Lost Light: Music from The 306

Various Artists

(National Theatre of Scotland)

SCOTLAND’S national theatre was created to make its own rules, so there will be no surprise that it is now a record label, but there should probably be a health warning of some sort on the packaging of this 12-track album: “may induce weeping”, or something similar.

Music-theatre trilogy The 306: Dawn, Day and Dusk was a highlight of the contributions NTS made to the 14-18NOW programme of work marking the centenary of the First World War. Playwright Oliver Emmanuel and composer Gareth Williams had a superb cast and musical partners in Red Note Ensemble to tell the heart-rending true tale of the 306 men executed for cowardice and desertion, in a co-production with Perth Theatre.

It would be a mistake, though, to look at this release of music from the three shows as simply a memento of those site-specific and stage productions. This disc (also available to download) stands eloquently on its own, with the bare minimum of information on the packaging to put it in context.

Using language honed to its essence, and scoring that is often just as minimalist, Emmanuel and Williams give the singers and instrumentalists enough to depict the anguish of the young soldiers and the loss of those they left behind. Real relationships sundered over a hundred years ago leap achingly from these performances, recorded at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.

It culminates in a list of the men the shows memorialised, but the tears may start to flow much earlier, during the first of two trio recordings by Amanda Wilkin with cellist Sonia Cromarty and pianist (and musical director) Jonathan Gill. The song That Should Be Us might be the work of Sondheim, but without any of the cynicism.

Keith Bruce