Mr McFall’s Chamber - Aye: An Affirmation of Martyn Bennett
Brunton Theatre, Musselburgh, Wed 19 Mar; Eastwood Park Theatre, Giffnock, Thu 27 Mar
Whether playing to a packed hall or an empty one, musicians bond through the shared experience of being there and doing it together. When legendary piper Martyn Bennett and Mr McFall’s Chamber encountered both scenarios at the 1998 Highland Festival – full at Aviemore, deserted in Wick – closer collaboration was inevitable. Or should have been. The musicians had both played the now demolished old Bongo Club and a mutual admiration for each other’s music developed between Bennett and violinist Robert McFall. But Bennett died from cancer, aged 33, and the much discussed collaboration never happened.
McFall never forgot the idea and, as part of the Scottish Arts Council’s Tune Up initiative, has put together Aye: An Affirmation of Martyn Bennett which tours throughout Scotland. McFall says: ‘Early in the discussions, Martyn raised the subject of a piece he had originally written for string quartet, small pipes and percussion and which he wanted to resurrect.’
However, the music for it seemed lost, until a photocopy was discovered at the headquarters of the Scottish Arts Council, which had funded it. ‘A plan to record the piece was hatched,’ says McFall. ‘From his sick bed, Martyn hand-picked the ideal musicians for the project: percussionists Tom Bancroft and James Mackintosh and piper Fraser Fifield.’
When rehearsing for the recording sessions was almost complete, Bennett died and the project was left unfinished. ‘By this time, the Piece for String Quartet, Percussion and Scottish Smallpipes in C, as Martyn had so pithily titled it, had revealed itself as a masterpiece,’ says McFall.
The McFall’s Chamber tour is the end product of the ten year process and brings together not only the aforementioned piece and musicians, but original music by Bennett, McFall’s arrangements of his music and Nocturnes by fellow traditional musician/composer Eddie McGuire. This time, there is bound to be an audience.