The fun of programming a festival - Lammermuir Festival
Programming concerts is great fun. Programming a festival is great fun squared! Where do you start? I think that first and foremost you have to please yourself, follow your own passions. But there are so many very fine judgements to make about whether your potential audience members will share your enthusiasm, or take one look at the programme and decide to do some gardening that evening. What you mustn’t do is always try to second guess what people will like.
You start with pieces of music that you love, and you choose them because you want everyone else to feel the same about them. Then you look for artists that will perform them inspiringly. My colleague James Waters and I are always bouncing ideas off each other, and that’s a crucial part of the process. For example, James has a weakness for Mozart’s glorious wind music, and he wouldn’t rest until we’d found a way of doing some in this year’s festival – hence the lovely programme the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland’s wind players are bringing to Dunbar on September 21. We both love Beethoven’s string quartets, so three of them form the backbone of this year’s Musical Journey with the Navarra Quartet. But then I thought, what about another, less familiar, link for those three concerts? And I hit on three late pieces by Britten that I didn’t know well and wanted our audience to discover. Two of them, apart from the merit of allowing the Navarras a couple of well-earned breathers en route, also give our brilliant young harpist Emily Hoile another chance to shine. One great programme can have its origin in ideas from both of us. I wanted to do something about the 400th Anniversary of the death of Victoria, the great Renaissance Spaniard who created the most exquisite, richly-coloured tapestries in sound. James had recently been stunned by the breathtaking beauty of sound that Stile Antico produce in this music. And so we’ll bask in The Immortal Glory of Spain at St Mary’s, Haddington, acoustically perfect for Victoria, on September 19.
Sometimes there are ways in which you can celebrate something special about your own locality. This year it’s the centenary of a world-famous musician who, by extraordinary chance, found and fell in love with East Lothian and made it his home – Gian Carlo Menotti.
Then there’s always our old friend serendipity. After last year’s unforgettable afternoon at the National Museum of Flight, we thought we’d never be able to find something sufficiently different to justify a return to the Concorde Hangar this year. Then James had a chance conversation with John Harris of the Red Note Ensemble who mentioned an opera that had actually been composed for performance in an aircraft hangar! Who other than Philip Glass would think of doing such a thing? What a man! How could we resist!
Hugh Macdonald – Co-Artistic Director, Lammermuir Festival