AN artificial 50ft life-size sperm whale, runes, tunes and Scandic connections will cast a spell over Orkney this summer during the 48th St Magnus International Festival.

On the itinerary includes the new film from director of last year’s world premiere performance of David McNeish’s play, Thora, Gerda Stevenson. The Storm Watchers is set to be shown in installation daily at the festival, alongside innovative outdoor performances from all-women’s theatre company Circo Rum Ba Ba who bring a 50ft life-size sperm whale to Kirkwall within which they perform a show exploring plastic in the oceans.

More theatre comes from Aotearoa/New Zealand company Trick of the Light with their one-man-show The Bookbinder.

And it’s not just theatre to keep audiences entertained. Literary conversations are littered throughout the festival, with poet Kathleen Jamie, historian Jocelyn Rendall, and horror writer and enthusiast Johnny Mains discussing their work.

A strong music line-up also courses through the eight days of the festival.

The National: Festival set to be a midsummer night’s dream

Embracing and intertwining both Scottish and Nordic identities held close by Orcadians, the festival welcomes Swedish chamber orchestra Musica Vitae with guest cellist and director Robin Michael, who will perform an eclectic programme including music by Bach. Also featured are Highland composer Lisa Robertson, the

UK premiere of cello concerto Storm Runes by Alasdair Nicolson and a programme based on Swedish folk music to round out the music section.

Michael will also be performing a solo event at Stromness Town Hall, sandwiching Welsh composer Huw Watkins’ Sonata for Solo Cello between two of Bach’s famous Cello Suites.

Top names in classical music are also set to make their way to the islands for this celebration. These include percussion ensemble O Duo and soprano Elizabeth Llewellyn performing the long-awaited UK premiere of George Crumb’s American Songbook III: Unto The Hills, supported by the talent of the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire percussion section.

The National: Festival set to be a midsummer night’s dream

Ensemble Hesperi plays baroque music with a Scottish flavour, acclaimed mandolin player Alon Sariel performs Plucked Bach and Kathryn Stott joins the festival on her final piano tour before she bids farewell to live performance.

Festival director Alasdair Nicolson said: “We pride ourselves on bringing the Orkney midsummer days and nights to life with all kinds of artistry, so we couldn’t be more thrilled to be presenting a 2024 Festival programme with a wide array of music, theatre, literature, and more.

“With this year’s resident artists we explore and strengthen the connections we have between Scotland and the Nordic countries, with the Edinburgh Quartet bringing their versatility and talents from the capital and Musica Vitae bringing their Swedish flair

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“There’s really some outstanding works on show this year from across the artistic spectrum.

“Our community events are a step bigger this year, with monumental works performed by our school and festival choirs alongside some fantastic names in classical music.

“We have had an overwhelmingly positive response to our promenade concerts as well in past years, so we can’t wait for our Magnus Mixtape event with music and lights on show in the beautiful St Magnus Cathedral. As usual, many nooks and crannies of the Orkney Islands will be explored over the course of the festival, with some events held in venues not often visited with chances to sample local baking.”

The festival runs from June 21-29