Track down a good show? That's elementary ...

6th August 2004 at 01:00
No matter what you fancy - drama, dance, musicals, films, concerts, choirs, books - there is sure to be something at one of the Edinburgh festivals to delight you. Our reporters highlight a feast for your eyes and ears

For the first time in the history of the Festival of British Youth Orchestras, which has been running for 25 years in Edinburgh and 17 years in Glasgow, it will not have been organised by Carol Main.

Susan White, the new general manager of the National Association of Youth Orchestras, is now in charge, though she is quick to acknowledge the ground work that was carried out by Ms Main before her departure last autumn.

As well as a new director this year, the festival has a new feature: a series of concerts devoted to youth choirs. "The introduction of youth choirs was envisaged as a celebration for the 25th anniversary," explains Ms White, who has joined Nayo from the fund-raising department of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra. "Carol secured a Lottery grant from the Scottish Arts Council for that purpose before she left.

"The SAC was keen that it would involve Scottish choirs, so there is just one coming from England. We have quite a mix, including some of the most established choirs."

Ten choirs, including the National Youth Choir of Scotland, the Glasgow Youth Choir and the Fair City Singers from Perth, have been integrated into the festival programme and two of the orchestral programmes also incorporate choral singing.

"Nayo isn't planning to expand into youth choirs," says Ms White, "but as a festival we see them as appropriate to what we are doing. In terms of general level of musicianship, they are comparable, and I think they all welcome the opportunity of having this additional platform. There is no other similar choral event in Scotland. We hope it will diversify both the programme and the audience for the festival."

To also mark the anniversary, the festival organisers will make a presentation to the Perth Youth Orchestra as the only orchestra to participate in all 25 festivals.

The Edinburgh Schools Symphony Orchestra is celebrating its own special anniversary - its 40th - this year. Alastair Mitchell, who led the cello section in the orchestra's first rehearsal, will conduct its concert.

The opening concert in Edinburgh will feature the National Youth String Orchestra of Scotland, while the Glasgow section of the festival will be launched by the Youth Orchestra of Andalucia. The Spanish visitors will be conducted by Michael Thomas, formerly of the Brodsky String Quartet, and will feature Holst's The Planets in their repertoire.

Other big symphonic challenges this year include Edinburgh Schools squaring up to Mahler's Symphony No 1, the West of Scotland Schools Orchestra tackling Rachmaninov's Symphony No 2, and the Perth Youth Orchestra taking on Borodin's Symphony No 2.

The concerto repertoire includes Haydn's Trumpet Concerto by the Youth Orchestra of Andalucia and Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto played by the Leicestershire Schools Symphony Orchestra.

Perth Youth Orchestra will feature twin brothers Steven and Lawrence O'Donnell as flute and bassoon soloists respectively in music by Mozart and Weber.

Modern and contemporary music figures prominently in this year's programme, including the work of Eric Coates, Edward McGuire, Peter Maxwell Davies, John Maxwell Geddes and Peteris Vasks. The Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Youth Orchestra will perform American composer John Adams's concerto Century Rolls, and the Midlothian Youth Orchestra will perform the Scottish premiere of a new work by Keith Murphy.

"We have 14 symphony orchestras, four string orchestras, a jazz orchestra, an early music ensemble, a guitar group and five concert bands, not to mention the choirs," says Ms White, " so there is plenty of variety."

Festival of British Youth Orchestras and Festival of Youth Choirs, August 14-September 5, at the Central Hall, West Tollcross, Edinburgh, tel 0131 229 2921, and the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, Glasgow, tel 0141 332

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