 Minutes
10.   'Storyteller' – 9.39 Minutes

Filmed by the BBC the concert will be shown 22nd January 9pm - 
Here’s a BBC slip of Chanter  -
Music journalist Sue Wilson is presently writing Bennett’s autobiography.