Perthshire Amber- The Dougie MacLean Festival 2009 exceeded all our expectations. Audience and participants from 17 different countries made their way to Perthshire over the 10 days of the festival to enjoy an array of concerts, walks, talks, workshops, Open Mic, Cabaret Amber, the first Music Marathon and the very first journey of the SongBus! If we include audiences for all the free music along with the concerts we think our numbers totaled around 6,000 which is a serious increase on last year's numbers.
Those from near and far who couldn't attend enjoyed access to various concerts and special performances during the festival via a live, real time, multi camera stream and many who had been to the festival enjoyed it all again when they returned home via live.perthshireamber.com!!
As an autumn event with variable weather, the chosen VENUES are always a really important part of the Perthshire Amber experience. The 2009 festival 'home' at Pitlochry Festival Theatre was warm and welcoming as always- a wonderful base for our weekend concerts in it's wonderful auditorium, the Open Mic, Songwriter Showcase and special demonstrations in the foyer, music sessions in MacLean's Real Music Bar and workshops and talks in the River Room. We had an intimate afternoon concert at The Crannog on Loch Tay, evening concerts at Castle Menzies, Dunkeld Cathedral and Blair Castle and a special 'fiddle' concert in the Malt Room at Edradour Distillery. Every venue had it's own history and atmosphere (enhanced by really effective lighting and great sound) that visitors and locals alike really appreciated. The concert on the final Sunday night, The Caledonia Concert, in the 1200 capacity Perth Concert Hall was another successful festival first which we will definitely be repeating in 2010!
Over 200 MUSICIANS were involved in Perthshire Amber 2009. Some come from around the world to star in one of the headline concerts but many others will travel to Perthshire to take part in the Festival's support events and sessions. Every musician became an ingredient in the magic that has become Perthshire Amber!, which has been described as "a jewel of a festival" (edinburghguide.com) and "a festival with vision and imagination, and great momentum" (Press & Journal)
Dougie MacLean featured in ten of the concerts, performing solo on a couple of occasions and at other times with trio or full band. He shared the bill with guest musicians including Eddie Reader, Francis Black, fantastic Irish band Beoga, Swedish band Calaisa, Eliza Lynn from North Carolina USA, Australian band Sunas, Nashville songwriter Jon Vezner, rising star Heidi Talbot, the popular young Macdonald Brothers, traditional Scottish band Malinky, songwriter and broadcaster Frieda Morrison, the immensely talented Michael McGoldrick Trio as well as The Ross Ainslie & Jarleth Henderson Trio. Duncan Chisolm performed "Kin" on the night of the finals of the 2nd Niel Gow Fiddle Composition Award in the Birnam Arts Centre (another new venue for Perthshire Amber!). Every single concert was a truly special experience and many people commented on the wonderful and very spontaneous collaborations that resulted from these fine musicians just enjoying their music together!
The audience for the early evening CABARET AMBER, hosted by Gina MacLeod and Alan Jordan, built up incredibly in 2009 and the quality of the performance was wonderful- musicians included John Taylor, Townhouse, Jake Cogan, Hannah Acfield, The Simple Touch, Iona Leigh and Jon Vesner. There were surprise appearances from various headline artists as well, as indeed there were during the weekend Open Mic sessions and even in MacLean's Real Music Bar at various times. The welcoming and friendly atmosphere pervading the whole festival seems to put musicians and audience at ease which leads to happy surprises. Applications for performing at the OPEN MIC (hosted by Ewen Sutherland) flooded in from all over the world very early in the year and the foyer was packed with enthusiastic audience for each of the 3 days. The Scottish Songwriter Showcase featured some great musicians (Matt Johnston, Sarah Coloso, Jo Foster, Keith Warwick & Simone Welsh) with varied styles that were enjoyed by all.
We seemed to have at last found the right kinds of subjects for our workshops and talks as all were well attended...as were the walks and bus trips which were organised for weekdays. The new idea of a SONGBUS we're sure will be repeated again and again. The chosen Perthshire route worked well, the relevance of the songs and the efforts of the four musicians on board (Ewen Sutherland, Doris Rougvie, Gina Macleod an Alan Jordan) plus the great picnic lunch (provided by event sponsor The Scottish Deli) ensured a great day for all.
Our 2009 charitable efforts reaped great rewards with lots of food collected via Amber Harvest for the Cyrenians and lots of knitted squares being turned into funds for Shelter Scotland.
Our PA09 Team were tireless and supportive...and great fun! The staff at all the venues were enthusiastically part of the festival and wonderfully helpful. The EFX Team managed the sound for all the evening concerts in a manner that was second to none, as did Gordon MacLean with sound for the Open Mic, Cabaret Amber and the Fiddle Concert at Edradour. The lighting for concerts was wonderful (thanks to Mike for Pitlochry Festival Theatre concerts, Pete for special venue concerts and Gary at the Perth Concert Hall). We even had some wonderful pyro-tecnic effects for "Caledonia" on the last night (another first!) coutesy of Blast Designs.
It's so difficult to summarise an event like the Perthshire Amber Festival...particularly this latest 10 days in 2009! Everyone who attended will have their own memories and highlights (which we'd love to read about in the guestbook) and we hope will want to return again in the future. Our hopes for the future are that we can continue to bring lots of people to enjoy wonderful and varied music, experience the stunning autumnal beauty of the Perthshire landscape, discover the rich history and architecture of the area and forge friendships within a relaxed and welcoming festival atmosphere.