Music 2023

We have a rich tapestry of music this year, across the spectrum from western to classical, electronic to choral.

The Western music legends Riders in the Sky are taking part in two events telling stories of science – and giving a full concert as well.

The Scottish composer Eddie McGuire is joining us to celebrate his 75th birthday with a showing of three films that provide the first performance of all five of his astronomy-influenced compositions together.

Two more composers, Michael Oliva and Stuart Macrae, will conduct performances of their music in a concert in St Magnus Cathedral, blending ethereal electronic sounds with voices, instruments and Cathedral organ.

Another concert will feature Charlotte Rowan, regarded as one of Britain’s leading violin virtuosos – and she will also join Orkney violin maker Colin Tulloch and his son Findlay in a workshop on understanding the making of violins and exploring the sound they produce.


September 7 → 9:00 pm10:00 pm

The Driftwood Cowboys pick up musical flotsam from the Orkney shores and build something unique from it, connected by stories, reflections and conversation. Country, blues, swing, bothy ballads and traditional fiddle combine in humorous and heartfelt tales of island life. The four members of the band have travelled the world playing music in multiple groups, not least across the USA. Singer/songwriter Duncan McLean has written extensively about Western Swing, including his prize-winning book, Lone Star Swing: On the Trail of Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys. Also featured are three other familiar Orcadian names – Iain Tait (double bass), Brian Cromarty (guitar) and Douglas Montgomery (fiddle).


September 8 → 9:00 pm10:00 pm

They’re Western music legends, with songs of the early days of cowboys on the rolling prairies, pioneer wagons heading west, campfires at night beneath the stars. They’ve performed the songs and stories of Texas and Tennessee, Bear Creek and the Brazos River, Cimarron and Santa Fe. They’ve appeared at the Hollywood Bowl and Carnegie Hall, Grand Ole Opry and Austin City Limits, Nashville and Louisville, Wabash and Woodstown, with awards along the way including two GRAMMYs.


September 9 → 8:00 pm9:30 pm

Scottish composer Eddie McGuire’s five astronomy-inspired pieces of music have never been played before as a complete series. Tonight, to celebrate his 75th birthday, you can hear them together, with astronomer Dr Anne-Marie Heijmans of St Andrews University joining him in conversation. The music comes in three films specially recorded by musicians from the University, including trumpeter Bede Williams and members of the Wallace Collection. First comes the film Five Stars in Auriga, featuring Big Bang, Orbit, and Auriga where each instrument represents a star in the constellation. The pieces of music are interwoven with stories from the Scottish Borders of lives connected by astronomy and space. Then after a short break come Earthrise (symphonic poem for brass band) and Symphonies of Galaxies. Afterwards you can sit back with Orkney traditional musicians celebrating the occasion.


September 10 → 7:30 pm8:30 pm

See the blazing light and churning fire of the Sun’s surface and hear music for the cosmos from two composers whose works blend electronic sounds with instruments and voices to create work of elemental power and ethereal beauty. The programme features Stuart MacRae’s Magnus, Noble Martyr and his Incarnadine, along with Michael Oliva’s Threnody and his Harmony of the Spheres. With the Mayfield Singers, Ewan Robertson (alto and bass flute), Valerie Webster and Hannah Marshall (cellos), and Paisley Abbey organist George McPhee, and narration by solar physicist Prof. Robert Walsh.


September 12 → 7:30 pm9:30 pm

Violinist Charlotte Rowan, regarded as one of Britain’s leading violin virtuosos, accompanied by Charlotte Stevenson in a concert of works by Grieg, Sarasate, Wieniawski, Dohnanyi and Debussy, and featuring a trilogy of pieces about The Sun.

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