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Spectacular outdoor lights on event will launch 10th anniversary Haddo Arts Festival

The Whistlebinkies in full flight for the Haddo Arts Festival. Photo by Sandy McGhie

One of the north-east’s most iconic stately homes will be lit up in a riot of light and sound this weekend as the Haddo Arts Festival kicks off its 10th anniversary programme.

The open-air “Lights On Haddo” event on Friday October 8 will see Haddo House used as a backdrop for moving and still images – plus music – to mark the past decade of the festival and preview this year’s highlights.

The festival will run from Friday to October 16, with a series of online concerts and performances, ranging from classical music, to drama and iconic folk tunes.

Dr Cathy Guthrie, administrator of Haddo Arts, said she was thrilled to see the festival reach this landmark year.

“So I’m really looking forward to the sound and light show which will be happening at about 7.30pm on Friday,” she said.

The Bach Players were overjoyed to be performing together again for the Haddo Arts Festival.

“We will have a projection on the outside of the house, which looks back over some highlights of the past 10 years, focuses a little bit on our schools’ music project, a Song For Haddo, and then gives a wee taster of what people can find online on the Haddo Arts YouTube channel from October 9.”

Sheer joy is evident from performers

While Lights On is the only live event for the festival this year, the online performances were all recorded at Haddo, many of them in front of live, socially distanced, audiences.

Those range from music by the Bach Players, to a recital with top pianist Joanna McGregor and a Songs To The Fortepiano recital with pianist Stephen Devine and soprano Kate Semmens. A concert by folk legends the Whistlebinkies will round out the festival.

Cathy has previewed some of the videos in the “fabulous programme” and says there are many highlights, including the Bach Players in concert.

“There is a sheer joy that is so evident in the performers at being able to play together for the first time in months and the same is true of the Whistlebinkies who are our closing event,” she said.

“Again, they haven’t played together for a while and it was just so lovely to see that and I think it really comes across.”

Haddo Arts Festival
Scene from the Chekov play The Proposal, filmed in Haddo House as part of the Haddo Arts Festival.

Another highlight is a performance of Chekov’s one-act play, The Proposal, which was filmed inside Haddo House by Ten Feet Tall Theatre Company, giving an authentic period feel to the piece.

Art is also to the fore with a unique offering by photographer Kimberly McPherson, of Love With Light Portraits.

Haddo House portraits recreated as photos

Cathy said: “She has recreated as photographs some of the portraits you can see in the house itself. Her sitters were all real people who are connected with Haddo today, who have dressed up so they look like these portraits.

“Those will make a trail through the park, suspended from trees.”

Haddo Arts Festival
Kimberley McPherson’s photo of Thea emulating a painting of Lady Katherine Gordon, which is part of Haddo Arts Festival.

The art trail will link back to the Pheasantry building where award-winning art student Sarah Calder will have her first solo exhibition. She has photographed different items in Haddo House and interpreted them in oil on canvas.

The pandemic has interrupted Haddo Arts’ ambitious education project – A Song For Haddo – in partnership with McOpera Outreach, to involve local school pupils in creating a new work in a three-year song cycle.

This year’s festival will feature a short preview of what people can expect from the full event which will be part of next year’s Haddo Arts Festival, with local children recording a short performance on a visit to Haddo.

Cathy said the festival started with an idea by Alice Denis, then musical director of Haddo House Choral and Operatic Society, and created an enormous legacy under the stewardship of the late David and June Gordon.

A painting by Sarah Calder of one of the objects found in Haddo House is part of an exhibition at Haddo Arts Festival.

How to view Haddo Arts Festival events

The festival has attracted legendary names – national and international – over the years, including composers Benjamin Britten and Ralph Vaughan Williams, as well as singers Dame Janet Baker and Peter Pears, and world-class pianists such as Peter Donohoe and Cristina Ortiz.

Cathy said: “I find it amazing that we’ve come this far from what was a brilliant idea by Alice Dennis, way back in 2011 when she thought about it. I think if any of us had thought back then that we would we would be not only keeping going but actually growing is incredible.”

The Haddo Arts Festival events will be available on YouTube and will be free, although the organisers hope viewers will make a donation to the event.

Haddo House will be the backdrop for a spectacular light and sound show.

But above all, Cathy hopes everyone enjoys this year’s festival.

“I hope they will take away memories of amazing music-making and put the dates for next year’s festival in their diary which will be October 8 to 15,” she said.

“We’ve got some very, very special things planned which have to stay under wraps at the moment. But we hope that they will see that Haddo is a great place to come and experience the arts.”

For more information on the Haddo Arts Festival visit

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