Sonoro will open this year's St Magnus Festival
Sonoro will open this year's St Magnus Festival

Orkney’s music festival is just a week away

The magical atmosphere of Orkney at midsummer is being celebrated with a music festival next weekend.

With the island’s ancient landscape and unique performance settings, the St Magnus International Festival has taken place annually on the islands of Orkney since 1977, and this year runs from Friday 22-Thursday 28 June.

It will blend together to create a very special experience for audiences as performances take place across the Orkney Isles, in venues as diverse as a tall ship, a stunning outdoor stage at Skaill House, and the great medieval cathedral of St Magnus in Kirkwall.

This year’s programme celebrates many forms of singing including a strong choral offering. This year’s festival will open with Rachmaninov’s Vespers sung by Sonoro who make their festival debut under Neil Ferris. Sonoro also join the St Magnus Festival Chorus in a performance of Rossini’s Petite Messe Solennelle.

Award-winning Canadian soprano Measha Brueggergosman leads Orkney’s own choirs, Orkney Rocks! and the Mayfield Singers, in spirituals and other freedom songs later in the week.

The festival continues to mark the strong historical links between Orkney and Scandinavia. They welcome Aarhus Sommeropera and returning festival friends, the Danish Sinfonietta who present an opera rarity, Telemann’s comedy Pimpinone. The orchestra perform more concerts in St Magnus Cathedral, in the Cromarty Hall and in schools.

Sonoro will open this year’s St Magnus Festival

The virtuosic Barokksolistene from Norway visit for the first time, and bring three programmes: beginning with their internationally renowned Alehouse Sessions, and contrast this with a concert of the music of Purcell in St Magnus Cathedral. Their third appearance is a real highlight for 2018 – a concert on board the Staatsraad Lehmkuhl. This is one of the largest tall ships in the world and is making a special first visit to the festival.

A classic work of contemporary dance theatre also remembers the festival’s founder Peter Maxwell Davies in a performance in the round of his Vesalii Icones in St Magnus Cathedral. A work representing the 14 stations of the cross and the anatomical drawings of Vesalius, this new production by dancer Matthew Hawkins has been specially created for the Festival by Red Note Ensemble.

Contemporary music features throughout, including in the riotous and entertaining percussion programme of O Duo, and Ensemble Perpetuo present brand-new works from various Scottish composers alongside Bach’s Goldberg Variations in a newly commissioned project.

Chamber music features heavily in this year’s programme and two international stars, Tom Poster and Elena Urioste lead the way with music for violin and piano before joining with Ensemble Perpetuo for a concert taking its inspiration from ‘moonlight’ and including Tom’s own arrangements from the American Songbook.

Musician Alasdair Nicolson returns to Orkney (Photo: Leslie Burgher)

Amidst the other chamber concerts there is music for the classical accordion played by Paul Chamberlain, music for classical guitar with Michael Butten and music for solo cello by Zoë Martlew, who also performs her cabaret show Revue Z which debunks the life of a musician with laughs, tears and feather boas.

As part of the theme of Year of Young People 2018, young people from Stromness Academy and Kirkwall Grammar School present the life of a young person growing up in Orkney through music, theatre, mask and dramatic scenes in two Johnsmas Foys. The Festival also returns to its work with young people with complex needs in collaboration with Hear my Music, a significant and ongoing project over the last few years.

For this year’s MagFest strand, the Festival will bring a spectacular outdoor stage to the grounds of Skaill House at the historic Skara Brae, for a series of concerts celebrating both Orkney’s own talent and its international connections. The young performers of Hadhirgaan will perform alongside the wildly entertaining Orkney group The Chair and bringing us a touch of zany, Lithuanian music are Subtilu-Z.

Click HERE for more details on the St Magnus Festival.