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James MacMillan announces new festival in Scotland

(October 2013)

James MacMillan has launched a new music festival in his home town of Cumnock in Scotland, with the opening festival to take place in October 2014.

Composer James MacMillan has announced a new music festival, The Cumnock Tryst,  which will take place in Cumnock in Ayrshire next autumn. The first festival will be from 2 - 5 October 2014, and it is hoped that it will become an annual event. With four days of concerts in venues in and around the town, it will feature renowned, international classical artists as well as music and musicians from different backgrounds stylistically and socially.

James MacMillan will be Artistic Director and violinist, Nicola Benedetti, also from Ayrshire, will be Patron of the Festival.

James MacMillan says “My earliest musical experiences were of making music with friends, relatives, schoolmates and teachers in Cumnock. Because of these seminal experiences I have followed a life of music, composing and working with some of the most wonderful musicians of our time all over the world. Now I want to bring something of that back. I have participated in festivals, large and small, in many countries. In the last century two British composers have established festivals in towns that were dear to them. One was Benjamin Britten whose influence on me as a youngster was a beacon of inspiration. He established the festival in Aldeburgh. The other was Peter Maxwell Davies who has been a mentor and friend over the last few decades. He established the St Magnus Festival in Orkney. My memories of early St Magnus Festivals have lived with me and have been incubated in my mind these many years, as the germ of an idea which could be reborn here in Cumnock.”

Both Benjamin Britten and Sir Peter Maxwell Davies were deeply commited to writing music not just for international stars and the most accomplished musicians, but also for the community: for  young people at school and college and for amateur choirs and bands. Similarly, The Cumnock Tryst hopes for this commitment to the community to be at the heart of its activities.

Two strong traditions of musical life in Cumnock have been brass music and choral music and these two strands will be runinng themes in The Cumnock Tryst. The opening concert next October will be given by one of the finest choirs int he world and another event that weekend will be of immense significance to the thriving brass band world of Ayrshire and beyond.

In the first festival, there will be five venues: the beautiful William Burges church of St John the Evangelist (where James MacMillan played the organ as a young man); The Assembly Hall of Cumnock Academy which will be the venue for an ambitious and imaginative educational project and concert; the impressive, Victorian Town Hall which will have been newly refurbished; the elegant Old Cumnock Church in The Square, which is the largest venue and will feature the festival’s biggest concert; and the breathtakingly beautiful Dumfries House, which lies just outside the town, and which was bought for the nation by a consortium led by HRH The Prince of Wales in 2007.

The Festival’s name, The Cumnock Tryst, was inspired by a piece of music James MacMillan wrote in the 1980s when he was still living in Ayrshire. This was a setting of William Soutar’s love poem, The Tryst, which he wrote in the style of an old Scottish ballad.  Tryst (pronounced like ‘priced’), is an old Scots word which means a meeting place, or a romantic rendezvous. The town of Cumnock itself ties into this sense of coming together as its Gaelic name, comunn achadh, means “place of the confluence” and it sits where the Glaisnock River and the Lugar Water meet.

The full festival programme will be announced in 2014.


Photo: James MacMillan, Artistic Director of The Cumnock Tryst at Dumfries House (credit Richard Campbell)

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