In the mild August weather of Edinburgh, Scotland, the streets come to life through the day and night as performers form all over the world swarm the old cobblestone streets. The old enchanting city is alive in it’s own right, but during this time of year it becomes a bright palate of culture and the arts. The Edinburgh International Festival (or EIF) was established in 1947 with the founding principle of presenting a world class cultural event. This festival not only draws from all of the world but generates significant cultural, social and economic benefits for the city. The festival presents performers by invitation-only, which insures high quality of both the performances and exhibitions. The festival features dance, classical music, theatre, opera and visual art.
It has been many, many years since I attended this spectacular event. I was a young teen, and vividly remember sitting in the grass of a park or walking around the infamous Edinburgh Castle, and hearing the sounds of music floating through the air. The streets filled with performers from all over the world and every street, even side streets you didn’t know existed, offer a performance. While I hope to go back soon, I rely on a family friend, Mrs. Fiona Young, to give me the details on the performances. Here are some of the most notable performances from the EIF this year!
“Edinburgh: Festival City”, composed by American, Tod Machover was premiered this year. It is a one movement symphony inspired by the city of Edinburgh itself. The piece was created collaboratively by people from all over the world using web-based music apps designed at the MIT Media Lab. Anyone with a love for Edinburgh could create sounds and impressions that reflect not just the city, but the transformation it makes each year during the festival. These sounds were combined with Machover’s own, creating a sense of the city that included sounds of traffic on cobbles, seagull cries, church bells… and even bagpipes!
Benjamin Millepied, well known for his choreography work in the Oscar winning film, “Black Swan”, founded The LA Dance Project. This group performed three pieces at the EIF this summer. The first piece, Moving Parts, was choreographed by Millepied himself and composed by Nico Muhly and was described to me by Young as simply “elegant”.
The second piece,Winterbranch, was choreographed by Merce Cunningham and featured costumes by Robert Rauschenberg and a score by La Monte Young titled 2 Sounds. The program for the performance described two “facts” of dancing – the act of falling, and unless one stays on the ground, the subsequent act of rising. Young described the experience of the performance in detail for me:
“The piece starts with a dark stage in silence and moves on to using stark lighting and a loud and persistent sound reminiscent of train wheels screeching on tracks. Some audience members found this too much and a number of people around us left before the third and final piece – which was beautiful.”
This third and “beautiful” piece was titled Quintett and was choreographed by William Forsythe and set to Gavin Bryars’ Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet. It was created as a love letter from Forsythe to his dying wife. Sadly, she never saw the finished piece.
The end of the festival is celebrated every year by a spectacular fireworks display, with the iconic Edinburgh Castle as it’s backdrop. The Scottish Chamber Orchestra plays as the fireworks light the old enchanting city, and marks the end of another successful festival.
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