An Cadal Trom
A Community Opera
was performed on 22 September 2018
in Dunbar Parish Church
photo credit: Colin Wright Photography

The Arts Desk  -  September 24th 2018

“The festival scored a massive hit two years back with a Britten Noye’s Fludde that drew on the talents of the Dunbar community alongside professional singers and instrumentalists. This year’s community project was An Cadal Trom (Gaelic for "a deep sleep"), given two performances on the closing Saturday afternoon, also in Dunbar, and using many of the same creative team, including conductor Sian Edwards and baritone Andrew McTaggart, joined by mezzo Penelope Cousland (both singers pictured above) in the solo roles. It felt inevitably like a follow-up, if on an even more ambitious scale. This was a brand new work, commissioned by the festival from composer Matthew Rooke, that melded a tale of merfolk love with glimpses into East Lothian history. The result, as director Jack Furness described it in his note, was a "rich tapestry of Dunbar scenarios", a no-holds-barred pageant that filled Dunbar Parish Church with enormous puppet sea monsters, ballet-dancing kittiwakes, Roman legions, local geologist John Muir, exhausted hikers, witch queens and far more besides. If it lacked the poignant simplicity and directness of the Britten work, there was no doubting the commitment and enthusiasm of its enormous cohorts of local performers, who seemed even to outnumber the sizeable audience. In a similar way, Rooke’s music made explicit, wide-ranging nods to Glass and Sibelius, Respighi and Wagner, even Rodgers and Hammerstein – but it was best to sit back and wonder at the sheer spectacle of it all, and the logistical feat of gathering and rehearsing the gartantuan band of performers, amateurs and professionals alike.”

David Kettle

The Times  -  September 25th 2018

“An Cadal Trom was an even greater risk, but it paid off triumphantly. This community opera was composed by Matthew Rooke about the people of Dunbar and was performed mostly by members of that community, the majority of whom were children from the local primary school. The music was fine, but the most exciting thing about it was watching the cast beaming with pride at the joy of their collective endeavour. Things like that might prove to be the festival’s biggest legacy.”

Simon Thompson

The Herald  -  September 24th 2018

“Rooke’s An Cadal Trom, in Dunbar Parish Church the following afternoon, involved singers, dancers and instrumentalists young and old from the community, the latter working alongside the musicians of Music Co-OPERAtive Scotland under the baton of Sian Edwards, and the entire 123-strong company directed by Jack Furness. Rooke’s clever episodic score used stories of the town’s past and referenced the styles of other opera composers in an hour long life-lesson about how we are all the product of our history, community and environment. The non-professionals were terrific, and some were very young indeed, and huge plaudits go to baritone Andrew McTaggart and mezzo Penelope Cousland for their consummate mastery of very demanding lead roles.”

Keith Bruce