May Festival

The May Festival

Our Festival started on a showery Saturday afternoon with a concert put on in the fine surroundings of Kings College Chapel where the University of Aberdeen Chapel Choir performed several new works of choral music. After a short interlude the choir were accompanied by the Marischal Chamber Orchestra in a performance of Mozart's Requiem.

King's College, University of Aberdeen

Inside King's College Chapel for Mozart's Requiem

We returned to the Festival on Sunday. Leslie attended a multimedia look at the performance practice of late medieval music and then I went along to hear poet Kathleen Jamie in the Word Marquee. She read several poems from her latest collection The Overhaul as well as a short piece of prose concerning her incredible encounter with killer whales off the coast of North Rhona.

Poet Kathleen Jamie at the May Festival

The next event was a celebration of north-east writer David Toulmin and the awarding of the Toulmin Short Story Prize. After hearing an extract from a radio interview with Toulmin we were entertained by extracts from a new Doric play heavily influenced by his writing. The winning story, about the memories of a World War 2 bombing survivor, was read out by Sheena Blackhall.

Afternoon drinks between events at the May Festival

After dinner and a beer or two I was back on campus for Scottish Urban Myths and Ancient Legends. This was a round-circle event held in the Word Marquee and chaired by authors Grace Banks and Sheena Blackhall who have collaborated on the book of the same name. Mixing stories and songs they brought to life a few of the folktales told in the book, including the story of a changeling boy from Islay and the old lady of Ardvreck from Assynt. The event was very enjoyable with others in the audience participating in several of the songs.

Finally I went along to hear a performance of In Time Of Light, an electronic oratorio for the revolutionary Scottish physicist James Clerk Maxwell.

Electronic oratorio for James Clerk Maxwell by PJ Moore (The Blue Nile)

Put together by PJ Moore, formerly of The Blue Nile, the piece is a work in progress but demonstrated great promise. It has been created as part of The International Year Of Light and is intended to promote greater recognition of Maxwell whose discoveries related to electromagnetism and light made possible the modern world that we live in today. The musical pieces blended Moore's characteristically sparse, beautiful ambient soundscapes with sumptuous vocals. The lyrics celebrate Maxwell's life and his work and the occasional commentary from Moore, wearing a t-shirt featuring Maxwell's Equations, was very useful in fleshing out the areas the performance missed.

PJ Moore and friends performing his electronic oratorio for James Clerk Maxwell

Though they had very little time to practice and did have to stop and start a couple of times, the music was fabulous and I will be interested to see how it develops. There are more details of the project on its website with the intention being to launch a Kickstarter campaign to get funding for a full performance at the Edinburgh fringe during August.

Evening light, University of Aberdeen library