GRIT Orchestra Celtic Connections 2020 photography and review Pauline Keightley
Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, 16 January, 2020
A triumphant opening concert with the excellent and exuberant GRIT orchestra!
The concert hall buzzed in anticipation of this year’s festival at the opening concert. Some may think – isn’t January a low month – but not with GRIT Orchestra. The Celtic fiddles danced along to the feet-tapping rhythms of percussion and drums joined by rich brass, haunting flutes and heart-stopping pipes – all topped with melodic soaring voices.
The Grit Orchestra is an 80-piece ensemble of folk, jazz and classical musicians, who first performed Martyn Bennet’s ground-breaking album Grit with conductor Greg Lawson at Celtic Connections 2015.
For the first half of the concert the orchestra performed new compositions for one of the most famous statements for freedom, the Declaration of Arbroath – ahead of its 700th anniversary in April. The music is also inspired by Bennet’s innovative creativity.
New compositions were – first cellist Rudi de Groote’s piece, ‘Declaration Opening’, followed by fiddler Patsy Reid’s ‘Suppliant Hearts’ with upbeat fiddles and stirring pipes. ‘Oran do loch lall’, a Donald Shaw introspective composition, captured a gentler 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 voices of the all male Chapel choir. Liz Lochhead read a Freedom poem – “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 a hope-filled finale.
For the second half of the concert the orchestra treated us to Martyn Bennet’s Grit album tracks, with firm favourites sung by Fiona Hunter – ‘No Regrets’, ‘Blackbird’ and ‘Chanter’. The GRIT orchestra’s music has a unique, contemporary sound that fuses traditional, folk 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.”
Photos and Review Pauline Keightley – www.pkimage.co.uk
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.
This section: Book and Event Reviews, Celtic Connections 2020
- Alan Sharp and From Greenock to Hollywood at the Glasgow Film Theatre
- To See Ourselves – film about the lead up to the Scottish Referendum in 2014
- Mary Irvine’s Blog: The Magic Scales by Paul Murdoch
- Cast A Cold Eye – Robbie Morrison
- Secret Wrapped in Lead by Braw Clan
- Mary Irvine: Review of ‘Gods of the Crossroads’ by Robin Lloyd-Jones
- Mary Irvine’s Blog: Review of Warp and Weft by Ann MacKinnon
- Le Vent du Nord, Celtic Connections 2023
- Mary Irvine’s Blog: ‘Blackbird Singing’ – an evening with Graham Morgan
- Mary Irvine’s Blog: Review – The Way Home by Robin Scott-Elliot
- Aye Write Three Debut Authors (interviewed by Matthew Keeley)
- Aye Write: Prof Dame Sue Black ‘The Books that Made Me
- Mary Irvine’s Blog: Interview with debut author Evelyne Lawrie
- An Evening With Louise Welsh – The Second Cut
- Balloch Open Mic on Zoom
- How Poets See The World – Paisley Book Festival 2021 review by Pat Byrne
- Weird Pleasure by Jim Ferguson review of the launch by Pat Byrne
- A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Wolf – Review
- Book Launch: Weird Pleasure by Jim Ferguson
- Glasgow Film Festival 2020 – Jazz on a Summer’s Day review by Pat Byrne