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St Magnus Festival marks 900th anniversary of saint's martyrdom

Published: 13 Apr 2017

Miguel Harth Bedoya and NRK Symphony Orchestra - Credit Anna-Julia Granberg

St Magnus International Festival, a celebration of music and the arts which has been taking place for the past 40 years in the magical setting of the Orkney Islands has released its programme for 2017.  

It runs this year from Friday 16 - Saturday 24 June in venues throughout the ancient Orcadian landscape including the magnificent mediaeval Cathedral of St Magnus in Kirkwall, the Pier Arts Centre in Stromness with its award-winning contemporary architecture, the 17th century mansion of Skaill House, and further-flung venues on the islands of Hoy, Stronsay and Rousay. The wide range of events includes symphony orchestra concerts, ensembles, chamber music, poetry, music theatre, community parade, lectures, traditional music and jazz.

The Festival has also announced a new media partnership with Classic FM. With some six million listeners every week, this exciting new partnership enables St Magnus International Festival to reach wider and new audiences both on air and online. BBC Radio 3 once again have a welcome presence at the festival and will be recording a number of concerts for future broadcast.

St. Magnus Cathedral, Kirkwall, Orkney

Alan Morrison, Head of Music at Creative Scotland, said: “So much wonderful music has been premiered and performed at the St Magnus Festival over its 40-year history that this important event on these beautiful islands is now the envy of the world. Each year its programme provides an international platform for Scotland’s most exciting composers and musicians while also bringing global stars of classical music to our home soil.

"This year is no exception, from the local resonance of Gemma MacGregor and Ron Ferguson’s ‘Magnus’ to highly anticipated visits from Trondheim Soloists and Bergen Domkor. It’s also particularly thrilling to see so many unique and atmospheric venues playing host to concerts in this most magical of Scottish landscapes.”

Stuart Turner, Head of EventScotland, said: "St Magnus International Festival continues to go from strength to strength, showcasing Scotland as the perfect stage for events by attracting some of the finest musicians and artists from around the world to perform within the stunning setting of the Orkney Islands.

"This year’s festival promises to be another fantastic event, especially in the Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology with concerts and performances planned to mark the 900-year anniversary of St. Magnus’ martyrdom and the historical ties between Orkney and Scandinavia.”

Highlights of the festival include:

  • 40 years of St Magnus Festival in Orkney: 1977 - 2017
  • Centuries of links with Norway celebrated with Norwegian artists and ensembles
  • Scotland’s Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology 2017 celebrated
  • new partnership with Classic FM
  • concerts broadcast on BBC Radio 3
  • 900th anniversary of St Magnus & special new, commemorative work
  • Composers’, Conductors’ and Writers’ Courses
  • Pianist Steven Osborne in performance and conversation
  • Ten premieres by composers including Stuart MacRae, Alasdair Nicolson, Gemma McGregor and Philip Cashian.
  • Choral and vocal music including BBC Singers, Mhairi Lawson and Royal Conservatoire of Scotland
  • Chamber music including Gildas and Edinburgh Quartets
  • Festival Club nightly
  • Scots Makar (National Poet for Scotland) Jackie Kay
  • Community performances

See the full programme at www.stmagnusfestival.com.

St Magnus International Festival is part of our portfolio of 118 organisations receiving Regular Funding for 2015-18.

Notes to Editors

Creative Scotland is the public body that supports the arts, screen and creative industries across all parts of Scotland on behalf of everyone who lives, works or visits here. We enable people and organisations to work in and experience the arts, screen and creative industries in Scotland by helping others to develop great ideas and bring them to life. We distribute funding provided by the Scottish Government and the National Lottery. For further information about Creative Scotland please visit www.creativescotland.com. Follow us @creativescots and www.facebook.com/CreativeScotland

This year’s festival is supported by EventScotland, part of VisitScotland’s Events Directorate.

EventScotland is working to make Scotland the perfect stage for events. By developing an exciting portfolio of sporting and cultural events EventScotland is helping to raise Scotland’s international profile and boost the economy by attracting more visitors. For further information about EventScotland, its funding programmes and latest event news visit www.EventScotland.org. Follow EventScotland on Twitter @EventScotNews

EventScotland is a team within VisitScotland’s Events Directorate, the national tourism organisation which markets Scotland as a tourism destination across the world, gives support to the tourism industry and brings sustainable tourism growth to Scotland. For more information about VisitScotland see www.visitscotland.org or for consumer information on Scotland as a visitor destination see www.visitscotland.com.

St Magnus, Earl of Orkney, was born Magnus Erlendsson, in 1080, and was related to the Kings of Norway. He ruled Orkney jointly with his cousin, Haakon Paulsson, who murdered him on the island of Egilsay. His relics are in St Magnus Cathedral, Kirkwall.

The St Magnus Festival was founded in 1967 by a local group including the composer, the late Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, who died in 2016.

Artistic Director, Alasdair Nicolson is one of Scotland's foremost composers who first came to public acclaim in the early 1990s having won the prestigious IBM Composers' Prize.  His music is a rich mix of influences frequently drawing on his upbringing off the west coast of Scotland on the Isle of Skye. As well as an international career as a composer, he is also a conductor and teacher and highly regarded as a creative producer. He has followed in the footsteps of many eminent composers as Artistic Director of St Magnus International Festival in the Orkney Islands and formerly at Bath International Music Festival.

The Summer Solstice, or Midsummer, is on 21 June 2017. It is one of the longest days and in Kirkwall, the sun will rise at approximately 4.00am and set at 10.30pm.  

The festival’s celebrations include 2017 Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology - the year to delve into the past and discover Scotland’s fascinating stories through a wide-ranging variety of new and existing activity to drive the nation’s tourism and events sector, boosting tourism across Scotland. It builds on the momentum generated by previous themed years in Scotland including the 2015 Year of Food and Drink, Homecoming Scotland 2014, the Year of Creative and the Year of Natural.

The Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology is a Scottish Government initiative being led by VisitScotland, and supported by a variety of partners including Creative Scotland, Scottish Tourism Alliance, Scottish Enterprise, The National Trust for Scotland, Historic Environment Scotland, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Built Environment Forum Scotland, Heritage Lottery Fund, Museums Galleries Scotland and Traditional Arts and Culture Scotland.

The Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology is supported by £570,000 of Scottish Government funding. The events fund is managed by EventScotland, part of VisitScotland’s Events Directorate. For more information see visitscotland.com/HHA2017.

Image: Miguel Harth Bedoya and NRK Symphony Orchestra - Photo Credit Anna-Julia Granberg