From Russia With Love

1 a 1 a arts fest 5
1 a 1 a ali donowho 1The 36th Dumfries and Galloway Art Festival launched on Friday night at the Easterbrook hall in Dumfries, introduced by new Arts Festival Chairman Ken Gouge it was explained that over the next ten days there will be over 70 performances throughout the region and looking at some of the performances planned it’s going to be an amazing 10 days, acts from stand up comedians Des Clarke and Hardeep Singh Koli to the Reduced Shakespeare Company there is something for everyone.




The opening events were split between Annan and Dumfries. Hardeep Singh Koli had a 250 capacity sell out at the Corner House Hotel in Annan while after the official launch in Dumfries the Scottish Ensemble played to over 200 people with their interpretation of From Russia With Love. Now you may be fooled with the title, as others were, that this would be an evening of James Bond themes, sadly no, instead it was an evening of Tchaikovsky and Shostakovich.


Unbeknownst to the majority of the audience Scottish Ensemble and the Arts Festival have agreed a format for the future which will include further performances from them but also four day workshops with local young musicians.

As they took to the stage there were some youngsters among them and we were introduced to Andrea Jardine, Oliver Rideout and Hannah Jones, all local teenagers that had been working with Scottish Ensemble members and joined the rest for the opening piece.


Ali Donowho in the best seat in the house
Ali Donowho in the best seat in the house

From word go the audience were enraptured by the stunning natural amplification coming from the stage, local girl Andrea Jardine even took on a solo in Tchaikovsky’s Andante Cantabile (from String Quartet No.1 in D). The evening moved on with the rollercoaster of emotion ride that is Shostakovich’s Chamber Symphony in C minor over its five pieces the audience were transported back to the cold war with themes and musicality that were instantly recognisable as Russian, with depth of despair and anger and tragedy flooding through the music imagery was created in the audience’s mind.
After a brief interval where hot discussion of what had been seen was the major holder of conversation it was remarked to me that the impressive way the all strings managed to fade themselves out was worthy of a slider fade out on a radio station. The Ensemble returned for their final pieces and I for one was entirely mesmerised and lost in the music, normally I take the time during a performance to sneak a glance at the other audience members to see if their enjoyment is as telling as mine but not this night, no this had me in the palm of its hand hoping it wouldn’t end.


For their encore they had to (as they said) play the James Bond theme From Russia From Love and yet again what a stunning sound was created by only stringed instruments of violins, violas, cellos and a bass.
If you get the opportunity you must go see them you will not regret it and as for the coming days find a festival programme you will honestly be surprised at the range of performances, go see something take a friend and enjoy because again you will not regret it.


Written by Exclusively for DGWGO by Ali Donowho Pictures by R.B Photography