It’s my pleasure to bring you the programme for the 40th St Magnus International Festival and to invite you to join in the birthday celebrations over the midsummer nights in June.
A slightly longer Festival this year includes performers who have longstanding relationships with us and those for whom this will be their first visit to Orkney. As well as the Festival’s own birthday, we celebrate 25 years of both the Hebrides Ensemble and Florilegium, local folk duo Saltfishforty at 40, the 60th birthday of composer Sally Beamish and significant anniversaries of Shakespeare and the Battle of Jutland.
One sad commemoration, but we hope also celebration, will be many performances to mark the life and work of the Festival’s founder, Peter Maxwell Davies, who we lost recently. The festival itself is testament to Max but many of this year’s concerts are suffused with his music.
When I began work as Artistic Director, I thought that we should start the process to raise money for a new piano and I’m delighted to say that we can look forward to several concerts this year which will inaugurate the brand new instrument. The fact that we have bought a new piano is a testament to the generosity of many funders, patrons and friends who have contributed along the way. Pianists Samson Tsoy, Pavel Kolesnikov and Alexei Volodin will all bring the piano to the centre of things in recital and Alexei Volodin will also join the BBC Symphony Orchestra for Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 2.
2016 is a commemoration year for the Battle of Jutland and this will be marked by a very special Johnsmas Foy created for this anniversary and a performance of Songs of the Fleet by St Magnus Festival Chorus.
We’ve also commissioned a new work The Last Post which will be performed in the Ness Battery and is a concert/ installation which promises to be a moving tribute to anyone who fought in both world wars.
As ever, there is much local talent on display, from the performers young and not so young of Orkney Traditional Music Project to the performers of the Johnsmas Foy, the splendid choristers of St Magnus Festival Chorus and local young musicians from Glaitness School joining with musicians from Caithness in a very special project Hear My Music.
MagFest will take over the Pickaquoy Centre to stage the spectacular Biggest Marionette Circus in the World brought to us direct from Poland and filling the first weekend of the Festival with a magical show for all ages.
We hope that you’ll join us to mark this significant birthday, to celebrate our first 40 years and to remember Max.