Sunday 3 February 2019

Looking Ahead: the East Neuk Festival

Anstruther in the East Neuk of Fife
Anstruther in the East Neuk of Fife
When I lived in Dunfermline, Fife (during the late 1970s) there was something a bit bleak and grim about the East Neuk, the fishing villages in the very South-East corner of Fife. But all that has now changed, there is something vibrant about the area which has very much re-invented itself and pleasure boats have replaced the fishing boats. The East Neuk Festival is representative of this change.

Now in its 15th year, the 2019 East Neuk Festival runs from 26 to 30 June, presenting world-class musicians in the historic small venues in the area.  Concerts are dotted all over the area, with venues such as Crail Church (Consecrated 1243 with alterations 1526 and 1796), Anstruther Town Hall, Kilrenny Church (consecrated in 1243 with the body of the church dating from 1807-8), St Ayle Church in Anstruther (dating from 1881), and there is a new concert series in the Bowhouse, a converted barn. The National Trust for Scotland's Kellie Castle (14th century but re-built by Robert Lorimer in the 19th century) is hosting a large-scale art installation, The Drying Green, and the festival will be opened with a concert featuring music by the Earl of Kellie, from the family who took over the castle in the 17th century.

All in all there are 18 events over the five days of the festival. Percussionist Colin Currie and his new quartet will be performing Huw Watkins new work for them, as well as teaming up with community musicians for a work for massed percussion. The Belcea Quartet, the Pavel Haas Quartet and pianist Elizabeth Leonskaja are joining forces for a five concert series which includes Mendelssohn's Octet, quintets by Dvorak and Brahms and more. Whilst Welsh harpist Catrin Finch is joining Senegalese kora master Seckou Keita for a three-concert residency. The festival is closed by the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, conductor Joseph Swenson, in Wagner, Mozart and Mendelssohn.

In addition to the festival proper there is the ENF Retreat, a week long chamber music seminar which is designed to nurture young talent, and this year they celebrate the 40 young musicians who have participated since the first ENF Retreat in 2015, with the return of two formed members violinist Benjamin Baker and viola player Diyan Mei who will be giving a duo recital, performing with the 2019 members of the  retreat, and are soloists in the Scottish Chamber Orchestra's performance of Mozart's Sinfonia Concertante.

Full details from the East Neuk Festival website.

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