The 2023 Festival was our first fully back to normal in the post-Covid period.   Last year a spike in infections decimated the Festival Chorus and probably dimished the confidence of the audience.   But 2023 saw audiences out in force to get into the festival spirit and invest their time in many events - one audience member told us that he had tickets for 27 events.   A phenomenal patch of summer sunshine and dry weather was the icing on the cake and it certainly contributed to the atmosphere and enthusiasm of both audience and performers.    The good weather was also a great boost to the one 'outdoor' event in the shape of the large colour installation - a giant fairy tale structure into which you wandered and discovered a calm, labyrinthine colourscape in which to chill and relax.   Terceradix is the work of a 30 year old company Architects of Air and it was only the second installation of this newly created work.   The queue to get in was often an hour long but hundreds of people were blown away by the ambience within the structure.  We also had visitors from Glaitness School and St Colm's Centre for people with additional needs and for some of these guests it was an experience that really touched - to the extent that they didn't want to leave.

The Festival this year garnered 5 star reviews from the Times and the Scotsman and we were delighted to have Radio 3 back recording some of our concerts for broadcast 4-7th July.    We also streamed some concerts as part of our ongoing tests of digital work and its viability.   

The new play by David McNeish about St Magnus' mother, Thora, was a blistering start to the Festival.   The production was directed by Gerda Stevenson (who created our film The Storm Watchers) and performed by Isabella Jarrett and Simon Donaldson with the silent role of Young Thora taken by Eleanor Dean (a young Orcadian just about to go to drama school).  The searing power of this work and the poetic lyricism made for a triumphant premiere on the first afternoon of the Festival and saw several further performances to critical and audience acclaim.    This production was initiated by the Festival taking a big risk on a novice writer and a first dramatic work.   

Music, of course, featured heavily in the programme and old friends of the Festival Florilegium created three events which were all sell-outs.   For two of their concerts Cafe Zimmerman and Tafelmusik,  the addition of picnic boxes from Birsay Bay Tearooms and Cinnamon Buns from Eviedale Sourdough seemed to go down a treat.   Other regular visitors, the Hebrides Ensemble, gave two programmes: one a music by Debussy and Ravel featuring the harp and the other as part of the big promenading installation Solstice of Dark and Light.