Lammermuir Festival is a 'perfect environment for any classical musician'

Lammermuir Festival is a 'perfect environment for any classical musician'

c.Robin Mitchell

Ahead of the classical music festival, Mark Simpson talks about the festival, his craft and how his career took off

In the wake of the throngs who crowd out Edinburgh in peak festival season, it's balm to the soul to come up for cultural air again at a completely different type of festival. Lammermuir Festival is rooted in its beautiful East Lothian places as much as its beautiful music. This year – its ninth – the ten days of performances by top-drawer classical musicians include song, opera, new commissions, chamber, orchestral and choral music.

Most visible is composer and clarinettist, Mark Simpson, who is artist in residence. Multi-talented – he also plays piano and conducts – Simpson is a big fan of Lammermuir. 'I played there in 2013 with the Danish String Quartet and loved it. It was such a treat. It's a perfect environment for any classical musician to work in.' This year, Simpson's presence extends over several strands. He is soloist in Nielsen's Clarinet Concerto with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, then plays John Adams' virtuosic Gnarly Buttons with Red Note Ensemble, who also programme music composed by Simpson. Finally, he performs Mozart's Gran Partita with SCO Winds, plus his own Geysir, written for the same forces.

Performing and composing are, he says, 'both intrinsically part of who I am as a musician. I'm a performer and love being on stage. Can't think of anything better than connecting with an audience. I could never let that go.' Winning BBC Young Musician of the Year in 2006 propelled a 17-year-old Simpson to countless opportunities. 'I started to use that platform to commission new work to extend the repertoire and as my clarinet career took off, my own composing career took off even more. Although not as high profile, I couldn't do just wall to wall performances. I've got a wild imagination and creative energy. If not able to have a vent for that, I'll turn into a bad person.' He is such a nice guy, that is actually highly unlikely.

Various venues, East Lothian, Fri 14–Sun 23 Sep

Lammermuir Festival

The Lammermuir Festival presents great music in the picturesque surroundings of East Lothian, employing unusual locations (remote churches, the National Museum of Flight) to provide a backdrop for top-class chamber music performances. The 2018 festival includes performances from the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra…

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