Spectators in for special treat at Edinburgh Festival finale

The Virgin Money Festival Fireworks will run for more than an hour this year.
The Virgin Money Festival Fireworks will run for more than an hour this year.
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The grand finale of the Edinburgh International Festival is to be extended by around 20 minutes – for a special musical sequence unaccompanied by fireworks.

One of Scotland’s leading Gaelic singers will take to the stage with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra to perform a series of traditional songs before the pyrotechnics spectacular gets under way.

The Virgin Money Fireworks Concert will become a two-part event and run for more than an hour for the first time to accommodate the appearance by Karen Matheson, frontwoman of Celtic super-group Capercaillie.

However, organisers insist the fireworks display at the event will still run for around 45 minutes as usual, while the SCO perform pieces by Scottish composers Sir Peter Maxwell Davies and Sir James MacMillan.

An estimated 250,000 people are expected to watch the display, which features more than 400,000 fireworks specially choreographed with the SCO’s performance.

It will be staged earlier than normal, at 9pm, to accommodate the extra musical sequence, which has been developed since the EIF programme was announced in March and will be broadcast live to the crowds not watching the SCO from the Ross Bandstand. Matheson, whose songs will are being specially arranged for the event by fellow Capercaillie member Donald Shaw, will be the first solo singer to appear at the event in its history.

EIF director Fergus Linehan and Mr Shaw, artistic director of the Celtic Connections music festival in Glasgow, have worked together on a number of projects in recent years.

The introduction of the new curtain-raiser to the fireworks, which will coincide with the 70th anniversary of the festival, has been planned as part of a bid to turn the annual concert into a bigger event.

It is thought an additional SCO performance before the fireworks could become an annual fixture at the event, which brings the city’s festival season to a close. The fireworks concert was moved to a Monday night two years ago to bring it into line with the final nights of the Book Festival and the Fringe.

Mr Linehan said: “One of the things I’ve noticed about the event is that everyone is set up and ready to go about two hours before the event. We have a beautiful orchestra and a PA system in place. We just asked ourselves the question, ‘Why don’t we play some music for them?’

“We were thinking about a really Scottish theme for the music for the concert this year. We thought it would be beautiful to have Karen perform music orchestrated by Donald for the SCO beforehand.

“It’s a bit of an experiment. We will see if it works. If it does it opens up all sorts of other possibilities for the future over whether we have a concert which segueways into the fireworks in future. It’s always such a fun gig for the orchestra and everyone is kind of game for something.”