BBC SSO: A HISTORY OF SCOTLAND **** USHER HALL, EDINBURGH
CONDUCTOR Robert Ziegler led the BBC SSO through a packed – cluttered, even – programme featuring a rolling revue of special guests.
In what felt like the few minutes they had to themselves, the SSO performed Kevin McCrae's The Mauchline Belles, inspired by a Robert Burns poem, and James MacMillan's Stomp, which references Mozart and Tchaikovsky with a spirited teuchter flourish.
The pop takeover began with McIntosh Ross, the side-project of Deacon Blue frontfolks Ricky Ross and Lorraine McIntosh. Their brief set, with its beautiful harmonies and the warm resonance of the pedal steel guitar, radiated contented languor, romantic ecstasy and a bittersweet ache, making subtle use of the orchestra's string section along the way.
Next, a suite of music from the television series A History Of Scotland. Presenter Neil Oliver described the controversy surrounding the show as "strangely pleasing", though there is nothing controversial about Paul Leonard Morgan's score, which ticks all the Braveheart boxes with its epic romanticism, Celtic refrains, militaristic rhythms and climactic rolls on kettledrums and gong.
Eddi Reader's set of Burns songs featured a lovely orchestrated version of John Anderson My Jo, but was overshadowed by the debut performance of God Help The Girl, a girl group project put together by Belle & Sebastian frontman Stuart Murdoch.
The trio – Catherine Ireton, Celia Garcia and Alex Klobouk – milked the 1960s girl group angle right down to the cutesy choreography and the orchestra added retro pizazz to the whole Phil Spectoresque enterprise.