The Sixteen 
St John's Church, Cumnock
Kate Molleson
THIS was the opening concert of James MacMillan's brand new festival, The Cumnock Tryst. Besuited and beaming, the composer greeted his home audience at the door and gave his welcome address from the pulpit. St John's was the church where he was baptised (as were his parents and grandparents) and where he played the organ as a teenager. "It all began here," he said. "The Cumnock Tryst is my way of giving something back." 
What he gave back in the first instance was a superb performance of sacred choral music from Harry Christophers and The Sixteen. This is a choir that graces many churches in many countries around the world; St John's might be smaller and acoustically drier than many, but we got the trademark Sixteen sound (robust, clean, perfectly blended) regardless. Sixteenth century motets by John Sheppard unfolded in long, unflinching lines. The dissonances were meaty, the resolutions sumptuous and gentle.
Three young composers had been coached by MacMillan and The Sixteen on new settings of the Stabat Mater, given their Scottish premieres here. Tonu Korvits's was the most striking,  earthy oscillating harmonies, strong inflections rooted in Estonia's great choral tradition. Alissa Firsova's was less bold but still shapely and satisfying, vocal lines unfurling like ferns. Matthew Martin layered English words ("silence", "grief") above the Latin text in a jagged, restless setting. The programme ended with MacMillan's own Miserere, sung with rapture, fire and fervency.
The Future of Brass
Cumnock Old Church, Cumnock 
REbecca McQuillan
CUMNOCK in East Ayrshire is steeped in the brass band tradition. Introducing The Future of Brass, part of the new Cumnock Tryst classical music festival he has founded, composer James Macmillan, who grew up in Cumnock, recalled how his grandfather, a coal miner and euphonium player, set the young James on his lifelong musical journey by getting him his first cornet. 
Saturday's programme, performed by the National Youth Brass Band of Scotland, also featured young musicians from Cumnock Academy Brass and Greenmill Primary String Orchestra. The repertoire was a showcase of both brass's great emotional range and the impressive technical skills of the young musicians performing it. 
Intrada from Ein Fest Burg, arranged by Ray Farr, got things off to a lively start, building to a momentous, blousy crescendo. Other early highlights included Vaughan Williams' Tuba Concerto performed by special guest, Norwegian Eirik Gjerdevik, who, at over 6ft and powerfully built, is one of few musicians who could make the mighty tuba look human-sized. His soulful playing, hitting the rumbling depths of brass's range, was a delight.
James Macmillan's composition, Jebel (meaning "hill") came next. Wonderfully dramatic and unpredictable, it sounded like a struggle to the death on the summit.
Macmillan's animate and evocative Playing the Skyline, meanwhile, inspired by how last year's Greenmill P7 class felt their local landscape should be brought to life music, was performed in part by this 
year's P7s. 
John Ireland's Elegy from The Downland Suite, an uplifting, tranquil classic, was followed by the three-part Balkan Suite, which at certain moments brought the vibe of a Seventies cop show to Cumnock Old Church with its lively drumbeats and energetic instrumentation. Just before Elsa's Procession to the Minster by Wagner, a suitably big conclusion, the audience were treated to an unexpected and moving musical palate cleanser, Gjerdevik playing Gabriel's Oboe by Ennio Morricone, accompanied by the NYBBS. 
A varied, satisfying evening that left brass fans replete. 
Promenade Concert
Dumfries House
Keith Bruce
A WANDER through a lovely country house is rarely as aurally stimulating as this finale to James MacMillan's first hometown festival, as three world premieres by living composers rubbed shoulders with a feast of Bach.
And a solo theorbo recital is rare thing, but the Tapestry Room of Dumfries House with a log fire spitting behind the audience was the perfect context for Elizabeth Kenny to play a little motet by MacMillan and a wonderful new piece by Benjamin Oliver, Extending from the Inside, which sounded a little like King Crimson's Robert Fripp guesting with the Young Marble Giants.
The entrance hall of the house had a lovely acoustic for Nicola Benedetti to play a virtuosic Bach Chaconne, and demostrate just how loud a solo Strad can be. 
There was more Bach, and a most entertaining description of the Art of Fugue, in the closing recital by Pure Brass in the Great Steward's Dining Room, where the modern era was represented by Lutoslawski's Mini Overture.