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Review: Music

Classics Marathon Day

Classics Marathon Day

Glasgow Royal Concert Hall

Michael Tumelty

I'LL wager that thousands of people will agree with this: Saturday's Marathon Classics Day, a series of back-to-back concerts that ran for more than eight-and-a-half hours with no interval, was one of the greatest musical experiences of my life. By mid-afternoon I was flying. I remarked to Nicola Benedetti's parents, and other folk, that I was elated by the whole experience: I felt like a kid let loose in a sweet shop, so excited he wanted to try everything.

It started at one o'clock, on the stairs of the concert hall, with the Red Note Ensemble and virtuoso percussionist Kuljit Bhamra stirring up an intoxicating brew of Indian and experimental music, mad Scottish reels and love songs that rolled down Buchanan Street. By two, with every single seat for every single concert sold, we were in the Strathclyde Suite, a room undergoing an interesting transformation, for the Dunedin Consort's high-impact, earthy and near-singalong version of Bach's Magnificat, gloriously sung and hilariously introduced by John Butt with a bit of lateral smut.

Then came the bands, with the SCO and Joseph Swensen playing first in a quietly distinguished Pastoral Symphony, with the highlights firmly provided by Mozart's pell-mell Figaro and Benedetti's weightless, sky-bound Lark Ascending.

But before the mega-band of RSNO and BBC SSO in a 150-strong battalion, it was back to the Strathclyde Suite, packed for a new collaboration between the Hebrides Ensemble and NYOS Futures, with spellbinding performances of Linda Buckley's fiol and Shostakovich's Piano Quintet.

The big band, with Martyn Brabbins at the helm, blew everybody away with Copland's Fanfare, while Benedetti, a spectacular constant in the day, captured hearts with her Bruch, her chat and her Scots song arrangements. Scene-stealer was leader Jim Clark, whose drunk violinist act in Orkney Wedding he has long since made his own.

Benedetti, going more than the mile, was back again in the last show of the day (all this on two frocks) playing Vivaldi with the Scottish Ensemble, whose Piazzolla performances brought the packed house down.

Children of the Smoke

Platform, Easterhouse, Glasgow

Mary Brennan

As Glasgow fills with incomers from all across the Commonwealth, the likelihood is that many of them will be descendants of Gaelic-speaking folk who put down roots in other countries. The boat-prow that commands the stage for Children of the Smoke powerfully encapsulates not just that journeying, but also the hazards of setting off for an unknown place to call home. A new adventure - but away from old friends, familiar voices, your own language ... Luckily there's a lot you can take that doesn't need a suitcase, and Gaelic-speaking is one talisman that can travel on the tip of a tongue.

The creative team behind this project commissioned new poetry from a score of writers, and though times past whisper between some lines, the impulse - sympathetically caught and carried through by Jim Sutherland's music and in Dan Ayling's direction - is allied to the present day. The verses that Sutherland has set to a fine range of musical styles - often tinged with folk-rock energies vividly fulfilled by live strings, brass and percussion - look about at the people, places and influences that met the travellers, and at the traditions they themselves implanted in new communities. There is, of course, the bittersweet undertow of parting, and Thomas Small's choreography for four dancers adds its own dimension to some superb singing. Maybe having rap isn't quite the same as puirt-a-beul, and you'll either love or hate Dave "Corvid" McCallum's edgy anthem of the dispossessed, but Children of the Smoke - seen at preview and officially premiered on Glasgow Green tonight (7.30pm) - has a fresh, utterly engaging vitality that is open to all. It should go far.

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