Marcus talks to Nottingham Post about ‘summer’s classiest music festival’

Today the Nottingham Post have published an interview with our Artistic Director, Marcus Farnsworth, about the Southwell Music Festival, which Marcus set up six years ago. Marcus spoke with the editor of the Nottingham Post, Mike Sassi, who was able to experience the festival at first hand when he attended the popular Come & Sing event on the final day of this year’s festival.

Sunday Times Culture Review, 2019 Festival

We were pleased that the Chief Classical Music Critic of the Sunday Times, Hugh Canning was able to join us for this year’s Southwell Music Festival. He was able to see events over a couple of days, and drew the conclusion that Artistic Director Marcus Farnsworth’s achievement is to have delivered

a week of chamber, choral and orchestral music of remarkably high standards, considering that all the programmes are custom-made for Southwell, true festival events that can’t be experienced elsewhere.

In particular, Canning felt that the performance of Israel in Egypt was “hard to forget” and, on the innovative programming that characterised a number of the events at this year’s festival, he was notably impressed by the Strings in the Quire, saying:

“Even more experimental was Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings, linked with contrasting pieces including a movement from Shostakovich’s Second Quartet, an aria from a Rameau opera and REM’s I’ve Been High, arranged by the Australian Chamber Orchestra’s Richard Tognetti. It shouldn’t have worked, but the Tchaikovsky movements were so well played that it proved the festival highlight.”

Subscribers to the Times and Sunday Times can read the review in full here.

Record-Breaking Success

Audiences, performers and organisers have all expressed delight at the success of the 2019 Southwell Music Festival which took place over the August Bank Holiday.

This sixth annual festival, which was supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England, broke a number of records: around 3,900 tickets were sold in total; the value of ticket sales increased by 13%; more than 1,200 people attended the free Fringe concerts and £3,088 was raised via bucket collections to support the Southwell Live at Home Scheme. More than 70 local families hosted visiting musicians for the week.

For the first time a Festival Marquee was provided in the Education Garden adjoining the Archbishop’s Palace and proved to be a popular meeting place for audiences and performers.

Festival Founder and Artistic Director Marcus Farnsworth said:

“Southwell, the Minster and massively enthusiastic support from the local community make our Festival special – and indeed possible.

“What makes the Festival unique artistically is the ensemble of 100 of the best professional musicians who come from all over the UK and Europe and work their musical socks off for seven days to create world-class performances of choral, orchestral and chamber concerts.

“Our audiences love it – and they are growing in number; and so do the musicians who look forward to returning year after year.

“Every year we say that particular festival was the best yet – and there is no doubt that this was the case in 2019.

“The remark by Hugh Canning, Chief Classical Music Critic of The Sunday Times, that the Festival is ‘…a community event of an outstandingly high standard’ remains as true as ever and I’m incredibly grateful to everyone who helped make it so.”

London-based mezzo-soprano Judy Brown evidently spoke for many performers when she said on Twitter: “There aren’t enough superlatives to describe @Southwell_Music – it is an absolute phenomenon. It gets better and better every year, thanks to the tireless efforts of every single person on and off stage. It is truly a joy and my heart swells with pride that I get to be part of it.”

If you attended the 2019 Festival and would like to give feedback please visit to complete a short questionnaire.

The 2020 Festival will take place from Wednesday 26 to Monday 31 August.

Annual Southwell Music Festival ‘an absolute phenomenon’

Yesterday’s print edition of the Newark Advertiser carried a front and double page spread about the 2019 Southwell Music Festival. ‘Festival success!’ referred to the 36 events, National Lottery funding and the enthusiasm of audiences and performers alike, summed up in interview with returning mezzo-soprano Judy Brown, who said:

“There aren’t enough superlatives to describe the Southwell Music Festival ­— it is an absolute phenomenon. It gets better and better every year, thanks to the tireless efforts of every single person on and off stage. It is truly a joy and my heart swells with pride that I get to be part of it.

Read this and other reviews and articles about the Southwell Music Festival via our Press page. Next year’s Southwell Music Festival once again takes place over the bank holiday weekend, 26-31 August. Before then there is the chance to hear the Southwell Festival Voices in concert at the Minster for their now-annual Christmas Celebration concert on 20 December at 7.30pm.

Sometimes mystifying, always engrossing

The 2019 Southwell Music Festival. Photo: Dick Makin Imaging

William Ruff’s final concert review of the 2019 Southwell Music Festival was of our Sunday night chamber concert of American music: Sounds of the New World. Mr Ruff’s summed up his own experience with

As I was leaving the Minster I overheard comments such as: ‘Did you hear those lovely woodwind solos?’  It was that sort of concert: small-scale, subtle; sometimes mystifying, always engrossing.

You can read this and other reviews and articles concerning both this Southwell Music Festival and previous festivals via the Press page.

Southwell an August paradise for music-lovers

Artistic Director Marcus Farnsworth conducts the Come & Sing event on the final day of the 2019 Southwell Music Festival. Photo: Dick Makin Imaging

The Nottingham Post’s classical music critic William Ruff visited Southwell Music Festival on a number of occasions this week. The performances have left quite an impression – in a 5* star review for the Post the wrote:

“Exceptional performances, imaginative programming, superb presentation: all combine to make Southwell an August paradise for music-lovers”

Mr Ruff enjoyed the Symphonic, Choral and Chamber concerts on offer in Southwell Minster during a week of around 35 events, half of which were free. He had this advice for those interested in visiting Southwell Music Festival in future:

“There’s really no need to choose between concerts: just book for them all.”

To read this review and others, visit the Press page.


Five Star Opening Concert to 2019 Festival

Soprano Alison Rose and conductor Marcus Farnsworth with the Southwell Festival Sinfonia performing Mahler Symphony no. 4 at the 2019 Southwell Music Festival. Photo: Dick Makin Imaging

Last night our Artistic Director Marcus Farnsworth conducted symphonies by Mendelssohn and Mahler in the opening evening concert of the 2019 Southwell Music Festival. William Ruff of the Nottingham Post was here once again and found the concert to be a ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ experience, writing that

The Festival is back after a long year of high expectations and the first night concert had sackfuls of the ingredients audiences have come to expect: the highest standards of performance mixed with meticulous attention to detail both onstage and off.

You can read the rest of the review via (prior to its appearance in print in the Nottingham Post at the end of the week).

For your convenience…

We hope the following information may assist those attending this week’s Festival.

Festival marquee

We are delighted to announce the debut of the Festival Marquee –- to be found in the beautiful surroundings of the Education Garden on the south side of the Minster. We trust it will become a popular meeting place for audiences and performers alike.

The Marquee will be in operation from Wednesday 21 to Sunday 25 August. Opening at 4pm each day (noon on Saturday) the Marquee will remain open until 11pm and will be the place for drinks at concert time.

A full bar service, including draught beer, is being provided by the Blue Monkey Brewery from Nottingham. In addition the Batch Tea Company will provide tea-based cocktails and other drinks.

Additional toilet facilities will also be available in the Education Garden.


From Monday 19 August Festival tickets may be purchased at the Festival Hub and will not be available at the Cathedral Shop. The Hub is located opposite the south door of the Minster outside the Archbishop’s Palace. Opening times: Monday 19 – Sunday 25 August, 9am – 7pm and Monday 26 August until lunchtime.

To ensure you have your tickets in time, please choose the ‘e-ticket’ option when booking online this week so you can print your tickets at home. Alternatively tickets bought within four working days of an event will be held for collection at the Festival Hub.

Please note: to purchase tickets at the time of a performance please go to the Hub rather than the venue, apart from performances at The Stage at the Old Theatre Deli. This also applies to the collection of tickets.

Travel disruption

If you are travelling to Southwell from the west over the coming week please leave extra time as roads in the Edingley, Halam and Kirklington Road areas are likely to be closed for repair until Friday evening. Diversions are signposted but may add significant time to your journey. There may also be inconvenient road closures in the Newark area.

Visitors coming from London and the south by train will no doubt be aware that there are no trains from London Kings Cross on Saturday 24 and Sunday 25 August and there is likely to be knock-on disruption on Monday 26 August. The alternative is to travel from London St Pancras to Nottingham, take a train to Fiskerton and a five minute taxi ride from there (01636 525252); alternatively take the Nottingham City Transport Pathfinder (Bus 100) from Nottingham city centre to Southwell.

southwell music festival

The Musicians of Southwell Music Festival

Southwell Music Festival is a special music festival. One of the key reasons for this is that the musicians who come to perform in the town are resident here for much of the festival and take part in a number of different events. This is not a festival with a carousel of touring acts for whom Southwell is another show along their road. No, Southwell is almost unique in welcoming musicians who, in their turn, treat the town like home for the duration.

This short film (by Simon Platts) we’re publishing today reflects that experience from the perspective of these terrific musicians who visit Southwell for the festival – this year about 100 leading professional singers and players from across Britain and further afield. We really hope that it gives you a fresh perspective on Southwell Music Festival and encourages you to come and be part of all the wonderful events that the town has to offer over the August Bank Holiday weekend every year.

Learn more about Southwell Music Festival events via

So much great music to enjoy

It’s August! And with three weeks to go until the 2019 Festival I’ve been reminded how much absolutely wonderful music we have planned.

So we invite you to take 10 minutes for a tour of this year’s repertoire in just 20 musical samples – from the elegance of Tchaikovsky’s Serenade to the groove of Michael Torke’s Adjustable Wrench; from the evocative folk fiddle of Aidan O’Rourke to the soaring solo violin of The Lark Ascending; from the passion of James MacMillan’s a capella O Bone Jesu to the energetic choral and orchestral writing of Handel’s Israel in Egypt; from the drama of Schubert’s Death and the Maiden string quartet to the equally dramatic symphonies of Mendelssohn and Mahler.

You can hear this on our Spotify playlist at where you can also find full concert details. And if you want to enjoy more than the 30 second clip then sign up to Spotify to hear each track in full. It’s a great chance to be reminded of music you already know and love or to be surprised by something that had previously passed you by.

All this and more awaits you in Southwell from Wednesday 21 to Monday 26 August. I’m looking forward to seeing you in a few weeks time: there is much for us to enjoy together.

Marcus Farnsworth
Artistic Director