Scottish summer music festivals not to miss

Well, the weather is warm (ish) and the sun has been out for more than 3 days so Scotland is rejoicing as summer seems to be here (for the moment, anyway…)

So here’s my guide to must-see Scottish summer music festivals (and I’m referring to mostly classical music festivals here, not your T-in-the-park Glastonbury- type festivals!)

Of course, the Edinburgh Festival is the main festival that everyone has heard of, but I’m not sure how many people know that there are two separate festivals that go on in Edinburgh in the summer: the Edinburgh International Festival (9th Aug-1st Sept) and the Edinburgh Fringe Festival (2nd-26th Aug). The EIF is the more formal festival that encompasses classical music and opera, theatre, dance and visual art, whereas the Fringe is a huge festival (in fact the largest arts festival in the world) which encompasses almost anything from comedy to spoken word and cabaret. The difference between the two is that at the Fringe, anyone can participant and put on a show if they can find a venue and pay the fees, whereas the EIF is very much a world class international festival with invited artists. I have been to both and can highly recommend them: one for its assured quality, and the other for its serendipity: you end up seeing shows almost at random, and it is sometimes hit and miss, but you can find some real gems!

Cottier Chamber Project, West End Festival, Glasgow 31st May- 14th June

The Cottier Chamber Project, only in its third year, is part of Glasgow’s West End Festival. It features performances from a range of home grown and international ensembles and artists such as Moishe’s Bagel, Mr McFall’s Chamber, the Pavel Haas Quartet and Daniel’s Beard, who are the hosts of the festival and take their name from Daniel Cottier, designer of the interior of the Cottier’s Theatre where some of the performances take place. You can even get in free if you have a ‘Beard Like Brahms’!

Crail Festival 17th-27th July

A local festival that runs family friendly events such as a ‘Rock Pool Guddle’ and a ceilidh as well as a putting competition, but there are a few musical events including the annual performance of Crail Festival Orchestra on July 21st. This year I’m playing and we’re doing an all Mozart programme of Bassoon Concerto K191, the Haffner Symphony (No 35) and Eine Kleine Nachtmusik. The festival also usually includes some top folk musicians – this year Phil Cunningham and Aly Bain are playing.

East Neuk Festival, 3-7th July 

This short but high quality festival returns for its 10th year with events in venues all over the Eask Neuk of Fife. The festival started as a series of summer concerts by the SCO and still features the orchestra as a regular fixture. Last year I stewarded at its events and got to see some fantastic artists such as the Hagen Quartet and Alexander Janicek, and this year they have artists performing including the Tokyo String Quartet, Elias Quartet, Christian Zacharias and Tallis Scholars. Recently the festival has incorporated more environmental and literary events into its programme, so there are talks with writers and even a foraging workshop! Book soon though as it is usually sold out for the most popular events.

Mendelssohn on Mull, Mull, 1st-6th July

A chamber music festival directed by Levon Chilingirian set in the stunning surroundings of Mull. I took part in this festival in 2010, and it was an amazing if very intense experience: a group of young players at the start of their careers, hand picked by Levon, are matched into quartets and ensembles alongside seasoned professionals and have a few days to pull together a programme of top notch chamber music, then tour the island presenting concerts to locals and festival goers. All concerts are free and the standard is always exceptional. If you’re on Mull at the start of July, then it is definitely worth catching a concert or two.

Big Tent Festival, Falkand, FifeI was going to mention this eco festival that usually has some great acts such as Mr McFall’s Chamber and Karine Polwart, but I discovered that it is not running this year 😦 Hope it comes back next year, as it is lots of fun.

Pittenweem Arts Festival (3-11th Aug) is an art festival but usually runs some music events and is well worth a look as hundreds of artists take over homes in the small fishing village of Pittenweem to display their work, resulting in an amazing array of paintings, jewellery, sculpture, crafts and general artistry.

Some festivals I haven’t been to but have heard lots about:

Music at Paxton in the Borders, 19-28th July

Lammermuir Festival, East Lothian, 13th-22nd Sept

St Magnus Festival, Orkney, 20-28th June

Has anyone been to these festivals, or got any suggestions of great Scottish summer arts festivals to add to my list?

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