Spirit of ’47 at Edinburgh International Festival

Edinburgh stages Scotland’s first
international music and drama festival. To the beflagged streets of Scotland’s
capital have come 120,000 visitors. Edinburgh’s aim is to be the Salzburg of the post-war world, the new world centre for all art lovers. They were visionaries in ‘47, special people with dreams of dry bones dancing out of desolation of creativity revivified. Europe was in lament; so many lives lost. And its art stolen, its orchestras fragmented. Austerity was utility homes,
rationed food, little fuel. It was survival that mattered. These seers knew that politics
can fail but stories connect, that the spirit needs elixirs
– music, art and dance; surprise part of the enchantment; that we should expect to be
shocked as well as thrilled. Some would tut-tut, but yes,
Edinburgh would take the risk. Sir Thomas Beecham wouldn’t come, but the Queen graced the Royal box and Kathleen Ferrier sang Mahler. Each obstacle was resolved:
water and alcohol in short supply – afternoon tea, darling? Ring the Fire Brigade!
Pull a few strings – whisky galore! The sun shone, audiences filled theatres, cafés buzzed, the critics were ecstatic. Bruno Walter conducted his Viennese orchestra: Haydn, Schubert, Mozart, a waltz by Strauss. It’s the full spectrum of cultures now: from classical to contemporary
to avant-garde; and all the various fringes, spin-offs – they still bring the best
from every corner of the world from continents in flux, people on the move joining forces with us
to make a new songbook, a new identity. Refugees, migrants
narrate experience in their own voice; soldiers – former adversaries
– peel layers off with honesty, strip down to the minefield of memory. Through them we empathise,
feel spirits rise again. We relearn the power of words, of naming: Malvinas, Argentina Whose story is it? Whose culture, class or creed? Whose song? Art is the still the impartial witness, bridge-builder, connecting spark… …Too soon, we’re disbanding, glad to go out with a bang: rockets shimmer like grand chandeliers mirrored in the Assembly Rooms. So much has changed in 70 years, yet much remains the same. In days like these it seems we
still need cultural exchange, still long for transformation; still crave a space and time for celebration.

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