Tag Archives: EIF

EIF al fresco 2021

A concentration on outdoor events has been announced by the Edinburgh International Festival as it promises a full programme from August 7 to 29, to be unveiled at the start of June.

Although no artists have yet been revealed, artistic director Fergus Linehan said that most would be UK-based, “a lot of them Scottish”.

“Large ensembles coming in from overseas is not possible, so ensembles are likely to be UK-based. Individuals are still able to come in, but not a company of 250 Italians,” he said.

Likewise, the socially-distanced audience that will be accommodated in three specially-constructed pavilions is expected to be made up mostly of local people. The Festival will have an on-line element to cater to those further afield.

“There will be a programme of online running throughout, but it is primarily a live festival. What we are doing online is mostly recorded relays of the live events,” said Linehan.

Some small outdoor events are planned, but most will be staged in three locations, where a canopy will protect the stage and audience. One of those remains unconfirmed, but the other two are at Edinburgh Park, close to the Edinburgh Park Central tram stop, and at the Old Quad of Edinburgh University, on South Bridge.

Linehan said he was keen to take the Festival out of the city centre, and the Edinburgh Park pavilion, in the city’s commercial development on its western edge, has “excellent transport links and unlimited parking”.

“The Quad should be beautiful”, he added. That venue provides a link with the cancelled programme of 2020, when the Festival had planned to erect a Spiegeltent in the space, hosting a long series of musical events.

“We offered everyone a return visit and a few of those things have survived,” said Linehan. “We can’t really do anything with an ensemble bigger that 40 or 50, we can’t have very long evenings and we can’t do anything with a lot of brass and wind. And a lot of that would be our bread and butter programming in the Usher Hall.”

Nonetheless, music is expected to form the bulk of the programming announced at the start of June. Concerts will be shorter, and some will be repeated to allow another audience to attend. Public booking will open on June 11 and tickets will be strictly allocated, either to individuals, couples, small groups or families. EIF Executive Director Fran Hegyi said that everything was being planned in accordance with current government guidelines on social distancing and face coverings, and the possibility  of so-called “Covid passports” was not part of the discussions.

She added that considerations were “not just artistic ones, but also our role in having as many people working on the Festival as possible. We have been really conscious over the past 12 months of the responsibility that we have that the industry has work to do, because that is the workforce that has to come back.”

Linehan said that the 2022 Festival is acquiring increasing significance, beyond its existing status as marking the events 75th anniversary.

“It may be the first time that we are able to have unfettered mass gatherings again. So that is not just about concerts in the Usher Hall, but about every choral group and every dance group – all those ways in which we come together as communities that have had to come to a halt. There will a huge surge of activity next year that we will have to think about, and beyond what we normally  do.”

eif.co.uk

EIF & Linn forge Digital Partnership

An exciting new partnership between East Renfrewshire-based Linn Records and the Edinburgh International Festival is launched this week with the release of three new recordings featuring landmark performances from the 2020 Festival’s reshaped digital music programme.

The recordings were conceived by the EIF to counter Covid restrictions, which saw opera, orchestral and chamber music performances from various Edinburgh venues screened online to a remote Festival audience. Key to that initiative was the engagement by EIF of Linn’s award-winning senior producer Philip Hobbs to oversee much of the sound production.

This week’s trio of releases include: the world premiere recording of Klaus Simon’s reduced orchestration of Mahler’s Seventh Symphony, performed by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra under its musical director Thomas Sondergard; Scottish Opera’s compelling film version of Menotti’s television opera The Telephone with soprano Soraya Mafi and baritone Jonathan McGovern as protagonists Lucy and Ben; and a compendium of highlights from the Chamber Music Series recorded at The Hub, featuring such classical stars as pianist Steven Osborne, mezzo-soprano Catriona Morison, tenor Mark Padmore, soprano Andrea Baker and the Elias Quartet.

Andrew Moore, the Festival’s head of music, welcomed the joint initiative. “I’m delighted that we are to bring highlights of our reshaped digital 2020 Edinburgh International Festival programme to music lovers through this new partnership with Linn Records”. 

Hobbs, who last month added a prestigious Prise de Son from French classical music magazine Diapason to his long list of industry awards, and was recently named as the first ever visiting professor of recording at the Royal Academy of Music, acknowledged the potential of this new venture. “The result is some wonderful performances which will stand as significant contributions to the recorded catalogue for years to come.”

All three recordings will be released on Friday 18 December via key download and streaming platforms, and in Studio Master from www.LinnRecords.com

Lockdown Life for Fergus Linehan, EIF Director

With a second spike in COVID-19 likely to undermine the return to normal for Scotland’s live concert scene, maybe it’s time to accept that a radical new norm is the only option. EIF director FERGUS LINEHAN is veering in that direction, he tells Ken Walton

Whatever time it takes to quell the presence of COVID-19, the pandemic’s impact on the Edinburgh International Festival will be game-changing, says its director Fergus Linehan. But don’t expect it to happen overnight. “2021 will only be the journey back,” Linehan cautiously predicts. “Probably 2022 will be the great celebration.” 

If he’s right, the timing is perfect. 2022 is the year the Festival celebrates its 75th anniversary. What better moment to embrace the catastrophic consequences of the current global dilemma and apply its lessons – and opportunities – to revolutionising the established norm.

We spoke in the wake of this year’s virtualised programme, in which – for classical music – streamed concerts on You Tube from The Hub replaced the traditional daily live Queen’s Hall series, orchestras were reduced to skeletal proportions in works such as Mahler’s Seventh Symphony, and opera became cinema (Scottish Opera’s terrific film version of Menotti’s The Telephone).

According to the EIF, a global audience of around 1.5 million tuned into the entire Festival rescue package, double the number of previous audiences. It didn’t do much for footfall in the city, of course, but it has opened Linehan’s eyes to new priorities, new opportunities, and lessons to be learnt through enforced adversity.

He was particularly surprised, for instance, by the extent to which the virtual audience signed up. “You know, usually our web audience skews much younger, but this time the older audience were equally engaged. A lot of people went ‘now I know how to play You Tube only television, or now I know how to hook up my speakers’. So what we started to see was not just us going to them, but those who never looked at culture online suddenly coming to us. That’s a huge change.”

Before Festival fans choke in their soup, be assured that Linehan has no plans to minimise the live experience. It’s a way of enhancing it, he says. “It has put us together with a whole range of people, whether it’s television production companies of filmmakers, who we’ve never really been together with before. I can see ways of really enhancing performances with it, where if you did a particular series, you could then have something online that people could go to before and after, like an extended equivalent to programme notes.”

We missed a few things this time round,” he admits. “I keep thinking of people tuning into Edinburgh for some of the music, say, where we might have had a merging of the performance with a video essay about different parts of the city, like a journey through Hopetoun House to Haydn’s music. It’s another art form and a way we need to start thinking.”

Whatever transpires, future Festival content is likely to reflect the inevitable anxiety over international travel that will be the fallout of COVID. Linehan is convinced the formerly accepted model of artists constantly on planes is going to change. “I do think we’re now going to need more localised culture. The idea of this constant flow of global stars is lovely, but it’s not really sustainable.”

But what Edinburgh really needs in order to bolster its global appeal, he insists, is a commitment by the city to improve its cultural infrastructure. And surely the most immediate priority is to resolve the bureaucratic bickering that is delaying and compromising the completion of the new 1000-seater concert hall of St Andrews Square, which will serve as a home to the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and as a much-needed world-class venue for mid-size Festival events.

Linehan is in prime position to influence that, having recently been appointed the project’s interim co-chair in the wake of previous chairman Sir Ewan Brown’s sudden resignation. It won’t be an easy ride – the current squabbles require the plans to be redrawn to lower the building so as not to spoil the views of a new hotel next door, incurring increased costs and inevitable delays – but he is optimistic of a positive outcome. 

“We really need this hall,” he insists. “I think anyone who has been through a major capital development will know it’s not for the faint-hearted. There are always going to be turns in the road. I think it’s up to every generation to leave some great infrastructure behind. We do struggle as a city to build infrastructure at times. Maybe it’s because we have such a beautiful historical legacy that the necessity to add to it never seems so urgent. But as I often say, if someone hadn’t built the Usher Hall, we’d never have had an Edinburgh Festival.”

The enforced rethink, he adds, together with the practical realisation this year that technology has a key role to play in shaping future programming, might even be to the venue’s ultimate advantage. 
“I do think that any infrastructure now needs to think about how it’s going to feed into broadcast. Everyone says how technology has threatened live music, but actually it’s created more. When people listen to more music they go to more live music. The disrupter has never replaced it in any sense. All it really serves is to widen the area of interest. The new hall must recognise that.”

Finally, Linehan’s vision for EIFs-of-the-future is one that looks beyond three weeks in August. “I think what is becoming clear is that the future is not about everything or nothing, but a question of what the 12 months look like, about taking some of the emphasis away from August. That might mean looking at an extended season.”

“We’ve got to think a lot more about what Scotland’s cultural calendar looks like and what’s our collective duty towards that? Earlier in the year do we need to gravitate towards things that are more like public art, or more outdoors, and then to skew things in another way?” 

In short, expect future Edinburgh Festivals to free themselves from time-honoured convention. “It’s going to be a constant testing, a constant moving forward,” he predicts. And maybe it’s a message to all involved in the performing arts, given the COVID wake-up call, to get real with radical change.