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Image of Lammermuir Festival: Song at Lammermuir III
Photo: Raphaelle Photography/Kaupo Kikkas

The Lammermuir Festival is the jewel in the crown for classical music in Scotland during September. Its motto, “Beautiful Music – Beautiful Places”, is well chosen. Each September it has a series of international standard concerts and operas in the lovely county of East Lothian. In just a few years its director, James Waters, a previous associate director of the Edinburgh International Festival, has established a festival that compares very well to the Edinburgh Festival in its standards, and opens up people’s eyes to the gorgeous countryside just outside Edinburgh.

The Lammermuir, perhaps by being a smaller festival, also likes to initiate new musical connections and today’s Song at Lammermuir concert, the last in a series of three, tries to explore the relationship of classical music to popular music such as jazz. The concert, presented by The Prince Consort, features two excellent pianists: Jason Rebello, who specialises in jazz and contemporary music, and Alasdair Hogarth, an excellent classical pianist. They sit at their Steinways opposite each other, and link the musical items together in a seamless flow.

They are joined by two superb singers: tenor Nicholas Mulroy, well known to Scottish audiences particularly with the Dunedin Consort, and internationally known mezzo-soprano, Anna Huntley. Together they create a magical afternoon of music in the austere settings of the Abbey Church in North Berwick, just next to the lovely beaches of this East Lothian seaside jewel.

The concert begins with an introduction, Purcell’s great song, Music for a While, and after a sneeze interrupts the beginning, Mulroy sings it with great lyricism and warmth. This is linked straight into a selection of music titled Meetings and Euphoria, beginning with some piano variations, Salad Days, by Jason Rebello, and then a link into O Mistress Mine by Roger Quilter, sung by Mulroy, finishing with Schubert’s Du bist die Ruh, beautifully sung by Huntley.

The concert continues with two other selections of music and song titled Problems and Nostalgia and Recovery, and includes songs by Schubert, Fauré, Debussy and Strauss, plus more piano variations from Jason Rebello. The unexpected jewel of the concert is a song by composer Silvio Rodríguez, La Gaviota (The Seagull), which is a delight both in its music and its poetry. The concert concludes with another rendition of Purcell’s Music for a While, followed by an encore: Britten’s Waley Waley.

The concert is a delight overall, with fine singing and some very sensitive piano accompaniment, and engages the North Berwick audience in the very full venue. The Lammermuir Festival continues until Saturday, with a variety of concerts and operas including a community opera in Dunbar: don’t miss it!