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Image of The Tumbling Lassie and Fergus of Galloway

Edinburgh Advocates have formed a Committee called the The Tumbling Lassie to raise funds to combat modern slavery and people trafficking. The name comes from research carried out by Alan McLean QC. He discovered that in 1687 the Court of Session in Edinburgh forbade the sale of a young woman, a circus gymnast known only as “the tumbling lassie”. A case report stated that,  “we have no slaves in Scotland, and mothers cannot sell their bairns…”. However, despite more recent laws outlawing slavery throughout the world, the problem of modern slavery and people trafficking has grown. So far the Tumbling Lassie Committee have raised over £50,000 pounds for major charities in the field.

Tonight, we are presented with two short operettas, with librettos by famous Edinburgh author Alexander McCall Smith, and music by composer Tom Cunningham. The idea came from McCall Smith, who has collaborated with Cunningham in the past. First up is Fergus of Galloway, the story of a former King of Galloway, who has a very sketchy history, which is introduced by narrator Ian Lawson (appropriately delivered from the pulpit). This work is essentially a light operetta, not to be taken too seriously, and the plot is almost as sketchy as the real history of the King of Galloway (it was a long time ago)! It concerns the battle young Fergus had in becoming king against the forces of evil (personified by the Black Knight), but luckily Fergus is ably supported both by his mother and his bride.

All the parts are well sung by singers Daniel Barrett (Fergus), who is a twenty year old student at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland; Gillian Robertson, his bride, who is a graduate of Napier University and is now a busy soprano soloist across Scotland; Fiona Main, as Fergus’s mother; and Simon Boothroyd, as the Black Knight.

The Tumbling Lassie follows after the interval, and this has the unusual addition of a gymnast, 12 year old Niamh Aston, who plays the original tumbling lassie up for sale, and gives us some very accomplished gymnastic moves on the floor. Of course, opera often uses dancers as part of the story, and indeed ballet can use opera, so it’s a short step or backward somersault to gymnastics! The voice of the Tumbling Lassie is sung by Gillian Robertson; Mrs Scot by Fiona Main; and the judge by Ian Lawson.

The music is very well provided by musical director David Lyle at the piano, who is ably backed by Alison Galbraith, viola, and Calum Robertson, clarinet. Direction comes from artistic director Alan Borthwick and technical director Mike Pendlowski. It produces a good fun evening in a very full church, no doubt raising even more money for a good cause, and that can’t be bad!