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Musical and cultural festival in venues around Orkneys

The St Magnus Festival is Orkney's annual celebration of the arts. Founded in 1977 by Orkney's distinguished resident composer Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, the Festival has grown from small beginnings into one of Britain's most highly regarded and adventurous arts events.

The unique combination of world-class performance, community participation of the highest quality and the magic of Orkney at midsummer attracts audiences from throughout Britain and further afield; many return year after year.

Though musical events are at the heart of the artistic programme, the Festival also encompasses drama, dance, literature and the visual arts.


Over the years, numerous distinguished artists have appeared at the Festival - including Vladimir Ashkenazy, Andre Previn, Julian Bream, Imogen Cooper, Georgy Pauk, Evelyn Glennie, John Harle, Joanna MacGregor, Steven Isserlis, John Lill and Angela Hewitt.

Visiting orchestras and ensembles have included the Royal Philharmonic, the BBC Philharmonic, the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, London Sinfonietta, the Nash Ensemble, the Scottish Ensemble and Psappha.

The Festival has recognised the talent of and commissioned works from young composers who have gone on to become established figures - James MacMillan, Judith Weir and Simon Holt are examples.

Other commissioned composers have included Sir Richard Rodney Bennett, Thea Musgrave, Sally Beamish, Alasdair Nicolson, Edward McGuire, William Sweeney and Gordon McPherson and David Horne. Many important premieres have been given of new works by Sir Peter Maxwell Davies.

New, specially-commissioned work has also been created for visual arts, drama and dance projects.


Through education and community projects the Festival has built up active participation by adults and children from all parts of Orkney. Over the years, numerous children's operas, music-theatre pieces and song cycles by Sir Peter Maxwell Davies have been premiered by Orkney children. Education projects are often devised in collaboration with visiting orchestras, ensembles and artists.

The Festival Chorus attracts around 100 singers from all parts of Orkney. Works performed in recent years include: Kodaly's Psalmus Hungaricus (with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra), HMS Pinafore (concert performance with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra), Dvorak's Te Deum and Haydn's Te Deum (both with the BBC Philharmonic). In 2006 the Festival Chorus performed Mozart's Requiem with the BBC Philharmonic, under the baton of Martyn Brabbins.

Large-scale community drama productions feature frequently: in 2002 and 2007 plays by Alan Plater, were written specially for, and premiered at, the Festival and subsequently performed with great success at the Edinburgh Fringe. In 2003 an Orkney production of As You Like It toured to Gotland, Sweden, after its Festival performances in Orkney.



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