Well, it’s all over for another year. The Edinburgh International Festival has enjoyed the eighth and final Festival directed by Sir Jonathan Miller. This has been the 65th year of the Festival, started after the Second World War to try and bring together people and culture throughout a war-torn world.Â Back to this year. I have attended a number of performances including dance, symphonic music, opera and drama. Apart from one or two challenging evenings, I thought the Festival overall was of a high standard and a memorable one.Â It is difficult to single out any particular performanceÂ but I will mention a couple that stood out for me.
The Opening Concert got off to lively start. The Edinburgh Festival Chorus never disappoints. The music by Scriabin and Schoenberg started the concert followed after the interval by the more gentle French composer, Debussy. I preferred, however, the Saturday evening concert, also in the Usher Hall, of Holst’s Planets performed by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra under their Chief Conductor, Donald Runnicles (pictured left, by John Wood). The orchestra regularly performs all over the country, on Radio 3 and television as well as gramaphone for which they have won major awards. This programme also included Britten’s Sinfonia da Requiem, Berg’s Scaben Friche Leider and ended with Colin Matthews’ Pluto, a tribute to Holst’s daughter, Imogen,with whom he worked.
In Ala was set in South Arica, a country I know well. The title has two meanings, ‘harvest to reach’ and Â ‘abundance of goodwill’. Both the singing and dancing were beautiful. There was a 50 year age range in the choir which led to a wonderful balance of of voices. My daughter, Fiona, and I both loved it. (picture creditÂ Giulietta Verdon Roe)
In many ways the most difficult performance I saw, at the King’s Theatre (of which Fiona and I are Patrons) was the play, ‘Helen Lawrence’ (pictured left byÂ David Cooper). It was a combined production between the Banff Centre and the Canadian Arts Club and was written by Chris Haddock and and Stan Douglas. Never before had I seen a production which combined both film and acting. It was performed by a combination of actors and film makers with the cast operating the cameras. Â The action takes place in 1948, set in Vancouver and involves a highly corrupt police force, a good deal of low level crime among non-Canadians in the downtown area, with the police making large sums of money from illegal protection rackets Â and the somewhat unlikely ambition of two brothers to open a Beer Garden among the rubble! The’heroine’, Helen Lawrence aka Elizabeth Mansfield, has travelled from California to Vancouver to find her late husband’s killer. There were far too many sub-plots to describe but the culmination of the play was that Helen found the killer and tracked him to the railway station. The finale takes place as the engine pulls away, the wheels screech and a whistle screams! Powerful stuff and quite fascinating.
In 2015 the new Director, Fergus Lineham takes over. He has already made a start on attracting an equally fascinating line-up.