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2005 Fringe Music Preview

2005 Edinburgh Fringe Festival Preview


As in previous years, the Fringe gets bigger and bigger. This year, the 59th festival, there are more than 1770 shows across the board from kid's shows to Musicals. This Preview deals only with Fringe Music, Musicals and Opera, some 42 pages out of a total of 224. Not a lot you might say, but what there is is just as diverse and stimulating.

Page 1 of the musical offerings (p86) says it all, really. There's a whole historical miscellany to choose from, something to delight all musical interests. You can choose to hear Alessandro Scarlatti cantatas, or A Cappella Allsorts, or Agee's Festive concert - a chamber group's musical bouquet of Dvorak, Mozart and Strauss wrapped around Barber's soprano solo in memory of James Agee.

The first entry is Abaddon's Music Fest, a melange of rock, Scottish, Celtic, national and personal styles from international musicians. This fest, billed as from Hades to Heaven, lubricates the way with a free drink of either coffee or a Stella/Vodka mixer, or you can go to the After Dark Venue Fest to taste what's on offer in Scotland's most haunted pub, which also offers the same free drinks. Both fests are unknown quantities, offering their wares as World Premieres. These shows open the way for a jazz gig from the Alex Yellowlees Hot Club Quartet.

Advertisements on this page are for Sing Zimbabwe, the new show from the smash hits of the two previous Fringes, the Soweto Gospel Choir, who have offered real hope for a forward-looking, truly unified South Africa. The other is for the Trans World Orchestra from Oz all "totally live, totally kickin' didgeridoo 'n' drums".

And if all that isn't diverse enough for you, T on the Fringe's first music page offering is a massive gig from Alabama 3, just one of the varied and equally historic bands of the punk, rock and rap scene. This year's T in the Park broke all sorts of records and T on the Fringe is going a fair way down the road of the "must see, must be part of" essential Fringe music events. But be warned, some of the gigs on offer take a whole lot of stamina, since more than one goes from 9pm to 5am!

The various mini festivals running under the Fringe umbrella are threatening to take large chunks of its limelight mounting, as they do, 'self-contained packages' of specific music strands. In addition to T on the Fringe, there's a whole, growing range of venues and shows on offer from Edinburgh University's Festivals Office. The spectacular, massive McEwan Hall is being used as a venue for the first time, while the Reid Hall is host to 'micro' festivals of Roots @ The Reid with its sister package Classics @ The Reid and a fascinating song-based Wales @ The Reid featuring aspects such as the harp and a Tribute to an unlikely trio of Mario Lanza, Paul Robeson and Howard Keel.

No Fringe micro festivals would be complete without drawing attention to the two hugely important transatlantic youth scene. In the short time of three or four years that the Music Sector has covered the American High School Theatre's annual, stimulating shows, Edinburgh has been fortunate in seeing the best of the youth musical theatre shows. The talent and professional approach of all those who come here is beyond doubt and the proof is shown in the later uptake of several of their shows by other companies and the number of different organisations now reviewing them.

Central Hall, Tollcross
C Napier

The instrumental music scene is equally energetic and professional, when we look at the Festival of British Youth Orchestras now in its 26th year. Though the orchestras are predominantly British, there are an increasing number of orchestras coming from abroad. This festival is located in the delightful Central Hall and the musicians range from about 10 years old to the Music Conservatoires' students. This stimulating intermingling of young musicians sparks off creativity on a grand scale, with some of the orchestras turning in very professsional performances far surpassing many adult orchestras. There is a sad downside though: far too few audiences beyond proud relatives come to hear such talent. Any doubts about the quality of our future musicians are dispelled when hearing such performances.

One orchestra to watch for progress is the Sunderland Symphony Youth Orchestra making their third appearance, who are offering Music for all. They have a long way to go before they're ready to join the FBYO. But EdinburghGuide is happy to note that their first appearance was the result of a stimulating social experiment. Professional musicians have given generously of their time and expertise to bring young, disadvantaged children to the joy and discipline of music. Their progress has been fascinating so far.

All over the city, such micro festivals abound, from the long-established programmes at the delightful Georgian church of St Andrew's and St George's to the whizzy, late-entering Acoustic Music Centre to be located at the compatible and much under-used St Bride's Centre. Roots @ The Reid this year had seemed to be drastically pruned of its exciting folk music content but this new venue has explained that loss. St Bride's is stuffed to the gunwales with the biggest, brightest, best of folk and traditional music, unashamedly, overwhelmingly, predominantly Scottish. Never has Scottish music been so strong and innovative.

Fringe music is much lacking in Paul Gudgin's Fringe's base accent on terror. Most of the focus on war and terror comes out of the Demarco stable of Rocket and Roxy's invariably fascinating and memorable programmes of innovative and unusual events such as As I lay dying and Korczak. Social themes such as ASBO's (Anti Social Behaviour Orders to the uninitiated), Bling! the Hip Hopera, Manifest Destiny and Yeehad! The musical can aso be found but, in the main, are overwhelmed by much more attractive music and musicals.

There's a wealth of memorable music to be found when going through the Fringe brochure. Happpy hunting!

Pat Napier, Music Editor. published on www.edinburghguide.com. See also www.edfringe.com