What a fantastic Festival that was! As well as the established partners, venues and audiences the 4th Balerno Music Festival had new
- partners Balerno Bowling Club, Balerno Theatre Group and Pentland Singers,
- events, such as the Talent Showcase
- venues, St Mungo’s and of course
- people enjoying it all.
Due to building work the Parish Church halls were not available but the Bowling Club willingly stepped into the breach and hosted many of the events that had previously been in the church hall. St Mungo’s also helped out by hosting the reception after the Gala concert. The Community Music Festival was even more ‘community’ than normal.
On 28 September with Steve Burnett and Ani Batikian introducing the Sherlock Violin to over 80 diners at the Balerno Bowling Club who were held rapt until long past the anticipated finishing time.
The Tourie Band led off the concert series proper at Balerno Parish Church on Saturday 1st October. The band, with members from as far away as Macduff and Newton Stewart, was playing its first ever concert in Balerno. A spellbound audience repeatedly applauded a performance which demonstrated the fullest range of Scottish fiddle music and we were delighted to hear the world premiere of ‘The Tourie Band’s Visit to Balerno’. While the audience in the Parish Church were foot-tapping to fiddles, Christian was entertaining a full house at the Bowling Club, and the club also hosted the Forth River Ragtimers on the 8th playing pure trad jazz into the small hours of the morning.
Robin Laing kicked off a packed Folk Club concert on 7th October. Robin, well-known singer-songwriter, showed why he is the Whisky Bard – ‘Whisky for Breakfast’ and ‘Black Arts’- and also gave us sensitive love songs – ‘Black Clothes’ – along with the more boisterous ‘Punters’, bringing each memorably to life. The Young ‘Uns, making their first visit to Scotland, will surely have many invitations back. Gritty and raw but also witty, this Teesside trio got a tremendous reception. Their A Capella harmonies were sheer perfection, with powerful numbers like ‘Stockton Town’ matched by poetic ballads like ‘Love Song’.
The Saturday morning organ recital by David Mann included wide-ranging pieces by Cesar Franck, Handel, Karg-Elert, Bach and Walton and followed after the annual and very popular Young Musicians’ concert, and again we saw huge talent in the next generation. The future for music is safe with such ability coming on under the guidance of the local music teachers who were involved, including Kirsty Miller and Amanda Booth (Strings tutors at local schools), Gillian Gibson, Eleanor Buchanan and Yvonne Lawrie (Piano), Fiona Gilroy (Recorder) and Claire Murdoch (Violin) as well as Elaine Marr who lead the Pentland Junior Singers.
A new Saturday lunchtime slot was filled by Pentland Singers making a very welcome return to the Festival after an absence of two years, accompanied by Alba Brass, at the Parish Church. Their masterly programme opened with Zadok the Priest, filling the church with its stunning grandeur. Also featured was Karl Jenkins’ ‘The Armed Man’, including the lyrical ‘Benedictus’ and the haunting ‘Hymn before Action’, both delivered to perfection. Alba Brass’ solo pieces included the elegiac and the jolly, with Gabrielli’s Canzon per Sonare No 2 reminding us of both the glorious position which brass quintets have in our musical tradition, and the particular accomplishments of this fine group.
The Gala Concert on Festival Saturday featured highlights from La Boheme along with a series of pieces reflecting themes from the opera. This year Sarah Forbes was accompanied by Maria Kozlova, Phil Gault and Jakob Holtze with Susanne Wapshott, in virtuoso performances, captivating the capacity audience and drawing lasting applause in an event whose reputation grows year by year. Many members of the audience went on to the Festival Reception in St Mungo’s and many others danced the night away in the Bowling Club to the Ragtimers’ trad jazz.
Of course there were other highlights in the Festival; the Sound of Many Waters Gospel Choir, on Festival Sunday, followed on the Festival Service in which the Folk Club were guest contributors. The Gospel Choir brought boundless energy and a powerful expression of faith, literally bringing the audience to their feet.Later, Balerno Theatre Company, who regularly wow capacity audiences, delighted us with a varied programme, including their junior singers starring in numbers from Oliver, Annie, Chess and others, and finishing with the entire company manning the barricades in a compelling ‘Do you hear the people sing?’.
And in between, Mr Boom visited Planet Earth, Sporrandippity reeled away to an appreciative company with the Ceilidh in Currie, and Currie came to Balerno when the new Talent Showcase provided the occasion for some amazing new talent, mostly from Currie High, to test the acoustic limits of the Parish Church.
And then finally it was over when Roger Cull and his Band, with special guests Jenne McClure and Bruce Michie, brought the curtain down on Festival 2011 with style and panache at the Jazz Party, providing the perfect opportunity for everyone to relax and reflect on the best Festival yet, and to mull over the possibilities for 2012.