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Big Brave Rave

​It’s all about Brave today, so apologies if that doesn’t float your boat: a full round-up of weekend shenanigans will follow tomorrow.
 
What an utter joy it was to arrive at the Concert Hall’s soon after 5pm yesterday and walk right through the building, from the north door round to the press office, then up to production HQ. Celtic central, Saturday teatime - it's always pretty buzzy, what with Danny Kyle packed-out Open Stage freshly under way, after a day’s array of packed-out workshops; the café mobbed likewise, folk loading up on pre-gig ballast. And then some cunning mastermind/s crown all this with the double world première of Brave in Concert.
 
The 5.30 show’s core demographic was slightly older kids, compared to the 2pm performance, so fewer Merida costumes in evidence – but plenty of virtually pants-wetting, positively hopping-with excitement on the part of a good many parents, one Brian McAlpine being a prime example.
 
For anyone whom this 2019 festival centrepiece has thus far passed by, amid the opening weekend’s dizzying plethora of possibilities, it combined a big-screen showing of Disney’s Scottish-set animated Oscar-winner with the first ever live performance of Patrick Doyle’s also much-garlanded, totally breathtaking score, by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and traditional soloists, plus a raft of RCS students, especially selected and mentored for the event, swelling the ranks onstage to well over 100.
 
Duties elsewhere meant your present correspondent only caught the first half-hour or so, but – especially for one who’d not previously seen the film - that was more than enough to blow me comprehensively away, on myriad levels. In the order scrawled down in my notebook as I watched and listened, often open-mouth, the quality on display of imagery, screenwriting, composition, animation, comedy, acting, arrangements, musicianship, narrative sophistication, characterisation, oral storytelling and moral/conceptual complexity was absolutely la crème de la crème across the board.
 
Those of us sans weans, or who aren’t big movie-watchers, also mightn’t previously have grasped just how seriously big a cheese Patrick Doyle is, but his list of top international awards over the decades really is quite jaw-dropping – as was, reportedly, his virtuosity as musical director.
 
“A totally different level to anything I’ve ever experienced,” summarised one engineer on the gig, still awestruck hours later (this from someone who’s also doing next weekend’s shows by Rachel Sermanni, Jarlath Henderson, Karine Polwart, Kris Drever and the SCO, then Transatlantic Sessions after that, so no apprentice nor journeyman). 
 
Further layers of beautifully complementary, poetic/historic resonance derived from Doyle’s having originally trained along the road at the then-RSAMD – hence the RCS students’ presence, fulfilling his wish to involve both alma mater and successor generations. The latter was also accomplished with his enchanting, newly-written musical prologue to the score, introducing its featured instruments and orchestral sections to younger audience members.
 
 
 
Young and old alike, once the film itself began we were all instantly, totally spellbound. Never mind in the moment - everyone was right there together in the millisecond. Collective intakes of breath, at each sublime visual/musical showpiece (the song arrangement of ‘Touch the Sky’, soundtracking Merida’s headlong horseback gallop/bid for freedom through stunning, eagle-adorned Highland scenery, was simply out of this world), alternated with unison ripples, flurries and big belly bursts of laughter.
 
A truly thrilling, triumphant coming-together of artforms, genres, disciplines, ideas, languages, traditions, generations, and (made-up mediaeval milieu notwithstanding) a magnificent, marvellously multi-dimensional embodiment and celebration of Scotland today, its culture and its creativity, in all their splendour.
 
Here endeth the rhapsody.
 
(Relatively) normal service resumes tomorrow.