Festival 2014 blog: Pete Stollery, chair of sound 'Halfway through...'

OK - so we're just over half-way through this year's festival and it's fair to say that it's been an interesting couple of weeks...

What an amazing start to our 10th anniversary festival - Colin Currie and Fabiana Galante/Luis Conde both performing to capacity audiences in the Cowdray Hall and then the following evening, premieres from Red Note and the Orchestre d'Auvergne to celebrate the start of our partnership with Musiques Demesurées, our sister festival in France. It was wonderful to be able to celebrate both the partnership with France but also the new relationship we have with Red Note who are sound's Associate Ensemble (and some of the best new music players around - anywhere...). Ever since Red Note did their first gig for us back in 2009 (for free...!) we have worked with them on loads of projects, in particular the acclaimed Framed Against the Sky last year which brought new music to so many communities around the north-east. They are such good friends to us and we are proud to be associated with them.

That first weekend captured really well our theme this year of New Approaches to Traditional Music with mashed up tango from Buenos Aires from Fulgor al Bies and sensitive piping from the wonderful Erwan Keravec performing with singers Vox as well as our good friend and one of our patrons, Rohan de Saram. Add to this Alasdair Roberts and Ross Whyte performing following a residency in Braemar and four star reviews for the weekend in three national newspapers and we couldn't have got off to a better start. Looking back over the ten years it's incredible how we've managed to achieve what we have achieved. We've managed it because of the power of networks - the network of venues and promoters who have worked with us to produce amazing performances and also the new music network, the soloists, ensembles and composers who believe in us and continue to turn up and always perform to their absolute best. These networks have allowed sound to flourish and we are proud to be part of them.

Last week you will no doubt have heard that it was announced that sound will no longer receive regular funding from Creative Scotland. Of course this has come as a huge blow to us all at sound but we are heartened and humbled by the amazing amount of support we have received from partners in those networks, who have bent over backwards to show their support for us. It's hard to express in words how grateful we are for this support. In some ways, this announcement could not have come at a worse time - in the middle of the festival - but on reflection, the verbal support we have received from performers, composers and audience members over the past few days has kept us going throughout. We cannot thank you enough for this support. However, let us congratulate our partners who were successful - Woodend Arts Ltd, where a significant number of our performances in the Shire take place and who are one of our founding partners; Aberdeen Performing Arts, again, whose venues we use in the City and who are always so tremendously supportive of our work; Red Note who give so much to make sound what it is and who are so much fun to work with; Citymoves Dance Agency, with whom we have collaborated many times over the years with their festival DanceLive; Deveron Arts and Peacock Visual Arts where we have done many projects in the past. Our warmest congratulations go out to you all and we look forward to continuing working relationships with you in the future.

But we've still got half a festival to go and the second half promises to be just as exciting as the first with new opera performances composed by young composer/writer collaborations, new harp music composed by established composers for intermediate players to perform, organ and electronics, a composer portrait of Aberdeen's own John MacLeod and the Smith Quartet and Joby Burgess, and that's just this week! We've had fantastic audiences so far this year, not just regarding numbers, but also regarding the very positive comments we are getting back about the performances and the richness of the post-concert discussions, whether formal as part of a soundconverstion or informal in the bar afterwards. This is what sound is all about - no fourth wall, but an open environment where performers, composers and audiences can converse freely and share their experiences of new music. Bring on the second half!

Pete Stollery (Chair- soundfestival)

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