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, 9 February 2018

Beth Orton Celtic Connections 2018

Short stories with some shimmering beautiful sounds’
Beth Orton is a Brit award winning English singer songwriter, known for her fusion of folk and electronica sounds (folktronica), performed a concert at the O2 ABC at Celtic Connections 2018. She played with her guitar and was backed by musician, Grey McMurray, on electronic keys, guitar and bass. During her set she was brightly back lit, which produced surreal atmospheric moods.

Beth used her strong voice to tell her story to sonic effect taking it both wide, introspective and reflective. She sang songs from her 2016 album Kidstick, which is full of imagery and one word song titles, such as ‘Moon,’ ‘Snow’, ‘Wave’, ‘Downstar’ and the teardrops of ‘Petals.’ As well as popular tracks from the range of her past catalogue, such as Call me by My Name, Only a Dream Away, All in Time.
She appeared shy and assuming and yet her voice is strong, hypnotic and mesmerising and reassuring.  Her songs are detailed and her experience flows through her songs. The electronic beats, rhythms and sways surrounded and perfectly back dropped her expressive voice. 

Many fans had travelled for her Celtic Connections gig and were hugely appreciative of her set. Beth apologized for swearing at one point, which seemed incongruously at odds with her soft thoughtful vibes!  

The depth of Laura Marling folk meets blues and electro beats. I enjoyed both her songs and voice. I was new to Beth and I am now a fan, worth checking out!

She was well supported by the Scots Celtic soul voice of Blue Rose Code and his band (further Blog to follow) who opened tonight’s concert.
Orton collaborated with the chemical brothers, Brit award for her 1996 album Central Reservation.  In 2016 Orton released her sixth solo album to critical acclaim. Her music has soundtracked American Tv shows.

Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Session A9 Celtic Connections

An entertaining night!
Session A9 are a multi-talented band led by fiddler Charlie Mckerron, who played striking music with four top fiddlers.

They played slow airs, songs, reel and jigs, with often times feet dancing rhythms and bows swinging with a powerhouse dynamism! They also played tunes with slow, melancholy, contemplative violin.

Fiddler Adam Sutherland spoke of his tune which was commissioned for New Voices in 2004. The band played a tune by Ross Ainslie, and also new tunes Charlie Mckerron. Meanwhile guitarist Marc Clement sang a couple country folk songs – ‘These Days’, and ‘Take away the Well So deep.’

This band have funny craic and banter with each other. Brian spoke of the 25 years of Celtic tradition and culture, to sell our culture on and how its amazing what the festival has achieved. He offered a big thanks to all involved with putting on the festival and all the work behind the scenes. He spoke of the scope and breadth of the festival and he wondered where the festival might be in another 25 years time!

For their encore the band performed the fitting song ‘One for the Road’ 

The players consisted of – Charlie Mckerron (fiddle), Gordon Gunn (fiddle & Mandolin), Adam Sutherland (fiddle), Kevin Henderson (fiddle), Brian McAlpine (piano), David Robertson (percussion), Marc Clement (guitar & vocals)

Session A9 played a residency at Epcot and celebrated their first decade with the  album Paths That Wind. They were voted 'Best Live Act 2012' at the Scottish Trad Awards

Max Richter at Celtic Connections 2018

A night to remember!
Max Richter, renowned composer for stage and screen, performed his eighth album of classical and electronic sound, Three Worlds: Music from Woolf Works (2017) at Celtic Connections 2018.

The music is from the score that Richter composed for the ballet Woolf Works in collaboration with choreographer Wayne McGregor and includes a recording of Virginia Woolf’s voice. The work follows a three-part structure offering evocations of three books by Woolf (Mrs Dalloway, Orlando, and The Waves).

Richter played on piano and electronic keys along with the world class Scottish Chamber Orchestra (SCO) at Glasgow concert hall. There were slow, nurturing bass lines along with a repeating piano melancholy, questioning violin, pondering cello and electronic beats. 
Then a violin menace as danger lurks, electronica beats too and a plaintive solitary cello repeated the forlorn melody. A sad xylophone played slow notes to release the tension, let it fly and brought us back to a more hopeful sound. 

 A bell tolled as we heard Woolf’s hesitant and strange voice speak of her memories, before she gave up words and life, ‘No one could have been happier.’ Then the poignant piano melody returned with waves in the background. And after in a powerful moment, there were mournful crescendos with the haunting soprano voice of Grace Davidson.

His music is at times pioneering, aching, immersive and searching for resolutions. The stage was lit over the performance with a flow of colours from soft purple to deep reds. For a Reprise Richter performed a short piece entitled ‘On the Nature of Daylight’.  A truly memorable concert. The performance was opened by harpist Catriona McKay and Alastair MacDonald with tales of Scottish times past.

Review and Photos by Pauline Keightley - http://pkimage.co.uk/
Richter is a British composer post-minimalist with contemporary and alternative musical styles with films such as Testament of Youth, Arrival, Miss Sloane.
**Three Worlds: Music from Woolf Works (2017Three Worlds: Music From Woolf Works is Max Richter’s eighth album, released in January 2017. The music is taken from the score that Richter composed for the ballet Woolf Works in collaboration with choreographer Wayne McGregor at the royal Opera House in London. The work follows a three-part structure offering evocations of three books by Woolf (Mrs DallowayOrlando, and The Waves). The album features classical and electronic sound as well as an original voice recording of Virginia Woolf herself.