To the Edinburgh Festival!

One of the joys of living in central Scotland in  August is the Edinburgh Festival. It’s been going since 1947, and I’ve been going since I was a teenager. This week, my wife and I have been to Edinburgh twice, taking in two shows each time (and just wandering about soaking in the atmosphere in between the shows). My favourite swing musician in Edinburgh is my old friend Dick Lee, this time doing his Jazz Notes with Brian Kellock, whom is surely best Jazz piano player in Scotland. Then it was on from the Fringe to the (original!) Festival to see The Sixteen, an remarkable unaccompanied choir, performing pieces on the theme of War and Conflict (almost exactly 100 years to the day after the outbreak of the first world war). This comprised a variety of short pieces, staring with “L’homme arme’ and then finishing with  Poulenc’s “Figure Humaine”. That is a huge work, written in France during the occupation, to be performed on France’s liberation. A remarkable piece, particularly the last movement, “Libertè”.

And then today, again to see one performance from the Fringe, and one from the Festival itself: Arthur Smith performing his homage to Leonard Cohen (part 2) at the Fringe was a sell-out. And no wonder, for not only did he look (and sound) like the old man himself, but he came with a set of backing singers who seemed to fit the part too. But they were a bit livelier than Arthur. And yet, his continuing themes of death, despair, dementia were somehow life-enhancing, and human, particularly when he talked about his mother, and her dementia. And in the evening, off the the last of the new James plays, James III. I know I should have seen James I and James II first, but I haven’t. And each is supposed to stand on its own. Well, Jams III certainly does: it took me a little while to get into it, but the second act is a tour de force, and I’d recommend it to anyone. I bought the book as well…so I can now read James I and James II even if I don’t get to see them in the immediate future. Oddly enough, the first play starts with the “L’homme arme” that we heard the Sixteen play on Monday

I know I’ve only touched the surface of the Festival: just four shows out of over 3000 on the Fringe alone. It is just the tiniest fragment of what there is at Edinburgh!


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