Celtic Connections review: Patrick Doyle Celebration, City Halls, Glasgow

There was plenty of Hollywood sparkle at Patrick Doyle’s 65th birthday celebration concert, especially from the phenomenally successful Uddingston-born film composer himself, who presided over this entertaining evening as if at the Oscars. His creative partnership with actor/director Kenneth Branagh has been especially fruitful and here the BBC SSO, Phoenix Choir and conductor Dirk Brossé gave a thrilling account of Doyle’s music from Much ado about Nothing, Henry V, Hamlet and Cinderella.

Patrick Doyle PIC: John Devlin

Patrick Doyle Celebration, City Halls, Glasgow ****

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The surging strings, beating drums and expansive horn fanfares might be film score staples, but what sets Doyle apart is his gift for writing gorgeous songs, as demonstrated by his two daughters and Gaelic singer Mairie MacInnes. Abagail evoked Celtic otherworldliness in Tir na Nog, from Into the West, Nuala sang with aching tenderness Never Forget from Murder on the Orient Express, while MacInnes’ ethereal voice brought magic to Calling the Night from Whisky Galore. And there was not a dry eye in the house when the beautiful tenor voice of Doyle’s late father, recorded in the 1960s, was given a sumptuous new orchestral backing by the composer in Auld Scots Songs.

Doyle’s other orchestral offerings included his 50th birthday present to Emma Thompson, Corarsik, its ravishing violin solo expertly spun by BBC SSO leader Laura Samuel, and two world premieres: the Phoenix Choir captured the poignancy of William Dunbar’s poem in Sweit Rois of Vertew, while the rousing set of tunes in Doyle’s Scottish Overture, with fiddler Chris Stout and piper Lorne MacDougall guesting, had the audience cheering for more. Susan Nickalls