Under Junction Bridge ****
ENJOYING its third year in existence, the closing show to the Leith Festival was bigger and better than ever. Sunshine may have been absent from Leith, but the atmosphere along the water was anything but overcast last night.
As dusk approached, several hundred people gathered around the landscaped walkway to hear an evening of light classical music and movie themes, performed by the Hermitage Ensemble.
As well as the music, visuals were provided by local film maker, Colin Usher who stepped in at the last minute with a series of liquid and bridge-themed computer animations, together with a dynamic sequence of film posters to accompany the second half.
Sunset wasn't due till around ten o'clock, so the lighting didn't really begin until then, but when it did, it added to the already bona-fide music festival feel of the event. With the lights moving and changing colour, there was even a hint of rock 'n' roll to the proceedings.
The programme was strictly classical though, opening with two harpsichord and flute pieces and the andante from a Bach flute sonata, performed by Nick Pilcher on piano and harpsichord and Rachele Walker on flute. Cellist Robin Thompson completed the trio for Tchaikovsky's famous The Swan. By this time, the audience were enthralled, applauding with ever increasing approval and volume.
Most of the crowd had arrived early, but some latecomers were still arriving as the ensemble continued with Handel, Hayden and Bach's sublime Air On a G String. Like Pied Pipers of Leith, the group attracted people going home from work or from restaurants and bars as the sound wafted along Junction Street and the Water of Leith Walkway.
Some only stopped for a few minutes, but most stayed till the end, captivated by the unusual location and by the pastoral atmosphere being created.
A rousing, if brief Habanera from Carmen brought the first half to an enthusiastic end, as the audience continued to dig into their bottles of beer or juice, or in one case, strawberries and Champagne. If the event was only a pale imitation of, say, Glyndebourne, it certainly wasn't for the lack of trying.
The second half of the programme was devoted to movie themes, for which the ensemble are noted. What better way to begin, then, than with John Williams' stirring march that heralded that battle in a galaxy far, far away - the theme from Star Wars. Short but to the point, it got the crowds attention. In particular it got the attention of a little girl who decided it would be a good idea to add dance to the entertainment, and if the organisers hadn't provided it, she would.
What's It All About, Alfie found the girl in full flight, arms aloft, pirouettes and twirls by the dozen and some fancy footwork for good measure, earning her as big a round of applause as the musicians. And rightly so. Showing no signs of flagging whatsoever, she kept up the pace for the remainder of the concert, with the audience as entertained by her as by the music and lights.
The themes continued - The Deer Hunter, Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid, Evita and even Mission Impossible all put in an appearance, but possibly the best performance of the movie themes was the sumptuous version of Maria, from West Side Story, the only film to warrant two tunes as Tonight followed moments after.
Audrey Hepburn popped up on screen more than once though, as Moon River, from Breakfast At Tiffany's and I Could Have Danced All Night from My Fair Lady were played, closing the show. The roar of approval from the crowd meant that an encore was inevitable. Rodriguez's immediately recognisable tango anthem La Cumparsita should have finished things off, but in response to audience demand, a reprise of Mission Impossible served as a second encore.
Given the growing success of the Under Junction Bridge concerts over the last three years, perhaps the audience won't have to wait until next year's Leith Festival for another one.