Tommy Smith/ Maria Rud: ‘Luminescence’ at St Giles’

Tommy Smith/ Maria Rud: Luminescence
(St Giles’ Cathedral High St, Edinburgh. 17 August 2023. First Night of three. Photo-essay by Rob Adams (*)

Maria paints, Tommy plays…

Luminescence is a collaboration between the visual artist Maria Rud and saxophonist Tommy Smith that is running in the historic St Giles’ Cathedral in Edinburgh as part of the Edinburgh Fringe.  

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At the sound check

Maria Rud was born in Moscow. She grew up surrounded by music – her Ukrainian-born mother was a composer – and from an early age she discovered that music suggested images. “That’s the way I hear music,” she says, “through visual images rather than just the sound and the notes.”  

A knight appears…in the night…

Rud and Smith met at a reception in the National Museum of Scotland, a two-minute walk from St Giles’, and after conversing for a few minutes they agreed that they should work together at some point. They first collaborated when Smith, the artistic director of the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra, invited Rud to create images in response to the Orchestra’s dedications to saxophone pioneers including Albert Ayler and Ornette Coleman in their Where Rivers Meet concert series in May 2021. They subsequently premiered Luminescence in a single performance in St Giles’ last November.  

“A third partner for the performance.” The scale of St. Giles

Because it is completely improvised in the moment – Smith had no idea what he was going to play as St Giles’ fell into darkness on Thursday’s opening night – Luminescence is never the same twice. Rud says: “I see what I’m creating as a live “storyboard” in which music plays the role of a script, and in this case the script unfolds as Tommy and I converse through our respective media.”  

St Giles’ is the third partner in the performance, its huge east window on which Rud’s images are projected lending Luminescence its impressive scale. “It’s a magnificent setting and it gives us a very special feeling to be working in such an incredible space,” says Rud. “The acoustics are magical and being in this building with such fantastic architecture and such a long history – it celebrates its 900th anniversary in 2024 – you can really feel the atmosphere, and I think the audience will feel it, too.”  

Applause; the final tableau.

(*) Rob Adams is handling publicity for Luminescence. All pictures from his iPhone

LINK: There are two more nights of Luminescence at St Giles’, Edinburgh – BOOKINGS
Review of show – five stars – from Arts Reviews Edinburgh

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