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You play the melody on the chanter

​Wow. Just. . .WOW. Nobody envied the reviewers last night, tasked with encapsulating an experience that left most participants speechless – after it had had them alternately open-mouthed and on their feet; in roof-raising raptures and floods of tears – within just a few column inches.


Facebook posts following the live première of Martyn Bennett’s GRIT, newly orchestrated by the other hero of the night – alongside the music’s late original author – Greg Lawson, told their own story: “Best gig I've been to ever!” “The best concert I've ever seen” “Best live gig of my life!” “Truly awesome!!” “Again, again!” “I still have goosebumps and have not stopped talking about it since I came into the office this morning” comprise a representative selection.


Tom Bancroft, who manned part of the mighty percussion battery arrayed behind Lawson’s specially configured, 80-piece orchestra of folk, jazz and classical players, echoed the comprehensively wonderstruck response, onstage as much as in the auditorium, after the show: “I’ve never done a gig with that vibe from the audience before. As soon as we came on, it just felt incredible – it was like walking into a room full of Martyn.” That 2,378 strong audience, which included such luminaries as Phil Jupitus and Craig Armstrong, together with a large, stellar and multi-generational contingent of Scottish folk musicians, filled the Concert Hall to the very last choir-stall seat and standing ticket. And it was indeed a fully equal partner in generating the night’s incredible atmosphere, both with rapt, pin-drop focus on the piece’s quieter moments, and with scenes of unanimously jubilant appreciation I’ve never witnessed in that room before – or in fact anywhere. The love in the room reached one of its warmest peaks when the crowd demanded a second, unplanned encore, as Lawson dazedly attempted to gather his understandably blitzed wits along with the relevant score, scrabbling among the scattered pile on the floor beside the podium, where he’d chucked them after conducting each number. The second was followed by a third, and yet another standing ovation, after which piper Lorne MacDougall’s Facebook post will have spoken for many of us lucky enough to be there: “I had trouble understanding the traffic lights leaving the Concert Hall, my mind was so blown! Amazeballs.”


And with the BBC in attendance recording the concert, the following post from sound engineer Alex Fiennes, who did a phenomenal job at the desk, should further heighten the anticipation ahead of its broadcast next Thursday, January 22nd on BBC Two Scotland: “Mixing the TV soundtrack with Garry Boyle [sound designer for last year’s GRIT theatre production] and Greg Lawson at Slate Room Studio on Sunday so should hopefully be suitably OTT…”


As we enter the first full festival weekend, there are, remarkably – and for this one night only, one suspects – still tickets left for the Festival Club. Likewise for tonight’s one-off World Beat Bothy at the Arches, a mighty tempting alternative for your Celtic clubbing pleasure, kicking off at 9pm, with DJs Lewis Robertson (Mais Um Discos), Dunk Ballantyne (Tiger’s Milk) and Dolphin Boy now added to the line-up of Da Lata, Halcyon and La Chiva Gantiva.