This week, we’ve been chatting to our colleagues in the International Festival office about the music they can’t wait to hear this August - be it an operatic aria, a score to a dance show, or an alt-rock ballad. We’ve heard some great stories and now we’d love to share them with you in this blog. We ended up with such a big playlist, we broke it down in two: one featuring classical repertoire, and the other contemporary tunes.
We want to hear YOUR picks from the programme next, so let us know about your favourites on social media using #EdintFest.
Classical music picks
I've just been proofing the programme for National Youth Choir of Scotland, and it's bringing back lots of very fond memories of when I sang with them myself 10 years ago. Also in the choir at the time was Andrew McTaggart, who's joining them in the Usher Hall - this time as the soloist! Being part of NYCoS was a wonderful and very special experience, and one which has been seminal in my knowledge and appreciation of music. I've actually sang all the repertoire in their Usher Hall concert with the choir over the years, so know it well, and I'm especially excited to hear Andy singing the baritone solos in the Vaughan Williams Five Mystical Songs!
Miranda, Marketing Administrator
I’d like to add Haydn’s Creation to the list. Although the second part with the description of the creation of all the animals is wonderful, particularly the buzzing of the bees, Part I remains my favourite. The beginning is sombre but that reflects the chaos, disorder and darkness of the ‘beginning’. Then quiet recitation by Raphael (the tenor) and choir of Genesis is broken by the sudden proclamation: ‘and there was LIGHT!’ when the whole world, stage, orchestra, chorus and audience awakes! Even though I know it’s coming, the major cord, blast of brass and timpani makes me jump every time. Interestingly, the Creation was played when Haydn was reburied in the 1950s when his body was finally reunited with his skull - after 145 years apart…
Kate, Administration Assistant
I’ve just arrived to Edinburgh from Sydney, so I’m most excited to get to know some of Scotland’s greatest artists, from Light on the Shore with Edinburgh Gin Seaside at the spectacular Leith Theatre to Nicola Benedetti at The Queen’s Hall. I’m also delighted to see some of my favourite international artists perform here: Akram Khan in XENOS (one of his final performances in a full-feature production), the Kiss & Cry Collective with Cold Blood and Geoff Sobelle with HOME. Finally, I absolutely adore Rossini, so I’ll be bookending my festival with The Barber of Seville and La Cenerentola.
Tina, Marketing and Communications Director
Some of the youth ensembles are performing very interesting contemporary classical repertoire but the highlight for me will definitely be Esa-Pekka Salonen's 'Nyx' from the Colburn Orchestra. It is an intense, exciting piece of music which darts through mystical soundscapes and driving rhythmic passages. A great concert opener and a brilliant opportunity to experience the energy and precision of this vibrant youth orchestra from Los Angeles!
Brian, Audience Development Officer
Hearing NYCoS singing The Creation in the Opening Concert promises to be very, very, very special - and the beauty ofHansel & Gretel will always be a favourite (especially when we've got the starry cast we have) - but if I had to pick just one thing to hear it would be Dvořák's Requiem with the Bamberg Symphony and our own wonderful chorus. It's not performed so often and hasn't been done in the International Festival for over twenty years. I heard it once years ago and loved it. Can't wait!
Drew, Artists Co-ordinator
A great discovery for me in this year’s programme has been learning about the life and music of the Scottish composer Cecil Coles. A composer of huge promise whose blossoming career was cut tragically short. One of the many people to lose their lives in World War One, Coles died whilst on active duty at the Somme. 100 years since he died in 1918, the National Youth Orchestra of Scotland will be performing his suite 'Behind the Lines' on 9 August conducted by Paul Daniel.
Born in Kurkcudbright the 1880s, Coles moved to Edinburgh as a child and went to George Watson’s College before studying in London and Stuttgart. Everything changed for him (as it did for so many other people) when the war broke out. Amazingly, Coles continued to compose whilst he was in the middle of the conflict in France. Only a few months earlier before he died, he had sent a manuscript of a movement of his suite 'Behind the Lines' to the composer Gustav Holst who he’d worked with at Morley College in London – you can see a picture of the muddy manuscript here. He sent Holst manuscripts whenever possible and as he didn’t have manuscript paper, he wrote his music on notepaper with hand drawn staves!
After his death at the Somme in 1918, Coles remained virtually unknown for over seventy years until his daughter discovered some of his manuscripts left in a cardboard box stored at his old school, George Watson’s College in Edinburgh. It was only after the conductor Martyn Brabbins (who is performing at the festival on the same day – 9 August – in a concert that features the music of another Scottish composer, Thea Musgrave) and others worked to revive his works with a recording on the Hyperion label, that people became aware of his talent. ‘Cortege’ (one of the movements in 'Behind the Lines') was played at the BBC Proms in 2003. I’ve been holding back from listening to any recordings of the work so I’m really look forward to hearing it live for the first time on 9 August. A sombre reminder of the huge amount of talent that was forever lost as a result of the conflict. What would he have gone on to create had the war not happened? You can read more about Coles here.
Victoria, Senior Media Officer
Contemporary music picks
I have a few… King Creosote - 'My Favourite Girl' (beautiful) or 'Bats in the Attic' (Haunting), Anna Meredith 'Varmints' (just brilliant), and a little side bar one - the song won’t be performed but I love 'While you were Sleeping' by Elvis Perkins and I just realised this week that Elvis Perkins is doing the music for HOME(original songs).
Caroline, Head of Creative Learning
Two cutting-edge contemporary dance pieces by L-E-V Dance Company: OCD Love and Love Chapter 2 are the shows I am looking forward to the most this year. Both are scored by DJ Ori Lichtik – our brochure describes the music as “deep, pulsing, tribal beats” and having given it a listen, I agree 100% - it works so well with with the visceral choreography! Also, I’m curious to see one of the most of-the-moment artists, SOPHIE, whose track ‘Immaterial’ got me stuck on repeat one day in the office. The final pick, would be Holst’s The Planets at this year’s Virgin Money Fireworks Concert. Just imagine such epic compositions like 'Mars' of 'Jupiter' being performed live as the Edinburgh Castle is lit up by the spectacular pyrotechnics extravaganza…
Maciej, Digital Officer
I’ve really loved getting to know Martyn Bennett’s Bothy Culture this festival – first of all learning about how he combined sampled folk with breakbeat, then hearing from Greg Lawson about how you can replicate bass music with a combination of brass instruments. I can’t wait to hear it all orchestrated in August, especially the track 'Aye?' – which apparently could be read as a sort of private joke about Bennett’s side of a phone conversation with his maw.
Becca, Digital Assistant
Voices Near The Hypocentre - Lanark Artefax. Incredible sonic design on this track that really shows off his unmistakable style - cannot wait to hear this on Leith Theatre's sound system. Somehow Lanark Artefax manages to create music filled simultaneously with serenity and chaos; it makes me feel like I'm watching a malfunctioning live stream of heaven!
Jamie, Media Officer
'Since Yesterday' by Strawberry Switchblade. This song is the title and hero tune of one of the evenings at Light on the Shore with Edinburgh Gin Seaside which is being co-curated by musician, Carla J Easton, and director, Blair Young. The night exists to champion those Scottish girl bands of the eighties and nineties that are regularly looked over in favour of their, usually, all male counterparts. The night is more grrrl than girl, and includes some of Scotland’s best bands and some unannounced special guests taking to the stage to pay tribute to the likes of Strawberry Switchblade.
Another one would be 'Just Like Honey' by The Jesus and Mary Chain. A Jesus and Mary Chain classic, this punk love song with its recognisable drum beat opening poached from The Ronettes’ Be My Baby sits on most of my playlists. From their opening album Psychocandy, their Velvet Underground inspired sound of shoegazey alt-rock makes for blissful summer listening. They share a bill with grunge-pop dream duo, Honeyblood, and gauzy Glasgow indie quintet, Spinning Coin. [For more picks, visit M-Magazine article where Jen curated a Light on the Shore with Edinburgh Gin Seaside playlist]
Jen, Programme Associate
The recommendations above are just the top of the iceberg (a friendly one)! Follow the buttons below to listen some of the previous playlist (for example, your recommendations from St. Vincent's and John Grant's back catalogue), and browse classical and contemporary music concerts taking place this August. Enjoy!