Haddington's St Mary's Parish Church / credit: John Wood
Featuring Alec Frank-Gemmill, Red Note Ensemble, Hebrides Ensemble and King's Singers
'Beautiful music in beautiful places' is the unambiguous strapline for East Lothian's Lammermuir Festival, now in its fourth year. It is a dual aim which has been in place from the outset and one which artistic directors Hugh Macdonald and James Waters hold onto very firmly indeed. Beautiful places for this September's festival include two new venues, the visually striking Loretto School Chapel in Musselburgh and the Abbey Church in North Berwick. Next year, there are likely to be even more, such is the wealth of interesting and often hidden gems East Lothian has to offer. 'The most exciting thing this year,' says James Waters, 'is that we are here, in our fourth year, with continued support from the local authority, Creative Scotland and Event Scotland. People really enjoy the combination of world class – even though I don't usually like that phrase – high quality music in unusual places.'
Although there is no large-scale spectacular piece this year, as Waters is keen that the programme itself should be the star attraction, one particular highlight is sure to be the new commission by Bill Sweeney for the festival's artist in residence, horn player Alec Frank-Gemmill and the NYCoS National Girls Choir in Haddington's glorious St Mary's Parish Church. 'Bill did so well for us last year with Tantallon and it's fantastic that we have this very individual voice writing for the festival again.' Frank-Gemmill, who is principal horn with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, appears in a number of festival events, including as soloist in Strauss's Horn Concerto No 1 for the opening concert in Dunbar, and Brahms at Lunchtime – a timeslot that is increasingly popular with audiences – in Haddington's Holy Trinity Church. Programming is a mix of new and old, and other artists include Red Note Ensemble, the King's Singers and Hebrides Ensemble with oboist Francois Leleux.
Founded in 1968, the King's Singers are a way of making music rather than a specific bunch of guys; the original members have long since moved on but successive line-ups have upheld the commitment to clarity, precision and educating as well as entertaining the audience.
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.
Billing itself as 'your friendly neighbourhood string quartet with above average amounts of beard', the Danish String Quartet is an engaging bunch of Scandinavians (actually three Danes and one Norwegian) with a fierce dedication to quartet music.
Charismatic French oboe maestro Francois Leleux and the Hebrides Ensemble play Mozart's Oboe Quartet in F K370, Bridge's Lament; Britten's Metamorphoses after Ovid, Bevan-Baker's Duo and Mozart's Quintet in C minor K406.
Alec Frank-Gemmill is widely recognised as being one of the most gifted horn players of his generation, which is one reason why he's the Festival Artist-in-Residence. Here he plays Beethoven's Horn Sonata Op 17 and Brahms' Horn Trio Op 40 with Alexander Janiczek (violin) and Simon Smith (piano), who also plays Brahms…
Benjamin Britten was the most literate of 20th century British composers, setting to music texts by writers as diverse as Shakespeare, Michelangelo, Donne, Hölderlin, Hardy, Sitwell, Blake, Rimbaud and Pushkin, and making opera out of stories by George Crabbe, Thomas Mann, Henry James and Herman Melville. His most famous…