To celebrate two decades of music making at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, ROSL will be hosting a special gala concert as part of this year's concert series in the Scottish capital. Artistic Director Geoff Parkin plots the growth of this much-loved series and outlines the plans for this year's celebrations.
2019 marks the 20th anniversary of ROSL’s annual concert series as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. The series was intended to offer the opportunity for prizewinning musicians from the ROSL Annual Music Competition to perform in our then second home in the Scottish capital at one of its most exciting times of the year. The concerts were also a way for musicians to work together for the first time, and over the years the series has created new musical ensembles, partnerships and friendships, and has introduced ROSL to thousands of people and the media through articles and reviews.
The Edinburgh International and Fringe Festivals between them attract over 2.5 million visitors to the city, with the Fringe alone hosting more than 3,000 performances. So, it was a natural fit for Roderick Lakin, our former Arts Director to propose using the Princes Street clubhouse for a new series of concerts. Whenever something like this is tried for the first time it is always a risk, but his risk paid off and the concerts proved to be a huge success with both ROSL members and visitors to the city.
The first year featured 19 concerts which all took place in the Stevenson Room, allowing audiences to enjoy the view of Edinburgh Castle as well as the exceptional music making from our prizewinning musicians. From the very start, all concert tickets included a cup of tea or coffee, and something to eat, always a nice bonus with any concert, and helped to draw in the punters who needed a restful musical break from the busy city.
Looking at the brochure for the first season now, it is heartening to see the list of musicians and how many have gone on to successful careers, and also stayed close friends and ambassadors of ROSL and our arts programme. Performers included pianists Stephen de Pledge, Simon Lepper and Martin Cousin; soprano Gillian Keith; clarinettist Stuart King; and cellist Alice Neary.
And then there is the format that Roderick Lakin hit upon and which we continue to this day; 9.30am concerts! Not always the most popular with the performers, they are always the most popular with Fringe audiences, who when meticulously planning their day of culture and entertainment find them an excellent start to their day. Bach and Beethoven were good composers for the printed listings, as they appeared at the start of the music pages in the Fringe Guide and audiences responded warmly.
The format is largely the same to this day, with concerts at 9.30am, 2pm, and 4pm daily for the first two weeks of the Fringe Festival. Featured composers include Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Brahms, Gershwin, and Rachmaninov but we always try to add in some lesser-known repertoire as well.
Each week features a new cohort of musicians and the full ROSL ARTS team travels to Edinburgh for the duration. Contrary to popular belief, no one ever stayed at the ROSL Edinburgh clubhouse, but always in university Halls of Residence! Not quite as glamourous perhaps, but it created an added sense of community for our musicians and arts team.
As I write this article, I am also working on the jigsaw of musicians and repertoire that I am using to put together this year’s series. We will have 31 concerts over two weeks. I am thrilled that alongside our more recent prizewinners who will feature this year, we are delighted to welcome back pianists Stephen de Pledge and Simon Lepper, both of whom featured in the original series. As in 2018, we will be back in the comfortable surroundings of the Royal Scots Club. Simon (pictured far left, above) had these words about his Fringe experience:
The Edinburgh Fringe experience is unforgettable. There’s something very special about living and working with your colleagues and experiencing Edinburgh at Festival time together. It’s another example of the support that you find in the “ family” of musicians that are created among prizewinners of the Annual Music Competition and why we’re always happy to return (even 20 years later!)
We will be celebrating 20 years with a special gala concert in the evening of Thursday 8 August, to include Schubert’s Quintet in C major with the Marmen Quartet and cellist John Myerscough, as well as performances from guitarist Sean Shibe and pianist Simon Lepper. There will also be a special celebratory reception. Book your tickets here.
Take a look at the full list of concerts taking place as part of ROSL's Fringe series this year here.