This month sees Glasgow’s renowned Celtic Connections festival take shape, with audiences and artists from both around the world and closer to home. This year’s opening concert is a celebration of the work of the late Martyn Bennett (1971-2005), one of Scotland’s great musical innovators, on the 10th anniversary of his early death from Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. His last album ‘Grit’ was a studio tour-de-force incorporating field recordings of Gaelic singers and Scottish travellers, most of whom he knew personally; he re-presented their music with an intelligent playfulness, blending deep seriousness of purpose with a huge sense of excitement and fun.
Violinist Greg Lawson has had the challenge of preparing the piece for its first ever live performance, and many University of Glasgow musicians have found their way in. I’ve been informally involved with helping Greg make some decisions about the scoring, and I’ll be playing a variety of keyboards in the show. Also on stage playing French horn will be Andy Saunders, who teaches on the music Performance course here, our PhD student Aaron McGregor will be wielding his violin, and there will even be a cohort from the Chapel Choir.The choir’s acting Director of Music, Katy Cooper, helped us track down the exact Gregorian chant that was sampled in the track ‘Blackbird’.
As the 70-odd musicians include players and singers from many different traditions and practices, the uses of notation to prepare it are subtle and often quite unorthodox: Greg and I will be discussing the process, and sharing the scores, with undergraduate students on the Notation course afterwards.
The diversity of practice, research and expertise available in one place within the musical life of the University has allowed us to contribute to a complex project like this in a satisfying variety of ways. The show itself is sold out, but BBC2 Scotland will be showing highlights on 22 January at 9.30pm.
Read The Scotman’s review of the show here.
Text by Dr David McGuinness, Senior Lecturer in Music (@DMcGconcal)
View David’s video on YouTube.