Edinburgh International Festival review: Aidan O’Rourke & Friends

As a part of My Light Shines On, the Edinburgh International Festival has commissioned some of Scotland’s leading artists to create extraordinary works that audiences can enjoy from their own homes.

Aidan O’Rourke is a multi-award-winning fiddler, composer, producer, curator and one third of Scotland’s most inventive folk band, Lau.
Aidan O’Rourke is a multi-award-winning fiddler, composer, producer, curator and one third of Scotland’s most inventive folk band, Lau.

My Light Shines On: Aidan O’Rourke & Friends ****

Aidan O’Rourke, the eclectically-minded fiddle-player renowned through his playing and composing with the folk "power trio” Lau and much else, gathered a bunch of musicians who unhurriedly but potently generated a musical radiance to transcend the “ghost light” of a darkened Leith Theatre.

Part of Edinburgh International Festival’s My Light Shines On online season, determinedly wresting performance from the shadow of Covid, the seamless, 20-minute stream of music opened with the hauntingly melancholy voice of the Middle-Eastern ney flute, played by Bashir Saade, gradually joined by the reedier strains of Brìghde Chaimbeul’s smallpipes, which steered things from Middle Eastern to Highland mode at a precise, steady tempo.

O’Rourke’s linking fiddle deliberations ushered in guitarist Graeme Stephen’s electro-acoustic chimes which enjoyed an easy melodic interplay with the fiddle, strumming and looping guitar going on to introduce a restrained but imploring blues prayer for a damaged world from singer-mandolinist Rachel Sermanni. Her quiet urgency was further exhorted by bluegrassy fiddle harmonies and the rest of the ensemble coalescing until it all faded back to that all-too-human-sounding keening of the ney – a lament, perhaps, for fractured times, but not without a glow of hope.

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