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While attendance at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival this year fell for the first time in years after a ticketing systems failure, the Edinburgh International Festival broke previous sales records. The most popular part of the international festival was the dance program, particularly Matthew Bourne’s Dorian Gray (see what I thought of it here) and two shows by the State Ballet of Georgia: Giselle and a Mixed bill of four short dances. According to The Scotsman many of the performances of the Georgian ballet sold well in the lead up as locals decided to attend in support of Georgia with regards to the Russian conflict.
The Edinburgh International Festival was founded in 1947 as a project to showcase Europe’s artistic potential rather than dwell on the destruction wrought by the Second World War. In that light the political ‘borders’ theme of the 2008 festival seems fitting, as does the choice of Michael Tippet’s A Child of Our Time for the official closing concert.
A Child of Our Time combined some of my favourite things in one big Oratorio package; pacifism, allusions to Carl Jung, and beautiful music. The vocal parts don’t exactly tell a story – the piece is more a cry for peace, love and compassion. Tippet asked T.S. Eliot to re-write the libretto, but Eliot refused – concerned he would make it too obviously poetic.
A Child of Our Time reminded me slightly of The Pilgrim’s Progress, but that might just be due to Williams and Tippet being English contemporaries. The piece combines elements of traditional choral music with African-American jazz and spirituals like ‘Nobody Knows the Trouble I See’.
Like the festival, A Child of Our Time ends on an optimistic note about the future:
I would know my shadow and my light,
so shall I at last be whole.
Then courage, brother, dare the grave passage.
Here is no final grieving, but an abiding hope.
The moving waters renew the earth. It is spring
A Child of Our Time
BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and the Edinburgh Festival Chorus
[Performance to be broadcast on BBC 3 on 29/09/08.]