Launch Concert Success

Launch Concert Success

Thank you to everyone who came to support us at our 2018 Launch Concert in April. A great evening was had by all and it was wonderful to see so many people in attendance. We had our largest audience yet for a launch event with the Nave of Southwell Minster packed with Festival supporters.

I’d like to take this opportunity to say thank you to the musicians who performed at the launch; Jamie Campbell, Simon Cox and Ruth Nelson. A special thank you goes to the Minster’s very own Director of Music, Paul Provost, who stepped in at short notice as our pianist for the evening. Paul will be opening this year’s Festival with an Organ Recital on Wednesday 22nd August.

We were also delighted to welcome Lord-Lieutenant of Nottinghamshire, Sir John Peace. Sir John has very kindly agreed to become joint Festival Sponsor with long time Festival supporter, Geoffrey Bond. We are immensely grateful to them both not only for their support as sponsors but also for their endorsement of the Festival.

Public Booking 2018 – Monday 4th June

A little reminder that public booking for the Festival beings on Monday 4th June. You can view the full programme of events and all booking details on our website here.

Stay in touch!

Many of you will already be aware of new data protection laws coming into effect on 25th May (known as GDPR). If you would like to stay on this mailing list – and we really hope that you do – we will need you to confirm your consent. We will send out a short message this coming Monday to facilitate this.

I look forward to seeing you in August!


2018 Festival Launch – Friday 13th April, 7.30pm

It’s that time of year again! We’ve one week to go until the 2018 Festival Launch. Our team has been beavering away for the last few months and we are excited to reveal our plans to you next Friday at Southwell Minster.

In addition to announcing the programme and presenting a free concert, the Launch is a great opportunity for our Festival Community to get together. We are immensely grateful to the army of volunteers who help us to run the Festival in August and the Launch is the perfect time for you to find out how you can get involved this summer.

I’m delighted that we will be joined on Friday by a number of Festival Artists, all of whom are regular visitors to the Festival.

Simon Cox – Trumpet

Simon has been Principal Trumpet for the Festival since 2015. He is also Principal Trumpet of the Aurora Orchestra and joint Artistic Director of one of the world’s leading Brass ensembles, Septura Brass Septet.


Ruth Nelson – Viola

Based in London, Ruth is a busy freelancer appearing with both modern and period instrument orchestras. As well as being an integral member of the Festival Sinfonia Viola section and one of our Chamber Soloists, Ruth is the mastermind behind our Family Concerts.


Libby Burgess – Piano

Libby needs little introduction to our audience. Something of a musical polymath, Libby has appeared at Southwell in previous years as pianist, organist, chorus master and lecturer! As I write, Libby is knee deep in her role as Artistic Director of the New Paths Festival in Beverley. At the Launch, Libby will be appearing for us with just one of her hats on as our pianist for the evening.

Both Jamie Campbell and I will be sticking our musical oars in as well, so we can promise a veritable feast of musical colour on Friday! We look forward to welcoming as many of you as possible to the Minster.

With best wishes,


Looking Forward to our Fifth Annual Festival

Happy New Year!  We hope 2018 brings you health and happiness and much pleasurable enjoyment of either making or listening to music – not least at the 2018 Southwell Music Festival.

It is hard to comprehend that this year’s festival will be our fifth but there it is – in the era of ‘fake news’ this is one fact that stubbornly refuses to be denied.  Nor is there any denying the progress made since 2014 to establish a distinctive classical music event with a national reputation. This has been achieved with the help of so many wonderful people – our ensemble of brilliant singers and players, many of whom return year after year, and our wonderful  supporters both locally and further afield including generous sponsors of events and performances, Friends, hosts, volunteers and more.  And not forgetting the ever-supportive staff at our venues, most especially at Southwell Minster.

So we look forward to meeting between Wednesday 22nd and Monday 27th August – this year a six day festival to keep pace with public demand.  Nevertheless please be assured it will remain possible to hear every single programme if that is your heart’s desire.

We will announce the full programme for the 2018 Festival at a free concert in the Minster on Friday 13th April. However, in case you missed it, we hope you will be as excited as we are by the news that our central choral and orchestral concert in the Minster on Saturday 25th August will feature Nottingham’s BBC Young Musician winner Sheku Kanneh-Mason performing Elgar’s Cello Concerto.

That concert will also include Sir Michael Tippett’s oratorio A Child of our Time which was written in response to events associated with the rise of Nazism: it is a work which I have wanted to introduce to our public ever since we started the Festival – a passionate cry for tolerance of the stranger which points us towards our common humanity and has become more urgently relevant with every passing year.

It was good to see so many people at our first Christmas concert with the Festival Voices in Southwell Minster on 22nd December, and good to receive such a favourable reaction both from the public and from William Ruff writing in the Nottingham Post who considered that “solo and ensemble singing doesn’t get any better than this.”

We look forward to seeing you in August, if not in April.

Christmas Music for Southwell and Nottingham

Christmas Music for Southwell and Nottingham
Southwell Music Festival Artistic Director Marcus Farnsworth writes:

“I’m very pleased to be writing with this round-up of concerts over the next fortnight. Nottinghamshire audiences are in for a treat!

A Christmas Celebration – Friday 22nd December  

We hope that you are able to join us for our upcoming Christmas concert at 7.30pm on Friday 22nd December at Southwell Minster. The superb Southwell Festival Voices and actor David Oakes will present a special sequence of words and music for the Christmas Season.

I am particularly looking forward to performing this programme in the unique atmosphere of the Minster. We hope that this will serve as an excellent start to your Christmas weekend and also as something of an appetiser for the Minster’s own Carol Services on 23rd and 24th  December.

Tickets (£20, £15, £10) are available online here, at the Cathedral Shop, Southwell or from the Royal Concert Hall, Nottingham (0115 989 5555).

Handel and Bach in Southwell and Nottingham

I will also be in Southwell Minster on 14th December, this time with my other hat on as a soloist in Handel’s Messiah. The Minster Chorale conducted by Simon Hogan present their now annual performance of this ever popular work. Tickets are available from the Cathedral Shop here.

For those of you who just can’t get enough baroque music, this is your week! The excellent early music specialists Solomon’s Knot are making their Nottingham debut on Saturday 16th December at St Mary’s in the Lacemarket, Nottingham. They will present Bach’s final choral masterpiece, the epic Mass in B Minor. Regular Festival goers will recognise a number of Festival Artists in this group… including our very own Associate Artistic Director, Jamie Campbell! Tickets available on the door and from Lakeside Arts here.

with best wishes

A Christmas Celebration, 22 December 2017

A Christmas Celebration – 22nd December 2017 – Southwell Minster

We are now less than a month away from our first Festival Christmas Concert. I am delighted to present our superb professional choir, Southwell Festival Voices, celebrating the very best of Christmas choral music in the glorious setting of Southwell Minster.

The programme is a celebration of Christmas through the ages in words and music: the music ranging from the mediaeval Hildegard von Bingen to Irving Berlin – including traditional carols alongside modern classics by composers such as Eric Whitacre and Jonathan Dove.

It is a long-held ambition of mine to present a programme of this kind in the beautiful setting of Southwell Minster. Its unique acoustic properties are a joy, both for the performer and when thinking about the wide range of repertoire that can be performed there.

The seasonal readings in poetry and prose are led by leading TV, film and stage actor, David Oakes. David is perhaps best known for his portrayal of Prince Ernest in ITV’s hit drama, Victoria. We were contemporaries during our undergraduate degrees at the University of Manchester, and we once put together a choral Christmas programme with the University Chamber Choir! I look forward to welcoming him to Southwell for what will surely be a very special concert.

Tickets (£20, £15, £10) are available online, at the Cathedral Shop, Southwell or from the Royal Concert Hall, Nottingham (0115 989 5555).

I look forward to sharing this potpourri of wonderful music and great seasonal readings with you on 22 December. It will get your pre-Christmas weekend underway in style.


Welcome to the Sixteen

Dear Festival Supporters,

The Sixteen, who return to Southwell Minster on Thursday 21st September at 7.30pm, are one of the world’s most famous vocal ensembles: under Harry Christophers they have established a following around the world for the quality of their choral sound and the range of their repertoire.

At Southwell Music Festival we are proud to have a special relationship with The Sixteen through their Founder and Conductor Harry Christophers who we are delighted to have as one of our Patrons.  Harry has long shared our view that Southwell Minster is a hidden gem.

I am very pleased that we were able to strengthen that relationship at this year’s Festival when we welcomed four young singers from Harry’s training ensemble Genesis Sixteen: they were among our 2017 Festival Apprentices who sang in the Festival Voices, took part in a number of concerts and received specialist coaching, including a session with visiting soprano soloist Sophie Bevan.

This month’s Southwell appearance by The Sixteen is part of their 2017 Choral Pilgrimage.  Entitled ‘The Olive Branch’, with the theme of conflict and atonement, the repertoire includes outstanding pieces by two giant composers of choral music – the 16th century Italian composer Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina and the 20th century French composer Francis Poulenc.

Harry Christophers says that for him the music of these composers “represents the very pinnacle of sacred music.  Palestrina is the master craftsman while Poulenc’s music always bears a human face and he felt he put his best and most authentic side into his choral writing.”

You can find out more in a behind-the-scenes trailer which includes interviews with Harry Christophers and some of the singers and is available here.

This promises to be another memorable evening of choral music at Southwell Minster and we very much hope you can be there.  Tickets are available from the National Centre for Early Music on 01904 651485 or at If you are not in reach of Southwell do try to catch the Choral Pilgrimage elsewhere: you will find the full itinerary here.


That Went Well!

To judge by audience reaction, the 2017 Festival which closed on Bank Holiday Monday 28th August surpassed its predecessors in the quality of programming and performances.  This is remarkable in view of the outstanding quality of previous Festivals.

Music critic William Ruff, writing enthusiastically about the Festival in the Nottingham Post, summed up what we are trying to achieve:

“The Southwell Festival reaches out to musicians and audience alike, embracing them all in the warmest of welcomes.  There really is something for everyone: music new and old, music for small children and for experts, music for singers and for instrumentalists, for large groups and small ensembles.  Even free music for picnickers.”

You can read Mr Ruff’s review in full here and I hope you will.

This year’s Festival also attracted record numbers of attendees: there were 27% more ‘bums on seats’ this year compared to last.  The estimated number of attendees across all festival concerts – both paid for and free – was in excess of 5,000.  In addition there were four well-attended services in the Minster.

The figure does not represent the number of individuals who came since most people attended more than one event; however the significant increase over previous years clearly indicates that more people are coming to the Festival and are choosing to attend more events.

I’m very grateful to everyone who played a part in making this year’s Festival the best yet.  It is an extraordinary community effort and the organisers recognise that we could not succeed without that support from far and wide.  Thank you to our wonderful musicians and to all who have so generously provided practical and financial support.

Now we look forward to next year but before that we also prepare to welcome everyone to a special Christmas concert on Friday 22nd December featuring the outstanding Southwell Festival Voices and distinguished actor David Oakes.  A Christmas Celebration will be a potpourri of sacred and secular words and music for Christmas through the ages.  Tickets are already on sale online here, or by phoning 0115 989 5555 or visiting the Royal Concert Hall, Nottingham or the Southwell Cathedral Shop.

Incredibly next year will already be our fifth festival and so we aim to make it even more special. It will run over six days from Wednesday 22nd to Monday 27th August and there is one major highlight we can already announce: at the main Saturday night concert in the Minster on 25th August we will present Sir Michael Tippett’s moving oratorio A Child of our Time preceded by a performance of Elgar’s Cello Concerto in which the soloist will be the wonderful Sheku Kanneh-Mason.

The full programme for the 2018 Festival will be announced in the Minster on Friday 13th April 2018. Tickets will go on sale to Festival Friends from Monday 14th May and general public booking will open on Monday 4th June.

To sum up and provide further encouragement here’s a short video message I recorded as the 2017 Festival was drawing to a close.

We look forward to your company.


2017 Performer Profiles: Lonneke van Straalen

No.7 – Lonneke van Straalen

Associate Artistic Director Jamie Campbell introduces some of the outstanding performers taking part in the 2017 Southwell Music Festival.

“We are thrilled to be welcoming violinist Lonneke van Straalen to Southwell Music Festival for the first time.

1) Who are you, where are you based, and what work do you do?

My name is Lonneke and I play the violin and I am from Holland. I live in Amsterdam with my husband and two kids. I have a position in the Netherlands Chamber Orchestra and, in addition, I play in the Aurora Orchestra in London. Also, this summer I set up a brand new ensemble in Holland called ‘Pynarello’. In Amsterdam I’m one of the founders of ‘Splendor’; a concerthall, meeting place, a club, a workspace, a musical laboratory and much, much more! Besides playing concerts I’m also involved in Holland with a big project for refugee children to give them the chance to learn the Dutch language in a musical way. Around 10,000 children have already taken part in the project.

2) What music are you most looking forward to performing in Southwell this year?

The best thing about a music festival is that you have to play a lot of music! It gives me such a good feeling to dive into all those notes. To make music all day, with people I really like, feels like a birthday party or gives me the feeling when St Nicholas is arriving in Holland (when I was young of course!)
The whole SMF programme is great but I never played Faure quintet before, so I’m excited to get to know this piece and perform it.

3) What other things have you got coming up that are interesting in the next few months?

When I come back I’ll play my second project with my new ensemble ‘Pynarello’ in Amsterdam. We had an amazing launch concert in the summer so I cannot wait to see all the musicians again and give our next concert. After that I’ll travel to London to play the Beethoven’s ‘Pastoral’ Symphony with the Aurora Orchestra. This was the first piece I ever played with Aurora at a Prom, without sheet music. It was extremely exciting!! At this moment I’m curious how much of it remains in my brain! When I will be back from Aurora I’ll play ‘Shorelines’, a musical theatre piece, in Glasgow with a Dutch string quartet.”

2017 Performer Profiles: Suzie Thorn

No.6 – Suzie Thorn

Associate Artistic Director Jamie Campbell introduces some of the outstanding performers taking part in the 2017 Southwell Music Festival.

“We are thrilled to be welcoming oboist Suzie Thorn to Southwell Music Festival for the first time.

1) Who are you, where are you based, and what work do you do?

Hello, I’m Suzie Thorn – I play the Oboe and Cor Anglais.

I was born in Birmingham but we moved to Essex when I was just a few months old. I studied at the Royal College of Music and at the Royal Academy of Music in London. I have played with many of the major Symphony and Opera orchestras in the UK and have really enjoyed exploring the very varied “popular music” repertoire with the John Wilson Orchestra and the BBC Concert Orchestra. Most of my time is now taken up playing principal oboe with the RTÉ Concert Orchestra in Dublin.

Chamber music has always been a major part of my life and I do try to meet up with my sisters, Becky and Tammy, to play wind trios (we perform as ‘The Rose Trio’) whenever we can.

2) What music are you most looking forward to performing in Southwell this year?

Although I’ve really enjoyed playing, performing and recording many of Poulenc’s chamber works I have never played the ‘Le Bal Masqué’ (for Baritone and chamber ensemble). Poulenc is one of my favourite composers so this will be a highlight.

3) What other things have you got coming up that are interesting in the next few months?

I have a busy schedule of concerts and recordings with the RTÉ Concert Orchestra – the music is always incredibly varied. Although most of the concerts are in Dublin we do occasionally travel to other venues around Ireland. Later this year though we are off to China! We will be giving concerts in Nanjing, Suzhou, Shanghai, Shenyang and Beijing.”

2017 Performer Profiles: Marta Fontanals-Simmons

No.5 – Marta Fontanals-Simmons

Associate Artistic Director Jamie Campbell introduces some of the outstanding performers taking part in the 2017 Southwell Music Festival.

“We are thrilled to be welcoming Mezzo-Soprano Marta Fontanals-Simmons to Southwell Music Festival for the first time.

1) Who are you, where are you based, and what work do you do

I am a mezzo soprano, from Somerset originally with English and Spanish roots (hence the long name!). I went to the University of Birmingham to study Music and then the Guildhall School of Music and Drama for postgraduate vocal training and opera training. I now live with my fiancé in St Leonards-on-Sea. This summer I have performed the completely contrasting roles of Cherubino with Garsington Opera and Cenerentola with Diva Opera, touring the UK and France.

2) What music are you most looking forward to performing in Southwell this year?

I have worked with Marcus and Alison many times and had the pleasure of performing Handel Messiah at Southwell in December. It is a magical place and I am delighted to be part of the Festival this year and experience the town in the summer. I am really looking forward to performing Zwei Gesänge by Brahms. I can’t wait to work with Libby Burgess and Lena Eckels on these stunning songs.

3) What other things have you got coming up that are interesting in the next few months?

After Southwell, I will be taking part in the Wigmore Song Competition with Lana Bode, then during the Autumn I will be giving recitals in London, Paris and around the UK and in January I head to Teatro Real Madrid for six weeks to perform Jennie Hildebrand in Street Scene by Kurt Weill.”