Preview: The Enchanted Forest, Perthshire

© Angus Forbes
The Enchanted Forest 2016

It is the enchanting spectacle in the heart of a Perthshire forest that last year fought off the likes of the Magical Lantern Festival in London and the Diwali Festival of Lights to be crowned Britain’s best cultural event at the UK Event Awards.

Now the popular sound and light show – the Enchanted Forest – is back.

The Perthshire extravaganza, which last year celebrated its 15th anniversary with a record turnout of 70,000 visitors, has grown from a three-night run – attracting some 1,500 visitors – to an event which attracts people and media attention from across the globe.

Each October the show turns Pitlochry’s Faskally Wood into another-worldly experience, boosting the local economy by more than £2 million.

Proceeds also help fund community groups and projects.

Last year’s show, Shimmer, sold out six days after opening and more than 90% of visitors later cited the Enchanted Forest as their main reason for visiting the Pitlochry area.

© Angus Forbes
The Enchanted Forest 2016

This year the theme is ‘Oir an Uisge’  – translated from Gaelic as “Edge of the Water” –  and again a warm welcome is promised at this woodland wonderland that dazzles and delights.

The dazzling displays of shimmering multi-coloured lights are a huge part of the show which sees visitors followed a marked path through the woodland.

But so is the music that complements it and the composers recently gave a sneak peak behind the making of this year’s show.

Creative producer Zoe Squair said the stripping of rhododendrons from the site by the Forestry Commission had allowed the layout to get closer to the “edge of the water” as this year’s theme suggests.
“Audience members who have been before will very much notice the difference,” added Zoe, who said a recent fire on the other side of the forest had no impact.

RJ McConnell and Jon Beales, who create an original music score for the annual event, worked with producer Ben Seal at his Fife studio for what may be their most challenging and impressive sound backdrop yet.

In keeping with the Gaelic name of the show, the composers have brought shades of Scottish folk to this year’s music.

They developed a score that brings together traditional instruments with orchestral instruments, synthesizers and digital effects.

© Angus Forbes
The Enchanted Forest 2016

The pair brought in more live musicians than ever before, including fiddler Pete Clark, who is director of the annual Niel Gow Festival and lives close to Faskally,  and Edinburgh-based musician/actor John Sampson on recorder, trumpet and crumhorn.

RJ McConnell said: “This year was definitely more of a challenge for Jon and me, but in a good way “We’ve incorporated elements of Scottish folk music whilst keeping the score contemporary and strongly hinting at the ‘edge of the water’ theme of Oir an Uisge.

“The score brings together traditional instruments such as whistles, recorders and crumhorn with our orchestral instruments – strings, percussion, harp and brass.

“We also used many electronic voices from various synthesizers and digital effects. So the score has quite a mixture of sounds. We think we have created something that will appeal to all ages.”

Ticket sales for this year’s Enchanted Forest have smashed through the 50,000 mark, making ‘Oir an Uisge’ the fastest selling show in the event’s 16-year history.

Event organisers, The Enchanted Forest Community Trust, released a record 72,000 tickets and fully expect that, for the first year, the event will sell out completely before the opening night.

© Angus Forbes
The Enchanted Forest 2016

This year the Trust has launched the Voice of The Enchanted Forest competition, calling for children aged between five and 12 to audition to record a script to be used during the month-long event.

‘Oir an Uisge’ opens to the public on Thursday September 28 with proceeds from that night benefiting three charities: Tayside Mountain Rescue, Alzheimer Scotland and Giraffe.

*The Enchanted Forest, Faskally Wood, Pitlochry, September 28 to October 29

© Angus Forbes
The Enchanted Forest 20016