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. Tryst 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, as the town sits where the Glaisnock River and the Lugar Water meet. For four packed days and nights The Cumnock Tryst is a meeting place for music-lovers.

THE TRYST manuscript     © Boosey and Hawkes Music Publishers

THE TRYST manuscript © Boosey and Hawkes Music Publishers

"Welcome to The Cumnock Tryst. For a few autumn days this town will host a festival of music, bringing some of the world’s greatest musicians into our churches and halls and into the heart of our community. I grew up here, living in the area from my birth in 1959 to the end of my schooldays in 1977. My grandfather George Loy was a coalminer all his life but his true love was music. He played euphonium in local colliery bands and sang in his church choir. He inspired me to become a musician. 

My earliest musical experiences were of making music with friends, relatives, schoolmates and teachers in the town. I remember seeing amateur operatic productions of Gilbert and Sullivan, oratorio performances of Handel by the Kyle Choral Union, (one of Judas Maccabeus in New Cumnock in which I played trumpet), and hearing Cumnock Music Club performances by the Berlin Octet and many other fabulous international musicians. In 1966, for the centenary of the Burgh, Mozart’s Requiem was performed in the Old Church and broadcast live on BBC television.

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. 

The dictionary definition of the word Tryst is “a private romantic rendezvous between lovers”. Many years ago I set a poem of this title by William Soutar to music when I lived in Ayrshire and played in local folk bands. This music has been the basis of so much of my output over the years and crops up in the orchestral piece Tryst and a little violin piece which Nicola plays sometimes called After The Tryst. (Nicola is an Ayrshire lass.) Another inspiration for our festival’s name is from one of the Gaelic meanings of the word Cumnock – comunn achadh – “place of the confluence” or “the meeting of two waters.” The rivers Lugar and Glaisnock meet in Cumnock.

There has been much talk and action on the issue of regeneration in Cumnock and the surrounding area in recent years. The world of politics and economics can seem very distant from the concerns and priorities of artists and musicians. We hope to build something beautiful here. It is a joy for me to bring The Tryst to Cumnock."

Sir James MacMillan CBE
Artistic Director and Founder, The Cumnock Tryst