JUST a year ago, a new festival was launched in Scotland. It was called sound and was described as a festival of contemporary music in the north-east of Scotland, the first of its kind in the region.
Cynical opinion was not slow to react. "Contemporary music in Aberdeen? Nae chance," was a view expressed to me by several professional musicians working in the central belt. "There's no precedent, there's no habit and there's no audience, " they said.
The organisers of the sound Festival realised early on that they would have to devise a different approach if it were to have any success. They planned a largescale core event, which entailed hiring the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and north-east superstar percussionist Evelyn Glennie. But that didn't leave a lot in the bank. And, in any event, the organisers' intention was to persuade as many people as possible in the north-east to participate. A huge local input was secured by inviting north east musical bodies and organisations to join in. These included academic institutions such as the University of Aberdeen. Critically, the net was spread to include music clubs and societies. The proviso was that anyone participating had to include a contemporary work. They did, it worked, and thus was established a remarkable network of bodies, all pitching in. The festival grew in substance and stature, while the myriad contributors benefited from being part of something bigger.
It was an outstanding success, both artistically and in its involvement of local musicians. Even before it was over I buttonholed the administrators and asked how they proposed to follow it. They hedged a little. Yes, they were pretty sure the results justified a followthrough. But the festival, despite generous support from organisations in the north-east, couldn't afford full- scale expensive symphony orchestras year on year. And, in any case, they weren't at all sure if that was how it should develop.
The initial idea was that the second sound festival would be orientated more towards chamber music, while expanding its artistic boundaries and its reach. It appears to have done all of these things. The festival opens next Friday, runs for over three weeks, and includes around 40 events from acoustic performances to electro- acoustic concerts, live electronics events, film, dance, and every style of modern music.
Performers will include Scottish groups from the Edinburgh Quartet to the Hebrides Ensemble, the Da Vinci Trio and the Scottish Ensemble. Soloists include pianists James Clapperton, Sam Haywood and Joseph Long, and cellist Rohan de Saram.
Before a note has been played, the sound festival is already established as an impressive and important strand in Scotland's musical calendar. It is developing real muscle and growing sharp teeth. Long may it continue.
Visit www.sound-scotland.co.uk for more information.
Credit: Copyright 2006 Newsquest Media Group