Edinburgh International Festival: The 2021 line-up

Anna Meredith
Anna Meredith

Laura Mvula, Nadine Shah, Anna Meredith, Damon Albarn, Karine Polwart, Floating Points, Kathryn Joseph, Caribou and tUnE-yArDs are just some of the highlights from the eclectic lineup of music coming to Edinburgh as part of the International Festival

by Jamie Dunn | 02 Jun 2021
Oh, how we’ve missed the electricity and communal thrill of live performance. After over a year of empty stages, we’re tremendously excited to see the festivals and venues we love revealing their plans to make the tentative steps back to something close to normality. We’re particularly excited for Edinburgh to once again overflow with art with the return of the Edinburgh International Festival this summer, which is back with a global celebration of music, theatre and dance taking place 7-29 August.

“The programme we are announcing today represents a carefully organised return to live performance,” says Fergus Linehan, EIF’s director. “It is a collaborative effort between those who live in our city, our artists, the team at the festival, our donors and stakeholders and all who will be coming along to our performances.”

The Comet is Coming by Fabrice Bourgelle
The Comet is Coming by Fabrice Bourgelle

As ever, Linehan and his team will be bringing a world-class selection of work to the Scottish capital, with 170 performances announced this morning, covering everything from classical music and opera to star-studded theatre, dance and spoken word. We’re particularly excited about the eclectic contemporary music lineup, which features an enticing blend of brilliant Scottish artists alongside international talent.

Anna Meredith, Damon Albarn

First to catch the eye are two recent Scottish Album of the Year Award-winners and Skinny favourites: Anna Meredith and Kathryn Joseph. Meredith helped open EIF back in 2018 with the stunning audiovisual piece Five Telegrams, and the composer will be back again this year to perform music from her second album, FIBS. Meanwhile, Joseph will provide beautiful ballads from her debut Bones You Have Thrown Me and Blood I’ve Spilled and its follow-up, From When I Wake the Want Is.

You’ll find more uber talented female voices on the bill with the soulful Laura Mvula, who’ll be bringing her brand of 80s new wave-inspired dance-pop, and Nadine Shah, who’ll be getting the chance to perform tracks from her fourth album, Kitchen Sink, in Scotland for the first time. Widely regarded as the voice of young African womanhood, Malian actress, musician and social activist Fatoumata Diawara, we’re told, will be tackling subjects such as “the pain of emigration, the struggles of African women and life under the rule of religious fundamentalists” with her first EIF performance.

Damon Albarn will be back at EIF this year accompanied by a band and string section. Expect performances of some of the iconic songs he’s recorded as part of Blur and Gorillaz, as well as from The Nearer the Fountain, More Pure the Stream Flows, his current musical project inspired by the landscapes of Iceland, which he completed during lockdown and we’re tod explores “themes of fragility, emergence and rebirth”. And electronic music producer, DJ, and musician Sam Shepherd aka Floating Points will bring his euphoric live show to Edinburgh.

Folk, jazz, dance and trip-hop

Modern UK jazz will be well-represented at EIF this year with performances from KokorokoMoses Boyd and The Comet is Coming – the latter returning to Edinburgh with their explosive cosmic jazz rave. Scottish trad-heads, meanwhile, can look forward to Inverness-born fiddle player and composer Duncan Chisholm, Glasgow instrumental folk band RURA, instrumental trad trio Talisk, Gaelic supergroup Dàimh, all-female Scottish-English collective the Kinnaris Quintet, and Glasgow’s Breabach, who’ll be bringing their double bagpipes, Gaelic vocals and step dancing to EIF.

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Dick Gaughan sings Burns’ “Westlin Winds”

Dick Gaughan’s classic version of Robert Burns song

And the moon shines bright, as I rove by night,
To muse upon my charmer.

This is one of Burns earliest songs, although he revised it later for publication. Written in 1775 at the time of Burns’ infatuation with Peggy Thomson of Kirkoswald.

`I spent my seventeenth summer,’ he wrote in his autobiographical letter to Dr Moore in August 1787, `on a smuggling [coast] a good distance from home at a noted school, to learn Mensuration, Surveying, Dialling, etc … I went on with a high hand in my Geometry; till the sun entered Virgo, a month which is always a carnival in my bosom, a charming Fillette who lived next door to the school overset my Trigonometry, and set me off on a tangent from the sphere of my studies.’

Later, he tried out a modification of this early song in honour of Jean Armour; no known copy survives. Going back to the same song, Burns then sent a version which has a number of Scots words in place of the original English diction to be printed in `The Scots Musical Museum’ (vol. iv, 1792, no. 351). Unusually for a love-song, `Now westlin winds’ includes four lines of protest against the `slaught’ring guns’ of sportsmen (ll 21-4). [source: Robert Burns’ poems and songs]


Lyrics:

Tune: I had a horse, I had nae mair

   Now westlin winds, and slaught’ring guns                     western

      Bring Autumn’s pleasant weather;

   The moorcock springs on whirring wings,

      Amang the blooming heather:

   Now waving grain, wide o’er the plain,

      Delights the weary farmer;

   And the moon shines bright, as I rove by night,

      To muse upon my charmer.

   The paitrick lo’es the fruitfu fells;                      partridge

      The plover lo’es the mountains;

   The woodcock haunts the lonely dells;

      The soaring hern the fountains:                             heron

   Thro lofty groves, the cushat roves,                          pigeon

      The path o man to shun it;

   The hazel bush o’erhangs the thrush,

      The spreading thorn the linnet.

   Thus ev’ry kind their pleasure find,

      The savage and the tender;

   Some social join, and leagues combine;

      Some solitary wander:

   Avaunt, away, the cruel sway!

      Tyrannic man’s dominion!

   The sportsman’s joy, the murd’ring cry,

      The flutt’ring, gory pinion!

   But Peggy dear, the ev’ning’s clear,

      Thick flies the skimming swallow;

   The sky is blue, the fields in view,

      All fading-green and yellow:

   Come let us stray our gladsome way,

      And view the charms of Nature;

   The rustling corn, the fruited thorn,

      And ilka happy creature.                                    every

   We’ll gently walk, and sweetly talk,

      While the silent moon shines clearly;

   I’ll clasp thy waist, and fondly prest,

      Swear how I lo’e thee dearly:

   Not vernal show’rs to budding flow’rs,

      Not Autumn to the farmer,

   So dear can be, as thou to me,

      My fair, my lovely charmer!

Annie Lennox: To end violence against women we need global cooperation from our world leaders

Assault and violence is a living reality for millions of women in every corner of the globe

Consider the fact – recently revealed by the World Health Organisation – that one in three women face physical or sexual violence in their lifetime.

Keep repeating this fact until it settles into your mind. Take a moment to reflect on what this means. It is beyond the realm of our worst nightmares, but it is a living reality for millions of women in every corner of the globe.

Assault, violence, and violation is taking place in a country, a city, a town, a village, a public space, a school, a college, an office, a street, a house, an apartment, or a room near to where you are right now.

If we are to truly end violence against women, then we need a truly global approach. Although I am encouraged to see the recent outcry, new conversations, protest and debate following Sarah Everard’s death, it pains me that it takes a particularly horrific act to trigger a public outrage.

The culture of violence and rape against women has been ‘normalised’ for decades in many countries around the world as these statistics show.

 

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How covid forced community choirs to get back to basics

With communal singing thought to be one of the easiest ways to pass on covid-19, Scotland’s choirs have had to find new ways of engaging with members and audiences alike, writes David Kettle

“I used to be music director, but now I’d say I’m music director and DJ. It’s almost like presenting a TV show.” Conductor Stephen Langston – who directs Glasgow’s Merchant Voices Community Choir – is talking about his move to online choral sessions since the Covid pandemic struck. “We’re still singing pieces, obviously, but we’re also doing quizzes, karaoke, hearing from choir members about what they’ve been doing, and even having a laugh with some funny photos or YouTube clips.”

Diversification is clearly key, as are raising spirits and providing a sense of community that’s all but disappeared from in-person lives. But it’s a challenging time for community choirs. The well-being benefits of choral singing are well known and well documented. But in a period when they’re more needed than ever, amateur singers can no longer meet in person. Worse, singing with others is thought to be one of the riskiest activities in terms of aerosol virus transmission. Continue reading

Breabach at Celtic Colours

This beautiful and energetic melding of instruments and Gaelic song brilliantly reflects the musicianship, traditional roots and contemporary influences of award-winning Scottish group Breabach. Featuring Calum MacCrimmon (bagpipes, whistle), Megan Henderson (fiddle, vocals), Ewan Robertson (guitar), James Duncan Mackenzie (bagpipes, flute), and James Lindsay (double bass), it was recorded during Celtic Colours International Festival at Port Hawkesbury Civic Centre on October 19, 2019.

Knees Up: Knees Up in Hanoi (Calum MacCrimmon) / Dòchas Glan Na Fàire (Ewen Henderson & Calum MacCrimmon)