Musicians both home and abroad are currently tuning up for the annual musical extravaganza in Fife, The East Neuk Festival.
This lively event features five days of music from around the world played in beautiful locations across the East Neuk of Fife and attracts thousands of music lovers from all corners of the globe.
We caught up with artistic director, Svend McEwan-Brown and asked him a few questions about this year’s programme, including the most unusual venue and his tips on new talent.
Here’s what he said:
What makes this year’s festival different from other years?
Every year at ENF you will find something familiar and something completely new – that’s how we keep it fresh. Our venues are all important – the Neuk is full of beautiful old buildings, including halls, gardens, churches – we use different ones each year and pick the music to fit the space. For example, this year we are in the Dreel Halls in Anstruther – an ancient building that was restored just a few years back to make a new arts venue in the town. We’ve put a funky ancient and modern show in there. On the other hand we’re also sending the Tullis Russell Mills Band on a brass band marathon so you can join take a picnic and join them in such lovely locations as Kellie Castle and Elie Beach.
If you had to pick three performances what would they be and why?
For me Schubert is in the top three composers of all time and Elisabeth Leonskaja among the finest living interpreters of his music. The chance to hear her anywhere in the world is very special, but at East Neuk you have the added bonus that she will perform twice in an intimate and atmospheric church – so your encounter with her is very close up and intense. That’s what we like at ENF. We believe in investing in the future at ENF too, so every year we invite 8 – 10 stunning young players from around the world to come to Fife and work with some of the greatest teachers in the world for a full week. We call it ‘The ENF Retreat’ since it happens behind closed doors, but then at the end they give a concert which has become an annual sell out highlight. We also want to create a chance for amateur musicians from our community to perform alongside top professionals so each year we commission a new piece for them. This year is called De Profundis and it is inspired by Fife’s mining history, and music the miners made: the brass bands. It will be unlike anything else you have seen!
Ones to watch? New up and coming talent? Who are they?
AT ENF we like to build relationships with artists, especially the young brilliant stars of tomorrow. This year the young Scottish guitarist Sean Shibe returns for the third time with an exciting project that we are helping him put together – he will be playing acoustic and electric guitar and playing old Scottish music of heart-breaking beauty. After the premiere at ENF it will go on to the Edinburgh Fringe and beyond. He is definitely one to watch. Also, don’t miss the Castalian Quartet. Making their debut this year: they are very special.
What’s the biggest challenge in coordinating such an event?
Basically ENF happens in the countryside. The upside is that audiences get to hear great musicians in a beautiful, beautiful place. But it takes us a full year of planning – we have to check, double-check and check again every aspect of it, because once we are underway there is no time to be running off to Glasgow or Edinburgh to pick up stuff that’s been forgotten.
What’s the most unusual venue?
This year it is probably the Bowhouse, a newly converted cattle barn that we are trying out for the first time. But we have done stuff in caves, gardens, woodlands – and commissioned new work for park benches and scout halls.
What is the most rewarding aspect of this festival?
Hand on heart, the most rewarding aspect of it is that everyone – the audience, the artists, the team – we all love it. As director I am intensely proud to offer great musicians a wonderful place to perform, hear them tell me how superb the team is, and see a terrific audience enraptured and delighted. I love that about half the people who come are local while the other half come from as far afield as the Bahamas, Switzerland, Russia and the USA.
This year’s festival runs from 28 June to 2 July. For more information, go to: www.eastneukfestival.com