Music: Peter Phillips

By Phillips, Peter | The Spectator, September 6, 2014 | Go to article overview

Music: Peter Phillips


Phillips, Peter, The Spectator


One might have expected the streets of Edinburgh, especially at festival time, to bear some evidence of the political struggle currently engulfing our nation, but in fact there was none at all. Apparently, the arguments for and against independence have to be traded on the doorstep and not in the street, which, to those visitors who anticipated fireworks, almost amounted to a vacuum. However, it meant that the streets could be made over to the customary bewildering number of stand-ups, advertisements, students handing out leaflets (they come at you these days on roller-skates, pirouetting as they approach), and thespians of every type. The most decorated stand-up of the moment is Timothy Vine, the first person ever to win the Dave TV one-liner competition twice ('I've decided to sell my Hoover ...well, it was just collecting dust'), the first time being in 2010.

The hubbub on the streets was reflected in the array of concerts and theatrical performances on offer. There are so many to list and promote that the PRs hardly know which theme, sub-theme or single event to print in bold next. I sometimes wish -- and this applies to the Proms publicity as well -- that these blurbs were written by the person who actually planned the festival. No assistant is going to know how the less obvious parts got there, which leaves the reader with a misleading selection of what the assistant has heard of and thinks the public will be interested in. This always dumbs down, and in Edinburgh it led to chaos on the pages of the press pack.

A case in point was Jonathan Mills's carefully crafted series of choral concerts, which involved a number of leading groups from home and abroad, including the Hilliard Ensemble, Collegium Vocale Gent and Concerto Italiano. He told me that from the moment he started at Edinburgh eight years ago he wanted to establish a series in Greyfriars Kirk. This he has done. From tentative beginnings these events are now sold out to the extent that the church is too small for them. One of his main ideas this year was to marry the success of the series with the anniversary of the first world war by asking the various participating groups to sing settings of 'L'homme armé'. There is no mention of it in the publicity material. The only reference to the Collegium is to its Bach in the Usher Hall, not its Lassus in Greyfriars. …

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