Cantatas, Coffee and Cakes at Lammermuir

The Lammermuir Festival is serving up afternoon tea with a twist!

Musical festivals would all be all the same if there wasn’t a bit of imagination involved. This could be through the type of music programmed, the venues used or the variety of performers engaged. But James Waters and Hugh MacDonald, artistic directors of the Lammermuir Festival, have come up with a novel concept, one of which Marie Antoinette would be proud – “Let them eat cake!”

The concept isn’t just a case of ordering a tray-bake from a local Women’s Guild and dishing the content out to hungry concert-goers, however. This is a combination of food and music that will take a lot of beating as well as a lot of eating!

German-born Falko Burkert is a Konditormeister, a master baker in other words, based in Gullane but with two additional outlets in Cockenzie House and Bruntsfield, Edinburgh.

18th-century recreations

He has been commissioned to create pastries that reflect the era in which the music was composed. In this case with the Festival’s coffee cantatas, it will be the music of Bach from his Leipzig days so Falko will have to replicate the cakes eaten at that time. For him it’s the perfect combination!

“Eating and listening to music is the way to do it,” he says. “Most music was written to accompany food or the other way round. In a way I’m combining my profession with my hobby. Apart from baking, music is my world. I collect classical recordings going back to 1905, so I was delighted when I was asked to take part in this experiment.”

However, recreating historic cakes isn’t as easy as one would think, even for a baker of Falko’s skill. “What we have to remember is that many ingredients used in the old days are now on the ‘no go’ list,” he explains. “They are actually illegal because they might be poisonous or even lead to an addiction.

“The Leipziger Lerchen” (Leipzig Larks) used to use real larks, so we won’t be going down that road! The challenge is to find something that tastes the same but has no side effects. Of course there is no-one still alive – we’re talking about the 18th century – to judge!

“We shouldn’t forget that here was no refrigeration in these days, so they made baking products designed to last. For our taste buds they would be over-sweet and a bit hard and dry. I’ve got to find a way that isn’t too hard but which still gives the sensation of how a cake tasted at that time.”

The perfect accompaniment

The man behind the music for this culinary concert is John Butt who will be leading his Dunedin Consort. He was inspired by Zimmerman’s Coffee House where Bach composed and conducted music every Friday night.

It wasn’t just music that the patrons enjoyed, but the chance to exchange ideas and philosophies in a “caffeine-fuelled debate”!

It is hoped that this ambiance will be recreated, and any debate will consist of conversations between Butt and historian Nicholas Phillipson, interspersed with music by Bach.

Even though this year’s festival hasn’t yet got underway, Falko is already looking forward to next year’s where his culinary skills will once again be in demand.

“They’ll be doing a series of morning concerts with coffee and Haydn piano sonatas – with a really nice Falko cake,” he says. “I’m looking forward to being part of the festival again.”