In recent summer weeks, friends have been sending me pictures of the impressive festival tents they've been performing in. To which I must add this magnificent enclosure (pictured) in which my piece woman.life.song has just happened. It being the Edinburgh Festival, this was backed up by a brilliant technical team, who created a good acoustic with stylish sound design for an almost open air space. Additionally, they supertitled the performance, helpful for a 45-minute suite with copious text. But this also being Edinburgh, a stiff breeze wound itself up in time for the concert, during which the slightly amplified rafters of the tent added occasional audible creaks and metallic notes to the already ample percussion in the score - quite enjoyable in a John Cage sort of way.
It was a pleasure to work with the excellent Chineke! Orchestra, and conductor William Eddins, who kept everyone's spirits high during lengthy rehearsals of a tricky score. He is a remarkable person and musician. We learned after the concert about his MetroNOME intiative in his home city of Minneapolis, "a socially missioned brewery established in the wake of unrest during the summer of 2020 with the objective of Nurturing Outstanding Music Education in the Twin Cities Metro". Our Edinburgh evening also had a delightful newly-composed overture from composer-cellist Ayanna Witter-Johnson, another unusually creative musician.
The whole project was a joyful adventure for me, in a Festival I know very well but have almost never appeared in. For all this I have to thank our consummate soloist, mezzo Andrea Baker, because it was she who suggested this work to EIF, having heard the late Jessye Norman sing it 20 years ago. And whilst I'm at it, thanks also to Chi-Chi Nwanoku, busy on bass during this concert, for inventing Chineke! in the first place, a force for good in our current musical times.
LINK - Andrea Baker's performance of woman.life.song was filmed, and is available, free to view, on Edinburgh International Festival's site, for the next six months.