Martin Bennet memorial concert



WHO, among a packed audience, would have been more surprised by what they heard during Friday night’s eclectic concert – celebratory rather than elegiac – in memory of the late Martyn Bennett? The “techno piper” devotees who cheered the City of Edinburgh Music School’s jubilant rendition of MacKay’s Memoirs, which Bennett wrote for pipes, clarsach and orchestra? Or the raw balladry of traveller Sheila Stewart, whom he featured in his final album, Grit?

Those expecting fiery piping got it in spades from Fred Morrison, but also heard an eloquent solo rendition of Here Comes the Flood from an unscheduled Peter Gabriel, on whose Real World label Bennett recorded latterly. Then there were the Gaels, such as Flora MacNeil, but none more poignant than Martyn’s mother, Margaret Bennett, whose Glen Lyon’s Lament was a heartrending triumph.

Among the fusion fireworks, there was a mischievously spiky eruption from jazz Trio AAB, psychedelic ceilidhing from Croft No 5 and a reincarnated Mouth Music, bolstered by Martyn’s widow Kirsten and Karen Matheson. Two of the most powerful offerings were the Grit-inspired dance from Jillian Thomson and Bennett’s composition Karabakh, with its eastern-inflected pipes fiddle and accordion twining around a child’s singing recorded in war-torn Azerbaijan.

There were other heart-felt tributes, several thousand pounds raised for cancer charities and even a fire alarm. You could imagine the lad himself sampling the rumpus for some studio shenanigans.