preview EDINBURGH FESTIVAL
Horn of plenty
Can rock ’n’ roll become the new comedy this Festival?
Astrologers are searching the skies over Edinburgh for a once-in-a-lifetime alignment of planets or a squadron of airborne porkers. Their cause for concern? The extent of new popular music available at this year's Festival. Traditionally as stony as a tax collector's heart, the festive field is sprouting a crop of alluring rock and pop.
Within the framework of the Fringe is Flux, a series of concerts organised by London’s South Bank Centre and Barbican. Flux aims to fuse what its promoters call the 'intelligent end of pop' with 'the avant-garde end of contemporary music'. In the flesh, this translates as collaborations — The Divine Comedy with Michael Nyman; Andy Sheppard with Jazz Jamaica - plus starry appearances from The Wannadies, Babybird, Faust, East 17 and Teenage Fanclub; and rare performances by Acid Brass and the Steve Martland Band. Judging by ticket sales, which are said to be in rude health, Flux seems to have attuned itself accurately with people's tastes.
Operating independently of the Fringe is Edinburgh’s home-grown Planet Pop festival, now in its second year and based at the Cas Rock pub near Tollcross. While a scheduled appearance by The Fall will be seen by many as one of the event's highlights, the main emphasis of the festival is on Scottish bands. Think of any local band that is just boiling under, either on the point of being signed or having just been signed; chances are that they are playing at Planet Pop.
‘The point of Planet Pop is to showcase Scottish talent,’ explains Grant Macnamara, one of the event’s organisers. 'We can keep the ticket prices low because the bands play for little. I really feel that last year's Planet Pop helped put Edinburgh on the map. If you
Planetary influence: The Fall's Mark E. Smith
look at the Edinburgh scene now, things are happening. It would be good to think that that's partly because of Planet Pop.’
Other gigs coinciding with the Festival include Northern Irish power pop scamps Ash, who play a low- key gig at The Venue on Mon 11 Aug. The last time they played in Scotland, Ash sold out Glasgow Barrowland, so this is a rare opportunity to catch them in a more intimate setting. Hurricane £1 play the same venue the day after. Meanwhile, at The Attic, The Gourds and The Radio Sweethearts; Half-Man Half-Biscuit and The Lovers are playing consecutive Thursdays from 14 Aug. You've never had it so good. (Jonathan Trew)
Some folk, eh?
Where the folkies will be laying their bunnets at the Festival.
Folk music has always been widely accessible on the Fringe. In the past two years, though, the International Festival has held highly successful Scots Song and Fiddle showcases; and this year it presents another major traditional music event - a series of Scots Gaelic Song concerts, featuring some of the best singers from a tradition central to Gaelic culture.
Leavened, for Sassenach ears, by 'light' music on pipes, fiddle or clarsach, these performances in Edinburgh University Music School’s Reid Hall focus on unaccompanied human voice, and the beautiful skill of singers like Flora MacNeill, Mary Smith and Ishbel McCaskill. There are also less well kent names, who nonetheless rank among the great artists of contemporary Scotland.
The Queen’s Hall hosts less formal ‘ceilidh‘ events with many of the same performers, and is also the venue for popular acts like the Battlefield Band, Richard Thompson and Dougie MacLean.
Cafe Graffiti fields its usual eclectic mix of impro/classical, salsa, Inca dance trance and, this year, the thermo-nuclear violinics of Russian gypsy trio Loyko. There's a Hungarian flavour to the Fringe, and musical virtuosity from that country can be found at the Fringe Club, in company with the pop rootsiness of the Humpff Family, Boogalusa and Sola.
Acid croft heads should make it to La Belle Angele for Shooglenifty and the Peatbog Fairies; while thrill- seekers might catch the Sensitive New Age Cowpersons, or the Well Oiled Sisters at the Spiegeltent.
Take your mum to the Clarsach Society events, and queue early for tickets to hear Paul Brady or Sharon
The Festival’s classier classical sounds.
Fifty years after Verdi’s Macbeth was performed at the first Edinburgh Festival, history repeats itself with a production by the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. Sadly, 'technical difficulties’ mean it has to be a concert rather than a staged performance.
There was no Mark Morris back in 1947, and a production of Rameau's Platee, even in a conventional interpretation, would have been surprising. But 18th century opera, the mere unknown the better, is an essential part of this year's event ~ espeCiaIIy when the design is based on snakes, newts and frogs, hatched by Morris and fashion deSigner Isaac Mizrahi in the back of a tan. All in a day's work, perhaps, for the Royal Opera House.
Scottish Opera, meanwhile, stays serious and tackles drama as well as opera in its combined performance — Ariadne Aul Naxos interpolated With Moliere's Le Bourgeois Genti/homme.
The Scottish Chamber Orchestra also
Wings of a dove: Spanish light opera in La Verbena De La Paloma
has a busy Festival, playing at the King’s Theatre for the Spanish light opera Le Verbena De La Paloma and at the Playhouse for the San FranCisco Ballet. The ensemble’s Usher Hall concerts are both pure Mozart, while the RSNO have Wagner and — With the Edinburgh Festival Chorus —
Younger Scottish performers are thin on the ground, though pianist Steven Hough puts in a rectal at the Queen's Hall, and soprano Mhairi Lawson embellishes a late night at the Usher Hall. From abroad come Norwegian
pianist Lief Over Andsnes and soprano Charlotte Margiono — both Festival debutants worth looking out for. Meanwhile on the Fringe, youth orchestras and ensembles perform just about everything under the sun at Central Hall, Tollcross and a regular series of fairly harmless classics can be enjoyed at various acoustically-blessed City churches, For those of braver inclination, Mr McFaII's Chamber at Cafe Graffiti offers a mainly newish repertOire, including the British premiere of John Adam’s John’s Book ofAl/eged Dances. (Carol Main)
Shannon at the Assembly Rooms. London’s Mean Fiddler is organising an exciting programme for the Meadows Marquee, but if you're looking for an authentic mix of contemporary folk styles, pick up a ticket for the Tron Ceilidh House series, or head for Scottish International at the Famous Grouse House, which is presenting a huge bill of quality bands and soloists, with a definite leaning towards Scottish music, song and ceilidh dance. (Norman Chalmers)
One for the ’acid croft heads': Shooglenifty
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