August is Festival time in Edinburgh, with the streets, theatres, concert halls and galleries alive with colour and sound. James MacMillan, one of today’s most successful composers, studied music at the University of Edinburgh and his first full-length opera, Ines de Castro, premiered at the 1996 Edinburgh Festival by Scottish Opera. As a fellow Edinburgh University music graduate who has sung some of MacMillan’s choral music, I’ve always been fascinated by this intriguing portrait. I particularly like the feeling it gives of seeing through the composer’s face into his world.
Calum Colvin was commissioned by the Scottish National Portrait Gallery to create the portrait and visited MacMillan in his Glasgow home to see where and how he worked. To make this photographic work he built a set in his Edinburgh studio which included references to aspects of MacMillan’s work (such as the opera Ines de Castro) and character, and then painted images onto the three-dimensional objects.
This month the Royal Society of Edinburgh is awarding MacMillan with a Royal Medal for his outstanding contribution to music.