Grit Orchestra - Celtic Connections 2020

Grit Orchestra - Celtic Connections 2020

The Declaration - Royal Concert Hall - 16th Jan 2020 - 7:30pm

2020 marks the 700th anniversary of the Declaration of Arbroath, one of Scotland's most important historical artefacts. To celebrate, the famous document will go on public display for the first time in 15 years at the National Museum of Scotland.

Five years on from its landmark debut concert at Celtic Connections, the trailblazing Grit Orchestra, an 80-piece ensemble of folk, jazz and classical musician originally founded to perform and celebrate the late Martyn Bennett’s music, breaks yet more new ground with its first performance of newly-composed works. Supported by the Scottish Government’s Festivals Expo Fund, six members of the orchestra have been commissioned to create new symphonic compositions inspired by the Declaration of Arbroath, ahead of its 700th anniversary in April. Also marking 15 years since Bennett’s untimely passing, the project is described by Donald Shaw as “a declaration of intent to grasp the thistle and give a sense of confidence to orchestral works from Scottish folk composers. It’s about freedom, exploration and intent.” Under the baton of founding conductor Greg Lawson, the orchestra will première pieces by multi-instrumentalist Fraser Fifield, saxophonist Paul Towndrow, fiddlers Chris Stout and Patsy Reid, harpist Catriona McKay and cellist Rudi de Groot. 

The Declaration is a letter dated 6 April 1320 written by the barons and freeholders of the Kingdom of Scotland to Pope John XXII. The letter asked the pope to recognise Scotland's independence and acknowledge Robert the Bruce as the country's lawful king.

Despite the Scots' success at Bannockburn, Robert I had not been recognised as king by either King Edward II of England or the Pope. At the time, the Pope desired peace between England and Scotland so that both kingdoms could help in a crusade to the Holy Land. The Declaration sought to influence him by offering the possibility of support from the Scots for his long-desired crusade if they no longer had to fear English invasion.

Written in Latin, it was sealed by eight earls and about 40 barons. It was authenticated by seals, as documents at that time were not signed. Only 19 seals now remain.

The surviving Declaration is a medieval copy of the letter, the original having been dispatched to the pope in Avignon. It is cared for by National Records of Scotland and is so fragile that it can only be displayed occasionally in order to ensure its long-term preservation.

"As long as but a hundred of us remain alive, never will we on any conditions be brought under English rule. It is in truth not for glory, nor riches, nor honours, that we are fighting, but for freedom - for that alone, which no honest man gives up but with life itself".

These are the best known words in the Declaration of Arbroath, foremost among Scotland's state papers and the most famous historical record held by National Records of Scotland. The Declaration is a letter written in 1320 by the barons and whole community of the kingdom of Scotland to the pope, asking him to recognise Scotland's independence and acknowledge Robert the Bruce as the country's lawful king.


Grit & Bothy Culture - Barrowland Ballroom - 18th Jan 2020 - 7:30pm

To complement their opening-night première of bespoke new cross-genre compositions, the 80-piece Grit Orchestra, a hand-picked array of Scottish folk, jazz and classical artists, revisit the music that first made them, that of the late and much-lamented Martyn Bennett. Founding conductor Greg Lawson’s extraordinary live realisation of Bennett’s eponymous final masterpiece was their inaugural towering achievement, at Celtic Connections 2015, followed three years later by his orchestration of 1998’s Bothy Culture, which filled the Hydro to the brim with euphoria. Amid the über-conducive ambience of Scotland’s best-loved rock’n’roll ballroom, we mark 15 years since Bennett’s passing, while celebrating his continued legacy, with the first back-to-back performance of both works.

Bothy Culture & Beyond at The SSE Hydro as part of CC 2018.

Bothy Culture & Beyond at The SSE Hydro as part of Celtic Connections 2018. Featuring The GRIT Orchestra, Danny MacAskill, Ali Clarkson & All or Nothing Aerial Dance. Opening the show were Niteworks.