Edinburgh International Festival

Sat 10 Aug 2019, 7.45PM
Usher Hall, Edinburgh

MacMillan Quickening
R. Strauss Ein Heldenleben, Op. 40

Edward Gardner Conductor
Edinburgh Festival Chorus  
RSNO Junior Chorus  
The King’s Singers  

Birth, life, struggles and triumphs: two immensely powerful reflections on our existence, performed by a celebrated International Festival music partnership.

Sir James MacMillan’s epic cantata examines the drama and joy of birth and new life, blending expectant wonder with awe-struck mystery, mystical spirituality with volatile energy.

British conductor Edward Gardner and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra have been highly praised for their explosive collaborations at the International Festival in recent years.

Richard Strauss’s all-encompassing Ein Heldenleben tells the life story of a hero – his loves, his battles with enemies, his ultimate victory – in music of huge power, dignity, and vivid sonic picture-painting.

Gardner and the RSNO are joined by the outstanding vocal forces of the Edinburgh Festival Chorus, the RSNO Junior Chorus and The King’s Singers for Quickening.


£48, £38.50, £29, £27, £20, £15


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Featured Artists

Edward Gardner

Edward Gardner Conductor

Edward Gardner is Chief Conductor of the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra, a position he assumed in October 2015 leading their 250th anniversary gala concert. The coming season will see Edward touring the orchestra to cities including Berlin, Munich, London and Amsterdam and continuing his hugely successful relationship with Chandos Records. Edward was Music Director of English National Opera for eight years until July 2015 and under his direction ENO presented a series of stellar productions, including Peter Grimes, Benvenuto Cellini, Meistersinger and Otello. He returned in Spring 2016 to conduct a new production of Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde to critical acclaim. Edward continues to be in great demand on the international opera scene. He has an ongoing relationship with the Metropolitan Opera New York where he has conducted Carmen, Don Giovanni and Rosenkavalier and will return in Spring 2017 for Werther. Last season he made his debut with Lyric Opera Chicago [Rosenkavalier] and was re-invited to La Scala, Milan following Britten’s Death in Venice in 2011. This season will see him returning to Opéra National de Paris to conduct Eugene Onegin and future invitations include The Royal Opera House, Covent Garden and further engagements at Metropolitan Opera and Lyric Opera Chicago. He was appointed Music Director of Glyndebourne Touring Opera in 2004, a position he held for three years and in 2008 returned to conduct Britten’s Turn of the Screw.

 Edinburgh Festival Chorus

Edinburgh Festival Chorus  

The Edinburgh Festival Chorus celebrated 50 years of world class singing at the 2015 International Festival. Since its foundation in 1965 the Chorus has been at the heart of the Edinburgh International Festival, performing annually with internationally renowned orchestras, soloists and conductors. The Chorus has performed virtually all the great standard works of the 19th and 20th centuries, continuously broadening its repertoire under the Festival Director’s programming. International Festival 2014 performances included Debussy’s Le Martyre de Saint Sébastien with the RSNO and Oliver Knussen; Britten’s War Requiem with the Philharmonia and Sir Andrew Davis; Bernstein’s Kaddish Symphony with the RSNO and John Axelrod and Janácek’s Glagolitic Mass and Sir Jonathan Mills’s Sandakan Threnody with the BBC SSO and Ilan Volkov. The Chorus occasionally performs outside of the International Festival and has most recently joined the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, and its Chief Conductor Donald Runnicles at the 2010 BBC Proms for Mahler’s Symphony No.3; two performances of Brahms's Ein deutsches Requiem in Edinburgh and Glasgow as part of the orchestra’s 75th anniversary season in February 2011; at the 2011 BBC Proms with Ravel's Daphnis et Chloé; two performances of Brahms’s Alto Rhapsody in March 2012; a performance of Vaughan Williams’s A Sea Symphony in May 2014 with Associate Guest Conductor Andrew Manze; and three performances of Beethoven’s Symphony No.9 in November 2014. Christopher Bell was appointed Chorus Master of the Edinburgh Festival Chorus in October 2007. He is also currently Chorus Director of the Grant Park Music Festival in Chicago and of the RSNO Junior Chorus and has been Artistic Director of the National Youth Choir of Scotland since its formation in 1996. The Open University awarded him an Honorary Masters Degree for Services to the Arts in 2009 and in 2013 Chorus America awarded him the Michael Korn Founders Award for the Development of the Professional Choral Art.

 RSNO Junior Chorus

RSNO Junior Chorus  

The RSNO Junior Chorus is one of the leading children and youth choirs in the UK, with over 400 members aged seven to eighteen. It was formed in 1978 by Jean Kidd and since 1994 has been directed by Christopher Bell. It has built up a considerable reputation singing under some of the world’s most distinguished conductors and appearing on radio and television. RSNO Junior Chorus members sing regularly with Scotland’s national orchestra in major concert halls and festivals throughout the country. The Junior Chorus has also sung at BBC concerts and regularly appears at the Edinburgh International Festival.

 The King’s Singers

The King’s Singers  

The King’s Singers are consistently welcomed on the world’s great stages today and have been throughout their history. They are ambassadors for musical excellence around the globe and have an ongoing commitment to new music that has resulted in an extraordinary wealth of original works as well as leading to some fantastic collaborations.

The King’s Singers were founded on 1 May 1968, when choral scholars who had recently graduated from King’s College, Cambridge, gave a concert at the Queen Elizabeth Hall at the Southbank Centre in London. Formed in Cambridge, the group had been singing together for some years in a range of lineups under a different name, but this London debut was the catalyst for a five-decade-long career. Their vocal make-up was, by chance, two countertenors, a tenor, two baritones and a bass, and the group has never wavered from this formation since.

As former members of the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge, traditional choral repertoire pulsed through the veins of the founding King’s Singers, though what distinguished The King’s Singers in the early years was their musical versatility. They were a weekly fixture on prime-time television, celebrating popular music never usually touched by choral ensembles, and their unique British charm, combined with their precise musical craft, captured audiences’ hearts the world over. The group has regularly performed at venues from London’s Royal Albert Hall to Sydney Opera House, Carnegie Hall to the National Centre for the Performing Arts in Beijing, and the Concertgebouw, Amsterdam.

The King’s Singers have accumulated many glowing reviews from the world’s great musical publications, two Grammy® Awards, an Emmy® Award, and place in Gramophone magazine’s inaugural Hall of Fame, among numerous other awards.

In their early years, the group’s sound was informed by the work of arrangers like Gordon Langford, Daryl Runswick and Goff Richards, many of whom had worked extensively with brass bands. Writing for voices with this specific experience helped to develop the blended ‘close-harmony’ sound that has become a hallmark for so many King’s Singers performances and recordings since. In more recent times, individual King's Singers such as Philip Lawson and Bob Chilcott have written music prolifically from within the group. This music sits alongside a panoply of commissioned works by many superb composers of the 20th and 21st centuries – including Sir John Tavener, György Ligeti, Toru Takemitsu, John Rutter, Luciano Berio, Nico Muhly and Eric Whitacre. The group’s mission has always been to expand their repertoire with the aim of sharing their new music with ensembles and choirs of all kinds around the world. Much of their commissioned repertoire and arrangements are available in print through the publisher Hal Leonard. Over two million items from their King’s Singers collection have been shared with their customers worldwide.

This ongoing commitment to spreading great music incorporates a lot of teaching, both on tour and at home. In 2019, the group will lead workshops & masterclasses across the world as they travel. Weeklong residential courses now also take an important place in their annual calendar, when the six King’s Singers work with groups and individuals on the techniques of ensemble singing that have governed how they make music to this day. Their next Summer School will take place in the beautiful Cambridge University, the home of The King’s Singers, in July 2019.

With 2018 marking the 50th birthday of the group, The King’s Singers have been celebrating their GOLD anniversary, which acknowledges their amazing musical heritage, as well as the bright future of vocal music in all its forms as they move into 2019. The world may have changed a lot in the fifty years since the original King’s Singers came together, but today’s group still aims to radiate the joy that singing brings them every day. The King’s Singers are as determined as ever to inspire audiences with virtuosity and their vision for an exciting musical future.