MY 2003 FESTIVAL HIGHLGHTS

Rain is something for which the Isle of Mull has achieved a well-known, and not entirely undeserved, reputation. There must be many who, having visited the island for the first time, and been greeted by rain on their arrival, rain during their stay, and more rain on their departure, have vowed never to return again. What they don’t know, of course, is that it never rains during Festival week. How the organiser, Marilyn Jeffcoat, always ensures perfect weather must remain one of life’s great mysteries.

So now to the 15th Mendelssohn on Mull Festival. The new artistic director, Levon Chilingirian, treated us to a truly memorable week of chamber and string orchestra music. Continuing with the tradition established by the previous director, the Endellion Quartet’s Andrew Watkinson, each of the festival orchestra’s three ensembles performed the same pieces at different venues three times.

One of the biggest logistical problems facing the organiser has been finding suitable performance venues on the island when, as used to be the case, only one concert was held each night. The solution is as near-perfect as it can be and, with a nightly choice of three concerts, venue problems have virtually disappeared. And with concerts in such splendid edifices as Duart, Torosay and Glengorm Castles, the difficulty now is in deciding which concert to attend.

We were treated to a rich and varied programme of music drawn from Vivaldi, Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Strauss, Tchaikovsky, Mozart, Schubert, Warlock, Barber and Hugo Wolf.

I must leave it to professional reviewers to comment in detail on the individual performances but, writing simply as a member of the audience, may I say that I consider the standard at this year’s festival to be equally as high as the previous two years. The talented young players invited displayed confidence and ability in great measure, and this opportunity to spend over a week with top-ranking musicians as mentors can only stand them in good stead as they embark upon their professional careers.

There were light-hearted moments too. Traditionally, Thursday night’s concert is billed as a Classical Ceilidh, an interesting title because, as keyboards mentor Richard Jeffcoat remarked, it’s neither classical nor a ceilidh. It’s an opportunity for the festival players to “let their hair down”, and this includes the mentors too.

The sight of Marcia Crayford and Gaby Lester grandly entering the upstairs room of the Aros Hall dressed like cats to sing Rossini’s Cats’ Duet is something I’ll never ever forget. And the very high notes they couldn’t sing – and who could blame them – they played on their violins. The ensuing rapturous applause said it all.

The organiser, trustees, mentors and players are all to be congratulated and thanked for their hard work in ensuring that the 2003 festival was such a successful one. As a totally addicted supporter, I can hardly wait for the next one. And yes, of course the weather will be perfect again – the organiser fixes everything.