"A LAVISH tribute concert to the groundbreaking musician Martyn Bennett - staged 10 years after his death - has been named event of the year at Scotland’s traditional music Oscars.
More than 80 of the nation’s leading folk, jazz and classical musicians and singers were involved in a live recreation of Bennett’s final landmark album - released less than two years before he lost his battle with cancer at the age of just 33."
Greg Lawson on orchestrating Martyn Bennett's Grit
Composer and violinist Greg Lawson, a long-time friend of Bennett’s, spent several years working on the show, which opened this year’s Celtic Connections music festival and has now been honoured at the 13th annual Scots Trad Music Awards event, which was held in Dundee.
Lawson revealed there were plans afoot to take the live version of Grit out on the road in future, as well as tackle some of Bennett’s other work.
The Treacherous Orchestra, one of the modern-day bands to cite Bennett as a major influence, were honoured for their latest work, Grind, which had also been a contender for Scottish Album of the Year earlier this year.
The Perthshire-born piper and whistle-player Ross Ainslie, who is also a member of The Treacherous Orchestra, was named composer of the year.
Martyn Bennett, who emerged from the mid-1990s music scene in Edinburgh to become one of the country’s hottest musical acts, was forced to give up performing in 2000 at the height of his fame after being diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.
However he continued to make music and his final album, Grit, released on Peter Gabriel’s record label, is widely regarded as his master-work, for the way that he married little-known recordings of traditional songs from the 1950s-1970s and married them with his trademark beats and samples.
The TV broadcast of the Celtic Connections show was in contention for last month’s Scottish BAFTAs after being shortlisted for best entertainment programme, but lost out to Mrs Brown’s Boys.
It is the second year in a row that Bennett’s legacy has been honoured at the event, which was live-streamed around the world for the first time.
The Martyn Bennett Story
Theatre-maker Cora Bissett won best event at the “Trad Awards” ceremony 12 months ago for a stage show about Bennett’s life and legacy, featuring drama, dance and acrobatics, which was created in collaboration with his friends and family.
Performed in Glasgow and Mull, where Bennett lived in his later years, Bissett’s show - which was set to some of his best-known music - was a signature event in the cultural programme for the Commonwealth Games.
Bennett - born in Canada but brought up in the Highlands from the age of six by his folk-singer mother Margaret - was the first traditional musician to win a place at the City of Edinburgh Music School at Broughton High.
He would go on to become one of Scotland’s leading live performers, reguarly appearing at Edinburgh’s Hogmanay celebrations and festivals like Celtic Connections and T in the Park.
Lawson, who befriended Bennett when the latter was 16 and had been hired to play as a session musician with the Scottish Ensemble, told the audience at the Caird Hall that he was hoping to reunite his Grit orchestra for further events, including staging a live version of another Bennett album, Bothy Culture.
Lawson said: “An award like this means an awful lot, because in creating that orchestra one of the things that occurred to me was that it is made now, you cannot do it.
“It was an incredible celebration of how different music styles can come together. What you find is that there are far more similarities than differences between all of us who represent all the different accents that speak for music.
“We hope to carry that orchestra on. An award like this really shows that people care.
“We can now look for more performances for Grit, start writing Bothy Culture and take on Martyn Bennett’s embryonic concept of creating a landscape of music which goes beyond borders and just brings in everyone together.”