Something for everyone

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In its 20-year history, the Aboyne and Deeside Festival has staged many memorable events and 2011 has been no exception, writes Chris Sawyer.

In ‘More Frank and Ella’ Todd Gordon and Jacqui Dankworth, backed by the brilliant trio of Tom Gibbs on piano, Euan Burton on double bass and Stuart Brown on drums, paid tribute to Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald. Theirs was a polished performance in which Todd’s cool, sophisticated style contrasted with and complemented that of Jacqui, whose voice has a veritable rainbow of colours.

In ‘An Audience with Jonathan Miller’ we were again treated to a fascinating, thought-provoking evening of ideas and sharp observations from a man who bestrides the world of science and art.

The internationally acclaimed dance team, ‘Absolutely Legless’, exhilarated and delighted the audience with their energy in a combination of Irish dance and music.

The world-renowned Scots folk singer and guitarist, Dick Gaughan, gave a typically driven, stirring and humorous performance to open the festival. In beautiful contrast, Dick was supported by the up and coming singer Chloe Matharu, who sang a selection of traditional songs, accompanied by Ewan MacPherson on guitar.

The ‘Nearly Naked Chef’, Hardeep Singh Kohli, broadcaster, writer and chef, entertained a responsive audience with his sharp humour and culinary skills.

In spite of their faulty equipment, rectified by our own sound and lighting expert David Eastwood, the ‘Abba Experience’ came good in the second half and involved keen young Abba fans from the audience in the evening’s entertainment.

As in previous years, Country Houses played an important part in this year’s festival. Thanks are due to the Farquharson family who opened their home, Finzean House, for the first time for a memorable afternoon of quartets by Haydn, Borodin and a short piece by Leclair, played exquisitely by the Aberdeen Chamber Players String Quartet.

Well-received as always, was the concert at Balmuir by Marinda, who again treated us to a delightful afternoon and evening of music which recalled Days of the Palm Court.

Musica Celtica provided a charming concert on a variety of instruments, along with singing and poetry reading.

At Torran Darroch in ‘May I have the Pleasure?’ pianists Donald Hawksworth and Marie Shanks engaged the audience in a fascinating programme exploring dance music spanning early to modern styles.

Balfour House hosted the ever popular ‘Music for a Summer’s Afternoon’ with the delightful Moira Docherty, Martin Rudge and James Reith. On another occasion there was an afternoon of poetry readings and music on the theme of ‘Water and Wine’.

Throughout the year, films are screened in the Deeside Theatre by the festival committee and they try to put on rather special films during the festival month. These were well attended, particularly ‘The King’s Speech’.

In the rare acoustic of Migvie Church, the principal cellist of the Chamber Orchestra of Europe, Will Conway gave a memorable recital of two Bach suites and John Bevan-Baker’s ‘Legend’.

In contrast, the ‘Old Blind Dogs’ thrilled a capacity audience in the Tornaveen Hall, some of whom felt impelled to dance to their magical playing of Celtic music.

At St Thomas’s Church, Aboyne, a large congregation joined in with the singing of the augmented choir who did full justice to anthems by Grieg and Balfour Gardiner in an ‘Evening of Praise’. Marcus Marsh conducted and Sheila Maxwell accompanies on the organ.

Noted author, Tania Kindersley, conducted the workshop for enthusiastic writers at all levels and at Coull, accomplished photographer Anke Addy conducted a workshop on landscape photography.

Noted musicians, James Halsey and Alice Neary, conducted the cello workshops at a number of venues, culminating in an excellent concert in Finzean Hall.

ArtAboyne’s annual exhibition featured a most impressive array of drawings, paintings, sculptures, photographs, textiles, jewellery and ceramics by North-east artists.

In Ballater’s Victoria Week there was a wide range of successful events and at Braemar, there were outdoor family events and a marquee dinner and dance.

All in all, the Aboyne and Deeside Festival provided a varied, enjoyable and very successful 20th celebration.