Friday 29 March 2024

An imaginative and seductive mix of musics: The 48th St Magnus International Festival with Alasdair Nicolson, Lisa Robertson, Erland Cooper, Huw Watkins, George Crumb and more

St Magnus Cathedral
St Magnus Cathedral

Under the directorship of Scottish composer Alasdair Nicolson, the 48th St Magnus International Festival from 21 to 29 June 2024, brings a mix of film, literature, theatre, community participation and world-class musicians to the Orkney Islands. The result is an imaginative and seductive mix of musics from contemporary to folk to community performance. Local composers feature strongly, both contemporary classical and the more folk influenced.

Swedish chamber orchestra Musica Vitae with guest cellist and director Robin Michael perform an eclectic programme including music by Bach, Highland composer Lisa Robertson, the UK premiere of cello concerto Storm Runes by Alasdair Nicolson and a programme based on Swedish folk music. Michael will also be performing a solo event at Stromness Town Hall, with Welsh composer Huw WatkinsSonata for Solo Cello and two of Bach’s Cello Suites. [Musica Vitae will also be at Kings Place in London on 27 June with their Storm Runes programme]

In addition to their own concert, the Edinburg Quartet performs alongside Alon Sariel (mandolin), Kathryn Stott (piano), and in a very special concert with composer and multi-instrumentalist, Erland Cooper. Cooper, who is from Stromness, buried the only existing tape of his work Carve The Runes Then Be Content With Silence alongside other artefacts, leaving clues as to its whereabouts. The musical time capsule has recently been unearthed, and the piece will be played with the Edinburgh Quartet with Cooper on piano as the buried trinkets dry out around St Magnus Cathedral.

An ongoing collaboration with Live Music Now Scotland, features performances by guitar and soprano Morris Begg Duo and the fiddle and accordion of Roo and Neil, including a multi-media promenade concert at St Magnus Cathedral with musicians from the Nicolson-founded Assembly Project and video mapping from Illuminos. Roo and Neil also perform in one of two late-night Sound of Local Folk concerts, with young Orcadians pianist Jennifer Austin and fiddler Eric Linklater performing in the other. Austin also plays a concert in-the-round at St Magnus Cathedral, bringing her new compositions to Kirkwall by candlelight.

Percussion ensemble O Duo and soprano Elizabeth Llewellyn give the long-awaited UK premiere of George Crumb’s American Songbook III: Unto The Hills. Subtitled"Songs of Sadness, Yearning, and Innocence: A Cycle of Appalachian Songs", the work dates from 2002 and sets traditional and folk songs for singer, amplified piano, and percussion quartet. O Duo and Llewellyn will be by the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire percussion department. Ensemble Hesperi will perform Baroque music with a Scottish flavour, acclaimed mandolin player Alon Sariel performs Plucked Bach and Kathryn Stott gives a recital as part of her farewell to the piano tour.

The community is involved too. The world premiere of new commission The Rhythm Of The Stones from Stephen Deazley and Orkney Voices will be performed by hundreds of local school children and the Assembly Project. Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana will be performed by the Festival Chorus of many local volunteer singers alongside acclaimed choir Sonoro, O Duo and Royal Birmingham Conservatoire percussion.

Gerda Stevenson, has her film The Storm Watchers shown in installation daily at the Festival, alongside outdoor performances from all-women’s theatre company Circo Rum Ba Ba who bring a 50ft life-size sperm whale to Kirkwall within which they perform a show exploring plastic in our oceans. There is more theatre from Aotearoa / New Zealand company Trick of the Light.

Full detail from the festival website.

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