Great Musical Conversation

Composer Charlotte Bray

Listening to chamber music is like eavesdropping on a musical conversation, and music for a trio of performers is musical conversation at its most intimate.

At this year’s Festival, Jamie Campbell and I are excited to present a programme of trios in a wide variety of combinations: it reveals how composers from the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries have risen to the challenge of trio writing and in the process created some of their most memorable music.  We hope you will join us on this journey of musical discovery and enjoy the ride.

We include lyrical works by Brahms – his rarely-performed Two Songs for Alto, Viola and Piano and his popular Trio for Violin, Horn and Piano – Shostakovich’s dramatic Piano Trio No. 2, and two works by one of Britain’s great young composers, Charlotte Bray.

Charlotte is emerging as a distinctive and outstanding composer of her generation.  Still only 35, she has written for some of the world’s leading musicians, orchestras and ensembles. The main influences on her music are the baroque and renaissance eras and particularly Bach.  Brahms and Shostakovich, with whom she shares the Festival programme, are also important to her.

The two piano trios by Charlotte are inspired by Shakespeare plays: That Crazed Smile is based on A Midsummer Night’s Dream and its interplay of dreams and reality; the starting point for Those Secret Eyes is Macbeth and explores dark and sinister plotting and deceit.

The programme not only showcases highly individual repertoire but also a number of our very special Festival Chamber Soloists including mezzo-soprano Marta Fontanals-Simmons, violinist Sara
Wolstenholme, violist Lena Eckels, cellist Nathaniel Boyd and hornist James Pillai.  And not forgetting an embarrassment of amazing pianists – James Baillieu, Libby Burgess and James Cheung.

The Art of the Trio can be enjoyed on Thursday 24th and Friday 25th August, from 7.00-9.00pm.  The concerts take place in the State Chamber – the ideal setting for such intimate music making, as was acknowledged by The Sunday Times Chief Classical Music Critic Hugh Canning who said it was “perfect for chamber music and song”.

Tickets can booked online here, by calling 0115 989 5555, or by visiting the Southwell Cathedral shop.

Six weeks to go…

There are only six weeks until the start of the 2017 Southwell Music Festival (24-28 August).

This will be our fourth Festival and I’m pleased that the event appears to be as popular as ever.  Some concerts have already sold out and only a few seats remain available for most concerts.  To those who have already made their commitments may I say thank you for your support.  If you have yet to decide what to attend, may I suggest that now might be a good time to do so.  Tickets can booked online here, by calling 0115 989 5555, or by visiting the Southwell Cathedral shop.

I’d like to highlight one particular programme of which Associate Artistic Director Jamie Campbell and I are particularly proud.  Our exploration of the musical possibilities of the spaces at Southwell Minster is an ongoing project and the Strings in the Quire programme on Thursday 24th and Friday 25th August at 8.15-9.15pm is the latest example of this.

Last year’s unforgettable performance of Strauss’s Metamorphosen revealed the potential of the Minster’s 13th century Quire as an ideal space and acoustic in which to present the Festival’s outstanding body of string players.

So this year we have included a programme comprising three highly attractive works for string orchestra from the beginning, middle and end of the 20th century.  These will be contrasted with brief but arresting contributions from the Festival’s brilliant brass players.

Arvo Pärt’s haunting Cantus in Memory of Benjamin Britten expresses his admiration for Britten, whose song cycle Les Illuminations announced the arrival of a genius: this ravishing work, setting poems by Arthur Rimbaud, was written when Britten was still in his 20s. It will be sung by the soprano Alison Rose.

The concert ends with Vaughan Williams’ radiant and revolutionary Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis which was conceived with a cathedral acoustic in mind – in this case Gloucester Cathedral where it was premiered at the 1910 Three Choirs Festival.

During the next few weeks, as part of the countdown to the 2017 Festival and to whet your appetite for what is to come, we are raiding our archive of recordings from last year’s Festival.  Today I’d like to share an extract from Elgar’s The Dream of Gerontiusthe Demon’s Chorus – which illustrates the commitment and quality of our outstanding ensemble of singers and players.

We look forward to seeing you in August.

Marcus

southwell music festival

A Gift from the Festival – Strauss’ Metamorphosen

Public booking is now open for the 2017 Festival (24-28 August). To mark the occasion we have a special video release from last year’s Festival – an entire performance of Strauss’ Metamorphosen for 23 solo strings.

This performance was recorded live in the Quire of Southwell Minster on 26th August 2016. The Southwell Festival Chamber Soloists are directed from the violin by the Festival’s Associate Artistic Director, Jamie Campbell.

PUBLIC BOOKING NOW OPEN

Tickets will be available to the general public from today – either online at www.southwellmusicfestival.com/onlinebooking, by calling 0115 989 5555 or by visiting the Cathedral Shop in Southwell.

Ticket sales during the Friends priority booking period have been very strong and therefore we advise early booking to avoid disappointment.

Welcome to Paul Provost

southwell music festivalThe Southwell Music Festival is inextricably linked to the musical life of Southwell Minster.  I would not be pursuing a career as a musician without the grounding I received in Southwell; the recently retired Rector Chori, Paul Hale, was one of the first to encourage the idea of the Festival; most members of our organising committee, as well as many supporters and volunteers, are involved with the Minster and its music in one way or another; and I am delighted that the Minster’s musicians make an important contribution to each Festival programme.

So the arrival of a new Rector Chori (Southwell’s uniquely fancy name for the Director of Music) is an important moment – both for the musical life of the Minster itself and for all of us who love the place and enjoy what happens there.

Paul Provost’s appointment was announced in January but this weekend is his first in charge following his formal admission to the Minster’s Music Foundation at Evensong on Saturday 29th April.

I am delighted that Paul shares our vision for the Festival as he expressed so clearly in a recent interview for Tympanum, our Festival Friends’ newsletter:

“It would be so easy for a festival like this to centre only on choral music, so it’s great that there’s so much more than that, even in such a short space of time.  I also think it’s important that it’s not a cathedral festival: it belongs to the town, and serves to foster relationships between cathedral, community and visitors to the town. The services are an intrinsic part of the Festival, which add another dimension, and allow people to see what the daily life of the Minster is all about.”

On behalf of everyone connected with the Festival I would like to give Paul, his wife Ruth and their baby daughter Martha the warmest possible welcome to Southwell.  We look forward to making music with them for many years to come.

Marcus

PS Paul and Ruth will both be performing at this year’s Festival.  Public booking opens on 15th May but it is still possible to join the Friends to take advantage of Silver and Bronze priority. To join the Friends please go here.

southwell music festival

2017 Festival Programme

southwell music festival

Seventy of the best professional singers and players of the younger generation will be in Southwell during the August Bank Holiday weekend to take part in the fourth annual Southwell Music Festival (24-28 August).

The centrepiece of the five day programme will be an all-Mozart concert (26 August, 7.30pm) featuring multi-award-winning pianist James Baillieu performing piano concerto No. 21 C major K467, and a performance of the Great Mass in C minor K427 in which the soloists will be the critically-acclaimed soprano Sophie Bevan, a regular at the Royal Opera House and English National Opera, and mezzo-soprano Rachel Kelly, a recent graduate of ROH’s Jette Parker Young Artists Scheme.

The professional choir and orchestra will be conducted by the Festival’s Founder and Artistic Director Marcus Farnsworth with the orchestra led by Associate Artistic Director Jamie Campbell.

Marcus Farnsworth announced the 2017 programme at a free preview concert in Southwell Minster on 31 March and said: “I am delighted that once again we have been able to attract some of the most exciting performers from across the UK and Europe.  Members of this remarkable ensemble take part in all the main concerts and give the Festival its special character.  The skill and enthusiasm of these amazing colleagues, many of whom have been with us on several occasions, are among the main reasons that the Festival’s reputation has grown so quickly since the inaugural event in 2014.

“The quality and variety of our performing spaces is another important ingredient in the Festival’s success and the Minster’s Quire has the perfect acoustic for our wonderful body of string players who will give their own string orchestra concert including Vaughan Williams’ Variations on a Theme of Thomas Tallis and Britten’s Les Illuminations with soprano soloist Alison Rose.

“Another key feature of the Festival is to support the development of up-and-coming local musicians so we are thrilled that the 2017 programme will include a recital by the Nottingham cellist and BBC Young Musician 2016 winner Sheku Kanneh-Mason.

“This year’s Festival has a strong French theme with a whole programme of chamber music, a late night performance of Poulenc’s choral tour de force Figure Humaine, and a Family Concert featuring his setting of Babar the Elephant, as well as an organ recital by Matthew Martin with a strong Gallic theme.

“The contemplative atmosphere of the Minster late at night provides the setting for our first concert of baroque music – a rare performance of Buxtehude’s masterpiece Membra Jesu Nostri.

“We have once again crammed as much as we can into five days and, with several repeated concerts, it is still possible for the most dedicated music lover to hear every note.  Also we are keen that the Festival should be accessible to all: of the 28 events, half are free.”

“We are most grateful to our many supporters without whom the Festival could not take place: our sponsors, led once again by our 2017 Festival Sponsor Geoffrey Bond; our Festival Friends; our donors and volunteers; and Southwell Cathedral for permission to present the event.”

Full programme details can be found here.  Public booking, following priority for Festival Friends, opens on 15 May 2017: tickets can be booked online here or by phone on 0115 989 5555.

Free Concert to launch 2017 Festival

Image: Kaupo Kikkas

A free concert to announce the programme for the 2017 Southwell Music Festival will take place at Southwell Minster on Friday 31st March at 7.30pm. Southwell’s classical music festival will return during the 2017 August Bank Holiday weekend – from 24-28 August.

At this special free concert there will be performances by leading musicians associated with the Festival and it will be our first opportunity to explain and introduce the 2017 programme.

Our Associate Artistic Director – violinist Jamie Campbell –  will be joined by pianist James Cheung and star bassoonist Amy Harman. Amy was appointed Principal Bassoon with one of London’s top orchestras – the Philharmonia – at the tender age of 23. She is currently Principal Bassoon of Aurora Orchestra, the Orchestra of English National Opera and the Sheffield based Ensemble 360.

Amy is a new star on the orchestral scene and it is a complete thrill to present her to our Festival audience.  Her presence as our Principal Bassoon at the Festival in August is indicative of the amazing quality of musicians who want to perform in Southwell.

Admission to the concert is free with a retiring collection in aid of the Festival.  It will be followed by refreshments in the Crossing.  The concert takes place by kind permission of the Dean and Chapter.

This concert will be a great introduction to the Festival. As part of our ongoing commitment to engaging with new audiences this is the perfect opportunity for you, our dedicated Festival followers, to do your bit. If you know of someone who would enjoy the live music that we offer at the Festival who is yet to experience it first hand, bring them along!

We look forward to sharing the delights of this year’s programme with you, as well as enjoying some beautiful music!

southwell music festival

Happy New Year from Southwell

Happy New Year from Southwell

The Saturday night concert forms the centrepiece of the Festival and for many is the highlight of the week, set in the beautifully grand Nave of Southwell Minster.

The 2016 Festival saw Sir Edward Elgar’s The Dream of Gerontius performed at the Saturday Concert and we are delighted to release the recording of the Prelude for you today.

Chief Music Critic of The Sunday Times, Hugh Canning wrote of the concert:

The 39 professional choral singers made a huge sound to rival the big amateur forces Elgar envisaged, but effortlessly created a sense of intimacy in Southwell’s beautiful, far from grandiose Minster. There is a palpable sense of a community in this tiny market town, wanting to experience music at the highest level, and Farnsworth, a former chorister at the Minster, and his colleagues are providing it.

On Sunday 22nd January at 7.30pm three exceptionally talented young musicians from the Midlands – violinist Hing Tim Fung, cellist Katharine Ley, and pianist Annie McChrystal, who are all supported by AYM’s annual Awards Programme – will share a concert at Southwell Minster with leading Festival performers violinist Jamie Campbell (the Festival’s Associate Artistic Director), cellist Nathaniel Boyd and pianist Libby Burgess.  The Festival artists will perform the celebrated Mendelssohn Piano Trio in D Minor.

Tickets (£12) are available from the Southwell Cathedral Shop or from Guy Turner on 01636 816393 or by emailing guyscottturner@gmail.com. People aged 18 and under are admitted free.

To comment on our clips or on the Festival in general please email or join the conversation on Twitter.

The 2017 Festival takes place from 24-28 August.

southwell music festival

A Christmas Present from Southwell Music Festival

Merry Christmas from Southwell

The Late Night Choral Concert has become a firm favourite for performers and audience alike, taking place in the beautiful stillness of the Minster Quire at 10pm.

For Christmas this year, we are publishing a clip from the 2016 concert: ‘Modern Meets Mediaeval’ –  St Godric’s Hymn from Britten’s Sacred and Profane – Eight Medieval Lyrics. Performed by the Festival Voices and conducted by Artistic Director Marcus Farnsworth.

Keep an eye out in January for more musical highlights from the 2016 Festival!

To comment on our clips or on the Festival in general please email or join the conversation on Twitter.

The 2017 Festival takes place from 24-28 August.

New Partnership Supports New Musicians

NEW PARTNERSHIP SUPPORTS YOUNG MUSICIANS

 

One of the founding principles of the Southwell Music Festival is to support and encourage the emergence of new performing talent.  An exciting new partnership with the enterprising charity Awards for Young Musicians (AYM) will enable us to extend that principle.

 

southwell musicOn Sunday 22nd January at 7.30pm three exceptionally talented young musicians from the Midlands – violinist Hing Tim Fung, cellist Katharine Ley, and pianist Annie McChrystal, who are all supported by AYM’s annual Awards Programme – will share a concert at Southwell Minster with leading Festival performers violinist Jamie Campbell (the Festival’s Associate Artistic Director), cellist Nathaniel Boyd and pianist Libby Burgess.  The Festival artists will perform the celebrated Mendelssohn Piano Trio in D Minor.

 

Tickets (£12) are available from the Southwell Cathedral Shop or from Guy Turner on 01636 816393 or by emailing guyscottturner@gmail.com . People aged 18 and under are admitted free.

 

During the day the young musicians will work with our Festival musicians on their contribution to the evening concert and this will include a public masterclass in the State Chamber (2-4pm) to which admission is free (no tickets required).   They will be coached on their solo pieces and also in ensemble playing (they will never have played together before) in music by Frank Bridge for piano trio.  Their solo repertoire will be by Beethoven, Mozart and Rachmaninov.

 

Artistic Director Marcus Farnsworth said: “This is a wonderful addition to our annual programme and I am very excited and proud that the Festival should be associated with the vital work of Awards for Young Musicians.”

 

Awards for Young Musicians believes that all musically talented young people should have the opportunity to develop their talent: AYM helps children and young people with exceptional potential from lower income backgrounds achieve their musical goals. Proceeds from the concert support AYM’s work in the Midlands.  Information on AYM is available here; the flyer for 22nd January can be downloaded here.

Best Festival Yet?

A message from the Artistic Director Marcus Farnsworth

 

Was last weekend’s Southwell Music Festival the best yet?  The first two festivals were very remarkable occasions but I have the feeling that our third was even better.

 

What made it so good was the range of music, the richness and vitality of the performances and the amazing level of community involvement.

 

There were larger audiences than ever – including more people attending from outside the Southwell area; record numbers of local people hosting visiting musicians; an increased number of volunteers and Festival Friends; and more people prepared to offer financial support through sponsorship of events or performers.

 

Among very many highlights one of the most exciting was the first family concert – Peter and the Wolf at the Minster School.  It was wonderful to see so many young families – including more than 100 children – at this new event which was enthusiastically received.  We are committed to developing the classical music audience of the future and this was a good start.

 

Many audience members have taken the trouble to send messages of appreciation and Jamie Campbell and I have received several heart-felt messages from our fellow musicians including the following which show how much the Festival means to them:

  • “I just wanted to thank the two of you again for this wonderful, intense and deeply fulfilling week at Southwell. The spirit of the festival has been absolutely unique and I am incredibly happy and thankful for being invited.”
  • “If I retired tomorrow some of my fondest memories would be from Southwell!”
  • “I think I can say with some certainty that I’ve heard (and been part of) the best Gerontius I will ever hear.  It was absolutely outstanding. It was lovely to be back, and the festival seems to have gone from strength to strength since I was part of it in year one.”
  • “Southwell Music Festival is rapidly becoming the highlight of my musical year, and I felt really privileged to be alongside such a high calibre of singers. Tackling the difficult repertoire of the Late Night Performance was certainly a highlight for me, but nothing comes close to the Angel’s Farewell in Gerontius – wow.”
  • “The festival is a wonderful thing and the town should be so proud of you, and of all the Minster has offered to young people over the generations.”
  • “You have a fabulous festival, a great programme (and printed programme), and it is run to the highest professional standards – welcoming, attentive, well-organised, helpful staff, and, wow, what venues!”
  • “It really was a special few days that didn’t seem like work at all! It was great making music with a vibrant bunch, in a great building and with such a good choir.”
  • “I had an absolutely fantastic time, and I marvelled at the professionalism, standard and community atmosphere you’ve created.”
  • “I had such a fulfilling and enjoyable week; the programme of music was exhilarating and the other musicians were a blast.”

 

The Sunday Times chief music critic Hugh Canning was with us for the third time – on this occasion making a special detour from the Edinburgh Festival to attend our Gerontius.  He has written:

 

“During the final weekend, I made a brief excursion to the Southwell Music Festival in Nottinghamshire, for their big event of the bank holiday weekend. Two years ago, they began with Haydn’s Creation. In 2015, it was Mendelssohn’s Elijah. This year, ever more ambitious, the festival’s artistic director Marcus Farnsworth’s choice fell on Elgar’s The Dream of Gerontius.

 

“The young baritone, who sang two performances of Schubert’s Schwanengesang earlier in the week, plies his second trade as a conductor of increasing mastery, assembling his choral and orchestral forces mainly from friends and confreres from his student days. The artistic results are remarkable. The 39 professional choral singers made a huge sound to rival the big amateur forces Elgar envisaged, but effortlessly created a sense of intimacy in Southwell’s beautiful, far from grandiose Minster. There is a palpable sense of a community in this tiny market town, wanting to experience music at the highest level, and Farnsworth, a former chorister at the Minster, and his colleagues are providing it.

 

“Casting the rising tenor David Butt Philip in the title role proved an inspirational choice. His performance suggested a voice of both Verdian and Wagnerian potential in Sanctus fortis and the climactic Take Me Away! He is far too young to be Elgar’s old man, but the inwardness of his singing of the more contemplative music was arresting. He will surely go far in the role. Anna Stéphany’s velvet-voiced Angel delivered the text with clarity and the consoling music with great beauty of tone. David Soar was the commanding Priest and Angel of the Agony. A splendid and moving Gerontius.”

 

He was not alone in this view. William Ruff, writing enthusiastically in the Nottingham Post, said: “Late August holiday plans for music-lovers have recently become much easier to make.  The only place to be is Southwell.”

 

In addition the Newark Advertiser celebrated the Festival with extensive coverage in words and pictures and in particular noted the Festival’s contribution to local tourism, and Robert Jenrick MP focused on the Festival in his column.

 

The 2017 Festival will take place from Thursday 24th to Monday 28th August and plans will be announced in the Spring.

 

May I thank the local community and our audiences for their enthusiastic support and our wonderful musicians for their untiring commitment.  Together they ensured that the 2016 Festival was an outstanding success.