Premiere of Pianodrome at Edinburgh’s Royal High building will have something for all

The world's first amphitheatre made entirely from old pianos will be one of the leading attractions of this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

By Stephen Wilkie
Wednesday, 8th June 2022, 4:55 am

The company behind the award-winning Pianodrome is to play a leading role in helping to re-establish the city’s former Royal High School building as an internationally important cultural hub.

Pianodrome’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe programme is being staged at the historic building on Calton Hill from August 5 - 28.

The world premiere will be from June 9-18 as part of the award-winning Hidden Door festival in the A-listed building.

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The new Pianodrome Amphitheatre will stage events at the Royal High School from June until September.

Spaces in and around the building will become home to music, theatre, dance, spoken word and visual art.

The main draw is expected to be the Pianodrome summer ‘Resonancy’ from July 1 until September 11.

The full Festival Fringe programme, from August 5 – 28, includes free lunchtime performances running daily from August 5 - 27 and created as an hour-long ‘drop-in’ style event featuring a different act each day.

Pianodrome Live! also returns, presenting new local and international acts each evening with a revolving musical host, for an intimate evening of music each night of the festival.

The Pianodrome amphitheatre was created by upcycling used pianos

The programme will see a collection of music-centred acts, ranging from stunning improvisation to folk, classical and everything in between.

For theatre lovers there is a new bespoke play with period and contemporary costume and live music entitled Playing Beethoven. Among other notables are Some Other Mirror, performed by Laurence Owen in collaboration with award-winning theatre company, Chronic Insanity, which explores gender identity crisis, and Clara: Sex, Love and Classical Music which is billed as an imaginative re-telling of the complex 19th century piano genius, Clara Shumann, performed by Elena Mazzon.

The 90-seat Pianodrome Amphitheatre, which will be around 10m in diameter, was commissioned to help raise awareness of plans to create a National Centre of Music and a new home for St Mary's Music School in Edinburgh at the historic site.

An anonymous donor helped pay for the commission which was created in 2017 by musicians Tim Vincent-Smith and Matthew Wright.

Tim Vincent-Smith and Matthew Wright Pic: Elliot Caunce

In January it emerged that Hidden Door would be transforming the A-listed former Royal High building, which has been largely empty since the school's relocation in 1968 amid failed attempts to breathe new life into it as an arts hub.

Awarded funds from Creative Scotland, the amphitheatre will host musical, creative and performance artists throughout August. There will also be The Pianodrome Lounge - a space to relax and enjoy the festival atmosphere, with drinks provided by Bellfield Brewery and low cost, zero-waste food and hot drinks from Cyrenians.

Returning after critical acclaim at the 2018 Edinburgh Festival Fringe Pianodrome will span a spread of genres and styles and encompasses music, theatre, dance and more from across the spectrum, with something for everyone to enjoy.

Co-director, Tim Vincent-Smith said: “What a fabulous opportunity to bring together St Mary’s Music and their many talented partners and ours this summer in creating wonderful sounds and sights which we hope may resonate with audiences of all kinds at this iconic location in the coming National Centre for Music well into the future.”

Pianodrome directors Tim Vincent-Smith and Matt Wright perform at the Festival Fringe 2019. Pic: Chris Scott

Matt Wright added: “At this bizarre and unsettling time there is an urgent need to reconnect with one another, to affirm our presence in the material world, and to collaborate in creating spaces where we can co-exist. As we reconfigure pianos, once the hearth of our collective musical culture, so we hope to find new connections and to encourage playfulness.”

For the full programme and more information on full activity throughout the Pianodrome ‘Resonancy’ from 1 July - 11 September, visit https://www.pianodrome.org

The Pianodrome company's venues have been a popular fixture at festivals and venues in Edinburgh in recent years. Picture: Chris Scott
Photographer Chris Scott captured this image of the Pianodrome at Leith Theatre
The Hebrides Ensemble perform in the original ‘Grand Piano Resonancy' in Leith Theatre in November 2019. Pic: Chris Scott