Main Press Release 2014

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THE CUMNOCK TRYST | 2 - 5 October 2014 |

Composer James MacMillan’s new music festival in Cumnock, Ayrshire

The Cumnock Tryst is a new music festival founded by composer James MacMillan, which will take place in his home town of Cumnock in Ayrshire, Scotland, for the first time this October.  With the community at the heart of all its activities, the festival runs from Thursday 2 to Sunday 5 October 2014 and features some of the finest international classical artists.  Patron of the festival is violinist, Nicola Benedetti, also from Ayrshire and who will perform at the festival.

Festival founder and Artistic Director, James MacMillan, is one of the most successful composers in the world and is internationally active as a conductor. He grew up in Cumnock at a time when there was notable classical music activity in the area, and his early musical experiences there influenced his pursuit of a life as a composer. Over the course of his career, James MacMillan has worked with some of the most wonderful musicians in the world, and experienced many great music festivals. Through The Cumnock Tryst, James MacMillan would like to bring som ething of his own experiences back home to Cumnock. 

James MacMillan says, “It has been very exciting creating the programme for the first Cumnock Tryst. I have always been inspired by what Britten did in Aldeburgh, and what Maxwell Davies has done in Orkney, and always hoped it would be possible to do something similar in my home town. Growing up in Ayrshire, I remember the great enthusiasm for brass band and choral music.  These will be running themes as the Festival develops.  The activity and involvement of the local community, and especially its schools will also be a core factor.

Lorna Duguid, Portfolio Manager at Creative Scotland, says, “Creative Scotland are delighted to support the Cumnock Tryst, especially in their ambition to engage so closely with the communities of Cumnock.  Projects such as this have potential to inspire and delight and the close relationship developed between a community and its artists is valuable for all who participate in it.

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 (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”, as the town sits where the Glaisnock River and the Lugar Water meet.  We aim for The Cumnock Tryst to be a meeting place for music-lovers.

In the first festival, there will be six venues:  the church of St John the Evangelist, a rare Scottish example of a William Burges church where James MacMillan played the organ as a young man. The church was built by the Marquess of Bute and was the first church in Scotland to have electric lights;  Cumnock Old Church designed by Brown and Wardrop and another Marquess of Bute-built church; The Assembly Hall of Cumnock Academy; the Dumfries Arms Hotel, which as well as being a concert venue will serve as the Festival Club; the Boswell Centre in Auchinleck, a new, state-of-the-art, multi-purpose facility; and the final venue is the breathtakingly beautiful Dumfries House, an Adam mansion which lies just outside the town. It was built by the Earl of Dumfries in the 18th century and was bought for the nation by a consortium led by HRH The Prince of Wales in 2007.

The opening concert at 7.30pm on Thursday 2 October in St John’s Church, recognises a strong musical tradition of the area, choral singing. It is given by one of the finest choirs in the world, The Sixteen, under their director, Harry Christophers.  The choir has commissioned new pieces from composers from three different countries, mentored by James MacMillan, who has written significant works for The Sixteen in the past.  The new works will receive their Scottish premiere in the opening concert alongside MacMillan’s Miserere and works by the Renaissance composer John Sheppard.  This concert is generously supported by The Genesis Foundation.

The Scottish Chamber Orchestra comes to Cumnock Academy on Friday 3 October with one of their Masterworks concerts, which they perform all over the country.  Our performance is at 12.30pm for school children across East Ayrshire; unique to The Cumnock Tryst, the concert will be open to the public, with a number of free tickets available.  

Friday evening at the Festival opens with The Cumnock Hour at 5.00pm in The Dumfries Arms hosted by special guest, BBC presenter, author and journalist, James Naughtie, who will be joined for a lively chat by three prominent locals: composer and our Artistic Director, James MacMillan; Scots poet Rab Wilson, from New Cumnock; and Cumnock Tryst board member, former professional footballer-turned-lawyer, Derek Stillie.  

We present more Cumnock musical talent for the evening performance with the extraordinary musicianship of violinist Ian Peaston, who grew up in Cumnock. Ian has an international career and returns home to The Cumnock Tryst with his unique solo show, Violin Variations, playing music from Bach to Massive Attack, and film music by Hans Zimmer to Brazilian electro-samba. From a solo violin, he produces the sounds of a string trio to twenty-piece band with string, guitars, drums and bass or a string ensemble, with live looping and sampling of sounds.  Violin Variations is in The Dumfries Arms Hotel at 8.00pm on Friday 3 October, and will be in an informal concert-setting. In the run-up to the performance, Ian is leading a series of his popular and successful workshops with schools in East Ayrshire.

Saturday 4 October brings singers from all over East Ayrshire and beyond to take part in a Come and Sing Day in the Boswell Centre, Auchinleck from 10.00am.  A day’s rehearsal with Eamonn Dougan and other members of The Sixteen, will culminate in a short public performance at 5.00pm including James MacMillan’s own O Radiant Dawn, Purcell’s Miserere and Boyce’s Alleluia.  Anyone who enjoys singing and has some experience of reading music and singing in parts can apply for a place. 

Scotland boasts a great wealth of talented young musicians, and among these are the members of the National Youth Brass Band of Scotland. Brass music is another great, musical tradition in Ayrshire, which is still thriving.  Under conductor Russell Gray, the NYBBS perform music including works by Elgar, MacMillan, Howells and Wagner at 7.30pm on Saturday 4 October in Cumnock Old Church.   The concert features more young talent involving Cumnock Academy’s own Brass players, and a short spot with the Primary 7 string orchestra of Greenmill Primary School, Cumnock, who will give the premiere of a new work specially written for them by James MacMillan.  Greenmill Primary School has been running a music education programme since 2011 where every single pupil and classroom teacher from P4 - P7 has been learning a stringed instrument.  This concert is taking place thanks to funding from The Cumnock and Doon Valley Minerals Trust.

On the final day of the festival, Sunday 5 October, a quartet of singers from The Sixteen will sing in a Festival Mass at St John’s Church, Cumnock at 11.00am.  All will be made welcome. 

The final performances will be in the exquisite setting of Dumfries House, set in beautiful grounds just outside the town. These will be three short Promenade Concerts, each around 20 mins long, with the audience moving between three rooms. There will be two complete performances: one at 3.00pm and one at 7.30pm, the later including a champagne reception.   

The first of the Promenade programmes is in The Tapestry Room and features Elizabeth Kenny, one of the most renowned theorbo players in the country, and who plays music from MacMillan’s Since it was the Day of Preparation in the premiere of a special new arrangement by the composer.  The young, Scottish-based quintet Pure Brass perform the final section of the Promenade in the Great Steward’s Dining Room. Their programme features early music by Bach and Farnaby, moving to the 20th century and Lusoslawski, as well as the world premiere of Glasgow composer Jay Capperauld’s new work, Sehnsucht, dedicated to James MacMillan, and commissioned specially for the festival. The central panel of this event will be given by violinist and festival patron Nicola Benedetti who will be performing with a quartet of singers from The Sixteen in the grand Entrance Hall. They give a programme of Bach Chaconne in D minor, Victoria Sancta Maria succurre miseris, and the world premiere of a new work by James MacMillan Domus Infelix Est, written for Nicola and the singers to mark this very special occasion.  

Each evening after performances, there will be more informal music-making at The Festival Club, in the relaxed setting of The Dumfries Arms Hotel. There will be a special menu at The Dumfries Arms throughout the festival, including late-evening meals served after concerts. 

Tickets go on sale to Friends, residents in Cumnock and surrounding area in June

General booking opens in July

See for more details

for additional press information please contact:

Jane Nicolson 07887 500977


Editors’ note:

Creative Scotland is the public body that supports the arts, screen and creative industries across all parts of Scotland on behalf of everyone who lives, works or visits here.  We enable people and organisations to work in and experience the arts, screen and creative industries in Scotland by helping others to develop great ideas and bring them to life.  We distribute funding provided by the Scottish Government and the National Lottery. For further information about Creative Scotland please visit  Follow us @creativescots and