Celtic Connections

The Music of Craig Armstrong, Glasgow Royal Concert Hall

Keith Bruce

five stars

This may be a concert the like of which composer Craig Armstrong has never previously done - it was certainly bigger than any gig I've ever seen him perform, and they are rare beasts anyway. It also featured the biggest edition of the Orchestra of Scottish Opera we've seen in a while, probably including the pit band for the current production of Ines de Castro, the coterie of percussionists not excepted, although "seen" remains the operative word.

Then there were the guests: half a dozen vocalists as well as instrumental solos from cellist Alison Lawrence and violinist Clio Gould, both of whom have graced Armstrong movie soundtracks, in a programme that was as thorough a survey of his career as you could hope to enjoy. It started with the overture from Baz Luhrmann's Romeo+Juliet and ended with an encore of the music from the balcony scene, and included a generous selection from Luhrmann's The Great Gatsby, all accompanied by footage from the films. But generous space was also given to the composer's own albums, from Weather Storm on The Space Between Us - made much more famous by its use by the group Massive Attack - through to half a dozen tracks from the new album It's Nearly Tomorrow, of which the stand-outs were Jerry Burns's singing Dust, and the instrumental Lontano.

Armstrong ceded the piano stool to Lynda Cochrane for the much of the orchestral music, all under the firm control of RSAMD conducting graduate and long-time Armstrong associate Cecilia Weston, and the showstoppers came at the end of the first half with his arrangements of One Day I'll Fly Away and Nature Boy from Moulin Rouge!, with Katie O'Halloran and James Grant on top vocal form. With red carpet lighting to enhance the sound and vision, this was an event that will go down in Celtic Connections' folklore.