GRIT orchestra perform the Declaration: A triumphant opening concert with the excellent and exuberant GRIT orchestra!
The concert hall buzzed in anticipation of this years festival. Some may think - isn’t January a low month – not when the Celtic fiddles dance; along to the feet-tapping dance rhythms of percussion and drums; the vibrant rich brass; the mellow, haunting flutes; the heart-topping pipes – and all topped with the melodic, soaring voices such as Gaelic singer Karen Matheson and Fiona Hunter.
The Grit Orchestra is an 80-piece ensemble of folk, jazz and classical musicians, who first performed Martyn Bennet’s ground breaking album, with conductor Greg Lawson at the festival in 2015.
For the first half of the concert they performed new compositions for one of the most famous statements for freedom, Declaration of Arbroath, ahead of its 700th anniversary in April and also inspired by Bennet’s own innovative creations.To explore concepts of freedom and what does freedom mean?
The new compositions for the Grit orchestra were – first cellist Rudi de Groote piece, Declaration Opening which offered a haunting anticipation; followed by fiddler Patsy Reid’s Suppliant Hearts with upbeat fiddles juxtaposed with stirring pipes; Oran do loch lall, a Donald Shaw introspective composition then captured a more gentle mood with the perfect voice of Gaelic singer Karen Matheson; next was the climatic freedom piece Ve Skerries by fiddler Chris Stout and harpist Catriona Mackay, with the impressive male voices of the all male Chapel choir and a Freedom poem read by poet Liz Lochhead - “What matters is not what we say, but what we do.”
This was followed by Fraser Fifield’s, atmospheric Secret Histories and saxophonist Paul Towndrow’s Declaration Ending, when woodwind and brass solos sounded the hope filled finale.
II For the second half of the concert the orchestra treated us again to Martyn Bennet’s Grit album tracks, with firm favourites and sung by Fiona Hunter - No Regrets, Blackbird, Play the melody on the chanter. Alongside Bennet’s drama and dance grooves, he understood the significance of the memorable melody. The Grit orchestra music is a unique contemporary sound that fuses traditions, folk songs and modern dance beats.
The Declaration compositions were described by festival director Donald Shaw as “a declaration of intent to grasp the thistle and give a sense of confidence to orchestral works from Scottish folk composers. It’s about freedom, exploration and intent.
Conductor Greg Lawson said, “We must strive to be different and understand our differences – which will make us stronger.”
The Arbroath Declaration
...for, as long as but a hundred of us remain alive, never will we on any conditions be brought under English rule. It is in truth not for glory, nor riches, nor honours that we are fighting, but for freedom – for that alone, which no honest man gives up but with life itself.
Rudi de Groote - Declaration Opening
Suppliant Hearts - Patsy Reid
Oran do loch lall - Alexander Cameron/Donald Shaw/Norman MacLean
Ve Skerries - Chris Stout& Catriona Mackay
Secret Histories - Fraser Fifield
Paul Towndrow - Declaration Ending