St Magnus Festival

St Magnus International Festival is one of the UK’s leading arts festivals and is held over six days during the Orkney midsummer.

Performers at the festival

Performers at the festival

Lots of drama!

Lots of drama!

The New Rope String Band

The New Rope String Band

Lezdek Mozdzer at St Magnus International Festival

Lezdek Mozdzer at St Magnus International Festival

BBC Philharmonic Orchestra at St Magnus International Festival

BBC Philharmonic Orchestra at St Magnus International Festival

Circulous at St Magnus International Festival

Circulous at St Magnus International Festival

The festival was founded in 1977 by Orkney-based composer, and Master of the Queen’s Music, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies. The inaugural festival featured his opera The Martyrdom of St Magnus, based on the novel Magnus, by the late Orcadian writer George Mackay Brown. The festival continues to commission new work from established and young composers.

International orchestras and soloists, theatre and dance companies, poets and authors, bands and visual artists all perform at the event, alongside community participants. Visiting artists hold materclasses in schools, while conducting and composing courses are open to audiences. The locally formed Festival Chorus performs major work, with its input into concerts always a highlight. The late Alan Plater wrote plays for and attended two festivals, while many top musicians have travelled to Orkney to take part, including André Previn, Julian Bream and Evelyn Glennie.

The festival’s venues range from the large space of St Magnus Cathedral to the tiny Italian Chapel, and from the Pickaquoy Centre's huge concert arena to small parish halls. Productions premiered in Orkney at St Magnus International Festival have gone on to tour at other major events, including the Edinburgh Fringe. And Orkney has its own festival fringe, the Magfest, which offers a range of exciting events, from drama and circus, to cabaret and music. Always a brilliant end to the day, the Festival Club offers the chance for artists, visitors and locals to relax and reflect together.

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