Anstruther to host World, Jazz and Trad Festival

Aoife ni Bhrian and Catrin Finch

THIS year, Anstruther will be a hot-bed of world music, jazz, and trad tunes during the East Neuk Festival (26-30 June) with some of the town’s quirkiest, and most intimate venues staging concerts by local and international musicians.

The 2024 programme in Anstruther welcomes the return of festival favourites Julian Bliss with his Julian Bliss Septet celebrating the genius of Gershwin, and French bassist and composer Renaud Garcia Fons. Theywill be joined by newcomer Esther Swift who is a contemporary harpist and singer, and Irish fiddle player Aoife ni Bhrian who will perform withEast Neuk regular, harpist Catrin Finch.

Anstruther’s music weekend will kick off on Friday 28 June with the premiere of Zulu – a 2024 commission performed in the dramatic setting of the Zulu Gallery at the Scottish Fisheries Museum. Harpist and composer Esther Swift will work with multi-instrumentalist and music tutor Callum Macleod and 15 young local musicians to create this new piece which will tell the story of the Zulu fishing fleets which were once ubiquitous to the East of Scotland. The Museum’s collection houses the last remaining first-class Zulu boat in Scotland, which was constructed in Banff in 1903 and finally decommissioned in 1968. Zulu boats were replaced by steam and diesel powered boats after the end of World War One and, as a result, many were left to rot on the shore – something which is still visible up-and-down the East Neuk coast. Zulu will be performed in the museum’s gallery, evoking stories of the boats and the communities that depended on them for fishing, the storms they weathered and the lives they led on land and at sea.

Other unmissable events over the weekend include Aoife ni Bhrian and Catrin Finch – a dazzling duo famed for their virtuosity and musical freedom, spanning traditional and classical heritage, and new musical vistas; and fans of legendary bassist Renaud Garcia Fons will be able to hear him unplugged on Friday until late, and again with his latest work Luna de Seda (Silk Moon) on Saturday afternoon. Performing with a quartet of musicians from around the Mediterranean (Spain, Turkey, and France) audiences can expect to hear bass, flamenco guitar, qanun and kemenche which offer a beautifully rich tapestry of reflective, dance-like, jazzy, soulful and funky songs.

Finally, Anstruther’s weekend of music comes to a close on Saturday with a night of free-flowing, high-spirited swing from Julian Bliss and his Septet of top notch bass, piano, rhythm, guitar, trumpet, vibes and – of course – clarinet, celebrating Gershwin’s hits.

Festival Director Svend McEwan Brown said: “It has always been my ambition to complement the classical music programme in Crail and Kilrenny with a vibrant selection of music in the multitude of intimate halls and quirky venues offered in Anstruther. The town lends itself to the energy of world, trad and jazz and the musicians always have an incredible time playing to a real mix of new and returning audiences at the festival.”

Out with Anstruther, music fans can also enjoy an outstanding classical programme of music performed by, three acclaimed string quartets – the Doric, Pavel Haas and (making their UK debut) the remarkable young Scandinavians Opus 13; the Belfiato Wind Quintet; pianists Hisako Kawamura and Boris Giltburg; internationally acclaimed harpist Margret Köll, and recorder virtuoso Stefan Temmingh. Plus, on Sunday 30 June broadcaster, musician and composer Neil Brand (piano) will be accompanying an hour of slapstick golf-themed silent films featuring Laurel and Hardy, Chaplin and Keaton; and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra led by its Principal Conductor Maxim Emelyanychev will bring the festival to a close with works by Beethoven, Mozart, and an on-the-spot created fantasia.

The East Neuk Festival runs from 26-30 June and celebrates the joy and power of live music and its potential to transform lives and life. In the past 20 years the festival has presented over 400 events and welcomed over 3,000 performers and 200,000 people to some of the most unique and intimate venues in the East Neuk of Fife.

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