Seven of the ten-strong Mr. McFall’s Chamber
Mr. McFall’s Chamber in
“Aye – an Affirmation of Martyn Bennett”
A chamber music ensemble like no other, the band comprises mostly classical players for whom the lure of other musical styles has proved irresistible. They are well known for their eclectic mix of classical, contemporary, jazz, tango and even rock music.
When maverick musician and composer Martyn Bennett died in 2005 at the tragically early age of 33, a wave of sorrow swept through Scotland’s concert halls, folk clubs, theatres, night-clubs and every other corner of Scotland’s musical community.
No other musician of his generation had crossed so many musical boundaries to combine so successfully his rigorous classical training, multi-instrumental skills and wide grasp of the Celtic tradition with the dynamic potential of electronics.
Equally at home on the bagpipes and the computer, he invented exciting new music which attracted a wide fan base. Appearing on stage like a kenspeckle goblin his performances were mind- blowing tornados of talent that bewitched listeners of all ages.
The programme also includes works by two other contemporary Scottish composers – Fraser Fifield and Eddie McGuire.
How did it go?
Despite a stormy evening and a threatened snow storm Lyth Arts Centre was almost full to capacity when a performance was given by Mr. McFall’s Chamber. This ensemble, founded by the second violin Robert McFall, is made up of a string quartet of players from the Scottish Chamber Orchestra with the addition of bass, piano and percussion. They are mostly classical players who wish to explore other musical genres and included Greg Lawson and Robert McFall violins, Brian Schiele viola, Su-A Lee cello, Rick Standley bass, Fraser Fifield pipes, Tom Bancroft and James Mackintosh percussion and Graeme McNaught piano. They gave a programme of music dedicated to Martyn Bennett the gifted young composer who did much for contemporary folk music and died three years ago at the early age of 33.
The programme opened with Cuillin by Martyn Bennett a very rhythmic and rousing piece with Fraser Fifield on the Scottish small pipes accompanied by the rest of the group. This work well demonstrated the virtuosity of the piper and set the tone for the evening with the audience wanting to move with the music.
Two further pieces by Martyn Bennett then followed Aye and Peewits/Kilchoan Ferry with cleverly introduced glissandos on the strings emulating the cries of the birds.
This was followed by Nocturnes, written especially for McFall’s Chamber by Edward McGuire the well-known Scottish composer and founder of the Whistlebinkies folk group who have in the past performed in Thurso. This was a rather profound work inspired by the tragedies of the war in Bosnia. It began with a haunting theme on the piano which was echoed throughout the piece building to a crescendo by all the instruments evoking the sounds of conflict.
After the interval a piece for quartet, pipes and percussion by Martyn Bennett and a new work with a brilliant part for pipes by Fraser Fifield
The final work in the programme was Knives in Hens by Martyn Bennett being theatre music from David Harrower’s Knives in Hens. In this piece the percussionists were well able to demonstrate their virtuosity.
The group was brought back to play an encore which was a very rousing piece with what can only be described by some as musical gymnastics performed particularly by the first violin Greg Lawson and Fraser Fifield on the pipes.
This concert demonstrated how a group of highly talented classical musicians can bring live music to an audience, some of whom may not wish to attend a classical concert. It also shows the importance of Lyth Arts Centre as a venue for the arts in Caithness. It is a jewel in the countryside.