Celtic Connections opens with homage to Martyn Bennett

Front cover of Martin Bennett's Grit album Image copyright Martyn Bennett Trust
Image caption Martyn Bennett's final album, Grit, was hailed as a groundbreaking piece of work

The opening concert of the 22nd Celtic Connections music festival will pay tribute to visionary Scottish musician who died of cancer a decade ago.

Martyn Bennett died in 2005, at the age of 33, but his blending of traditional tunes with dance beats revolutionised the musical landscape.

The festival runs for 18 days until 1 February at venues across Glasgow.

It will feature more than 300 events and about 2,000 musicians from all over the world.

Highlights of the festival programme include a tribute to singer, songwriter, author, poet and activist Ewan MacColl, who established Scotland's first folk club.

Image copyright Celtic Connections
Image caption A tribute to the late songwriter Ewan MacColl is one of the festival highlights
Image caption One concert will celebrate the life and music of Rory Gallagher
Image caption Craig Armstrong will revisit some of his best-loved cinematic work

There will also be a celebration of the life and music of Rory Gallagher, the Irish-born blues-rock guitarist who died in 1995.

The line-up for the festival also includes big names such as Fairport Convention, appearing for the first time since 2006, Tweedy, Shooglenifty, Lambchop, King Creosote, Eddi Reader and Karine Polwart.

Glaswegian film score composer Craig Armstrong, whose lengthy list of credits include Baz Luhrmann's Romeo and Juliet and Moulin Rouge! as well as Love Actually, Fever Pitch, The Incredible Hulk and The Great Gatsby, will revisit some of his best-loved cinematic work and perform tracks from his new album.

While Crossing The Minch pays homage to Pipe Major Donald MacLeod who survived World War Two to become one of the world's greatest pipers.

Celtic Connections musical director Donald Shaw said one of the unique features of Celtic Connections was the one-off collaborations between artists from different traditions around the world.

He also said that artists such as Carlos Nunez, Le Vent du Nord and Angelique Kidjo had been asked to "think outside the box and do something really special for Glasgow".

The opening concert on Thursday night is dedicated to Bennett, an iconoclastic virtuoso who blended traditional voices with hard-core electronic dance beats.

The concert will feature a full orchestration of his final album, Grit, which has been credited with starting the musical evolution of Celtic fusion.

Donald Shaw said Bennett had constantly tried to find a way to present Scottish music in a different light.

He said: "Like all great innovators he was not copying, he was not trying to recreate what had gone before.

"He felt that traditional songs should live and breathe in whatever form could be exciting musically. He saw that as being liberating for the music and the songs."

For the opening concert, violinist and composer Greg Lawson has reconstructed the studio-created album for a custom-designed orchestra of folk, jazz and classical players.

Lawson's reimagined version features a cast of about 80 musicians and singers.

"When you enter the landscape of Martyn Bennett's mind," he said.

"It's amazing how many people you need to accomplish what he did by himself."

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