Mananan Festival 2023 – Newsletter

Hi everyone, hope you’ve all been enjoying the sunshine. As promised in the June newsletter, we’re releasing a second instalment dedicated solely to this year’s festival. Please find your guide to all things Mananan 2023 below!

Mananan Festival week starts on the 26th June with a reading and Q&A by Poet Laureate, novelist, musician and broadcaster Simon Armitage. Simon has won  numerous prizes and awards, including the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry and the PEN Prize for Translation. He has published over a dozen poetry collections, including Magnetic Field: the Marsden Poems, and acclaimed medieval translations of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and The Owl and the Nightingale. He is the author of two novels and three non-fiction bestsellers: All Points North, Walking Home and Walking Away. A regular broadcaster, Simon presents the popular BBC Radio 4’s series The Poet Laureate has Gone to his Shed. An award-winning dramatist, his play The Last Days of Troy was performed at Shakespeare’s Globe. He also writes, records and performs with the band LYR and has received an Ivor Novello Award for his song writing. His new book Never Good with Horses features his assembled lyrics. I think it’s fair to say we’re pretty excited about this one- don’t hang about for tickets!

Tuesday 27th June sees a performance of Creeaght, an original work by IOM musician/composer Isla Callister with an all-star cast comprising Isla (fiddle) with ensemble: Anna Garvin (piano), Kirsty Lawrence (cello), Katie Lawrence (fiddle), Aalin Clague (voice), Mera Royle (harp) and Annie Kissack (spoken word). The show features music and illustrations that have been inspired by the lives and legacies of women who have shaped the history of the Isle of Man from the late 1800s to the present day. Award-winning Manx illustrator Jo Davies has brought the stories of these women to life through her illustrations and her attendant exhibition will be on show in the bar pre- and post-performance. The first half of the show will be a showcase of Manx and Scottish traditional music comprising short sets from Mera Royle, Annie Kissack, who will read some of her poetry, and Isla Callister and Anna Garvin who will duet on piano and fiddle.

A4 Brass Ensemble will be dropping in on Wednesday to celebrate their 10th birthday with us. This multi-award-winning quartet, formed in 2013 at the Royal Northern College of Music is comprised of principal players from some of the UK’s top brass bands, including Black Dyke, Brighouse and Rastrick and Foden’s. They use a unique blend of instruments with a cornet, tenor horn, baritone and euphonium creating an exclusive sound that stands out from the standard brass quartet. They have featured on national television and radio, appearing on both ITV’s Christmas Carol Concerts and BBC Radio 3’s In-Tune with Sean Rafferty and Katie Derham. In December 2020, A4 became the first ever ensemble to be awarded Associate Members of the RNCM in recognition of their success. They’ll be treating us to the following programme:

  • Toccata (Jonathan Bates)  
  • Overture: Die Fledermaus (Richard Strauss arr. Bates) 
  • A Gaelic Blessing (John Rutter arr. Bates)
    Baritone Horn Soloist: Mike Cavanagh 
  • Six Romanian Folk Dances (Bela Bartok arr. Robertson) 
  • Locus Iste (Anton Bruckner arr. Robertson) 
  • English Folk Song Suite (Ralph Vaughan Williams arr. Bates) 
  • Crown and Spectre (Callum Au) 
  • If Ye Love Me (Thomas Tallis arr. Bates) 
  • The Code (Andy Wareham) 
  • Shepherd’s Hey (Percy Grainger arr. Robertson) 
  • Carnival of Venice (J.B. Arban arr. Robertson)
    Euphonium Soloist: Chris Robertson 
  • Street Songs (Bramwell Tovey)  

On Thursday, we’ll be hosting pianist Tim Horton. Tim is one of the UK’s leading piano players, equally at home in solo and chamber repertoire. He is a founder member of both the Leonore Piano Trio and Ensemble 360 and has been a regular guest pianist with the Nash Ensemble. Between 2011 and 2015, he presented a complete Beethoven Sonata cycle at Sheffield’s Crucible Studio, for Music in the Round, who invited him to return for a cycle of Schubert Sonatas 2017-2019, and a Chopin cycle which is currently underway. For his Mananan recital, Tim will be drawing heavily on this recent series of concerts and will play the following programme:

  • Piano Sonata in D major, Hob.XVI:42 (Franz Joseph Haydn)
  • Gaspard de la Nuit: Trois poèmes pour piano d’après Aloysius Bertrand (Maurice Ravel)
  • Two Nocturnes, op. 27 (Frédéric François Chopin)
  • Impromptu no. 2 in F sharp major, op. 36 (Frédéric François Chopin)
  • Scherzo no. 1 in B minor, op. 20 (Frédéric François Chopin)
  • Scherzo no. 2 in B flat minor, op. 31 (Frédéric François Chopin)

On Friday, we’ll be playing host to red-hot Scottish fiddlers, Rant. Bethany Reid from Shetland, Anna Massie and Lauren MacColl from the Highland peninsula of the Black Isle, and latest member Gillian Frame from Arran, join forces to showcase the combined resonance of their instruments with repertoire unearthed from both old collections and their own contemporary writing. RANT create a sound which is both spacious and lush, whilst retaining all the earthy bite and spark synonymous with a Scottish fiddle player. Their latest album – ‘The Portage’ – was recorded over 4 days in the renowned Mackintosh Queen’s Cross, the only church in the world to be designed by architect, artist and designer Charles Rennie Mackintosh. The recording – a stark and honest reflection of their live sound – was awarded Top of the World status from Songlines Magazine.

Since the release of their debut album ‘RANT’ in 2013 which won them critical acclaim in the form of a Herald Angel Award for outstanding performance across all the Edinburgh Festivals, the band have made major festival and concert appearances across the UK, Ireland and Scandinavia. They provided strings for Julie Fowlis’ Gach Sguel album, and their music has been used for both BBC and ITV national television programmes. Their live set reflects years of honing their sound together and their love for the music of their respective home regions through their writing, repertoire and stories. This will be special!

Saturday is jazz day here at Mananan, kicking off with a free, fringe event. EAC Jazz club residents Blue Vannin and guests will be live (almost) at The Riddler Bar in the Falcons Nest Hotel, Port Erin at 2.30pm. They’ll be working their eclectic mix of jazz, funk and blues and advise you to beware of celebrity guest appearances! Admission is free and there’s no need to reserve a place – just turn up and enjoy the music.

To close this year’s evening shows, we are delighted to welcome one of the hottest jazz acts on the circuit. The Harvey O’Higgins Project is Graham Harvey (piano), Dave O’Higgins (saxophone), Jeremy Brown (bass) and Matt Skelton (drums). I’ll leave it to pianist Graham to describe their incredible onstage chemistry and sharp aesthetic:

“When four musicians come together with a shared conception of musical values, the result is bigger than the sum of its parts. When we perform or record, the trust we have in each other allows a great deal of freedom. In fact, it’s very liberating as a player to understand your role – not to feel confined by musical responsibilities, but to acknowledge and use them as the foundation for creation. The musical landscape that the Harvey / O’Higgins Project inhabits is neither innovative nor fashion led. There is, however, a thread in jazz that has continued from its origins in the small groups of the swing era, through bebop and up to the present day, that embodies the aesthetic of harmonic integrity (‘making the changes’) coupled with rhythmic coherence (‘being in the pocket’). This is where we exist. It’s not a lack of creativity that leads us to explore the standard repertoire and forms of jazz. Instead, these forms provide the canvas for improvisation and dialogue. The tradition of jazz provides an infinite horizon to experiment and create. Just as a Bach fugue is open to a myriad of creative interpretations, so is the blues or a great standard. We have known each other for many years now, and it’s extremely satisfying to be on stage with such swinging musicians. Swing is at the core of what we do of course, with ballad, Latin and groove variation.”

Support comes from local stars All the President’s Men, last seen backing Dave Newton here at EAC. This will be hot folks!

Mananan 2023 closes on Sunday with a glass of prosecco and the launch of Bridget’s War, a novel by award-winning novelist Shirley Mann. Shirley will be reading from and signing copies of her new book. The novel features a police-woman in the Rushen Internment Camp on the Isle of Man, and is the 4th in a series of books inspired by real women who served in World War 2. Bridget’s War takes the series full circle as the author’s first book, Lily’s War, was influenced by her parents’ wartime romance – her mother was a WAAF in Bomber Command and her father was in the Eighth Army. The couple moved to the Isle of Man when her father retired and they are both buried at Malew. 

Shirley will be joined by the Gobbag Groove Choir, singing a mix of war-time and traditional Manx songs and Rushen Heritage Trust, who will give a short presentation about the internment years. This event is free but please reserve a place so we know how many to expect. We can’t think of a better way to wind up a hectic week.

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