Orchestra (2)

Sir James MacMillan puts his Tryst in home town

World renowned Scottish composer Sir James MacMillan launched a festival in his home town, Cumnock in Ayrshire, to bring classical music to a wider audience and to give something back to his local community.

Now in its fifth year, the Cumnock Tryst has just announced its programme for the 2018 festival, which runs from October 4-7, and will feature luminaries including the English tenor Ian Bostridge, Harry Christophers and The Sixteen, and a new oratorio composed by MacMillan.

Sir James said: ‘The last five years have been an exciting journey for me as the festival has gradually put down roots in the town where I grew up. There are already many glorious memories of the first four Trysts and this year we can expect something truly joyous.’

The composer has long championed music education and campaigns against council cuts that threaten to make instrumental lessons the preserve of the middle classes. He has written recently about the central role music played in towns like his, a former mining community, where it was commonplace to join brass bands and sing in choirs.

‘I fell in love with music as a little boy in Cumnock, Ayrshire, in the late 1960s,’ wrote Sir James  in a national newspaper last week. ‘There wasn’t a lot of money around – many people were genuinely poor.

‘My grandfather was a coal miner who loved music – he played euphonium in colliery bands and sang in his church choir. He got me my first cornet and took me to band practices in nearby Dalmellington. This was the beginning of a magical life in music for me.’

Now an international star, MacMillan has channelled his success into staging his own festival, with hand-picked orchestras and soloists, bringing both world famous and local performers together in an event that spans classical, choral, jazz, pop and folk.

Sir James MacMillan is bringing music to his hometown of Cumnock

The festival opens on Thursday, October 4, with artists in residence, the Edinburgh Quartet, premiering a new work from Rory Boyle, String Quartet No 2 Quartetto da Requiem, alongside works by Haydn and Dvorák in St John’s Church in Cumnock.

The festival’s centrepiece is the world premiere of All the Hills and Vales Along, MacMillan’s new oratorio, on Saturday, October 6 at Cumnock Old Church.

The work was commissioned by the London Symphony Orchestra and 14-18 NOW, the UK arts programme for the First World War centenary.

The composition will be set to texts by the Aberdeen born war poet Charles Hamilton Sorley and performed by Ian Bostridge, the Edinburgh Quartet, Nikita Naumov, Sirocco Winds, the Dalmellington Band and the Cumnock Tryst Festival Chorus, conducted by Eamonn Dougan.

Following the premiere of the chamber version of this work at Cumnock Tryst, the full orchestral version will be premiered at the Barbican on November 4. The Cumnock Tryst concert will also feature Charles Ives’s The Unanswered Question and a short new work by Electra Perivolaris.

Expanding the festival’s previous folk and jazz elements, this year Cumnock Tryst has invited Mercury Prize nominee C Duncan, whose band is currently supporting Elbow’s world tour, to perform on the Thursday night at the free Festival Club.

A special solo lieder recital from Bostridge and Italian-Dutch pianist Saskia Giorgini takes place at New Cumnock Town Hall on the Friday evening, and Giorgini presents her own solo piano recital the following afternoon.

This year’s festival continues its literary collaboration with the Boswell Book Festival. Chairman James Knox will interview Stephen Johnson whose recent book, How Shostakovich Changed my Mind, discusses the healing power of music.

To mark Scotland’s Year of Young People, the festival has a strong focus on young Scottish creative talent. The Chronicles of Cumnock, a project undertaken with Doon Academy in association with the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland (RCS), is the culmination of a 10-week project to create a series of music and dance performances.

The project will give students at Doon Academy access to leading composers, including Jennifer Martin and MacMillan himself, and choreographers Jenny Fallon and Megan Peasgood, with Martin Travers from Glasgow’s Citizen’s Theatre stitching together the various components with stories from the East Ayrshire community.

Their focus will be around the First World War and a performance of the finished work will be presented on the Friday afternoon at Cumnock Academy with Edinburgh Quartet and RCS String Quartet.

The National Youth Orchestras of Scotland Jazz Futures perform alongside Digital Orchestra, a group of talented young musicians with disabilities, developed through Drake Music Scotland. Digital Orchestra was created using inclusive music technologies and has since performed around the world.

The NYOS Jazz Ambassadors will also return for their own Festival Club performance on the Saturday evening, with other club performances at the Dumfries Arms from popular Scottish folk artists Kilda. The group comprises of some of the best young names on the Scottish Trad scene, including BBC Young Traditional Musician of the Year finalists Mhairi Marwick on the fiddle, Luc McNally on guitar and vocals, and 2018’s winner Hannah Rarity on vocals.

The finale concert will see renowned choir The Sixteen and conductor Harry Christophers perform a programme based on the Eton Choirbook, along with new commissions from MacMillan and emerging composers Phillip Cooke, Joseph Phibbs and Marco Galvani.

The choir has a long-standing relationship with MacMillan, and performed his Stabat Mater in the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel earlier in 2018.

The Cumnock Tryst runs from Thursday 4 to Sunday 7 October. Click HERE for details.

Cumnock Tryst is supported by Creative Scotland, East Ayrshire Leisure Trust, 14-18 NOW, Genesis Foundation, William Grant Foundation, and Howard & Roberta Ahmanson, among others.