A Christmas Celebration

As preparations for Christmas inexorably gather pace I would like to remind you of the Festival’s own Christmas Celebration at Southwell Minster on Friday 20th December at 7.30pm.

Our brilliant Festival Voices will once again be exploring magnificent music from mediaeval times to the present day and I’m very pleased that Clive Mantle, star of stage and screen, should be returning to contribute wonderful seasonal readings in his inimitable style.

Clive, who made such a moving spoken contribution to our Voices of Remembrance concert at the 2018 Festival and at our Christmas concert last year, is perhaps best known for playing Little John in Robin of Sherwood, Great Jon Umber in Game of Thrones, Simon Horton in The Vicar of Dibley and Mike Barratt in Casualty. His voice is also well known from more than 180 audio books and for voicing animated characters such as Gator in Thomas the Tank Engine!

As ever we intend that this concert of seasonal words and choral music should be both atmospheric and entertaining – a potpourri of the sacred and secular drawing on celebrations of Christmases long past through to the present day.

This year’s programme will include a special focus on the music of English composer Herbert Howells, including his evocative carols A Spotless RoseHere is the little door and Long, long ago.

If further encouragement is needed we recommend the advice of the Nottingham Post’s William Ruff:

“Southwell Minster’s Christmas Celebration is in danger of topping the list of things that doctors prescribe to patients suffering from pre-Christmas stress and shortest-day-syndrome.  I defy anyone attending not to feel refreshed, refocused and returned to the spiritual substance which the annual festival of shopping and remorseless jollity threatens to obscure.”

While stocks last you can lay in supplies to tackle Christmas fatigue syndrome at southwellmusicfestival.com/onlinebooking or by calling 01636 330014. Tickets are priced at £12-£25.

We look forward to seeing you at the Festival’s Christmas Celebration.

Christmas Greetings from the Southwell Music Festival

Christmas Greetings!

As the year draws to a close it is appropriate to say ‘thank you’ to everyone who supported the Festival this year – as sponsors, Friends, donors, hosts, volunteers, ticket buyers or in any other capacity. Some say it was the best yet.

A Christmas Celebration

We are looking forward to our Christmas Celebration concert on Friday 21st December at 7.30pm in Southwell Minster. Our brilliant Festival Voices will once again be exploring magnificent music from medieval times to the present day and the distinguished actor Clive Mantle, who made such a moving contribution to our Voices of Remembrance concert in the summer, is returning to provide wonderful seasonal readings.

This will be an inspiring prelude to your celebration of Christmas and we hope to see you there. Tickets are available at the Southwell Cathedral Shop or online here.

Christmas gift inspiration?

This is the time of year when Christmas gift inspiration can be in short supply. We would like to propose membership of the 2019 Festival Friends as a solution. With priority booking for Festival concerts, three highly informative newsletters, complimentary programme books and an invitation to the Friends’ reception on offer, this is an attractive option for any music lover. Prices are £50 for Bronze membership, £150 for Silver and £300 for Gold membership.

You can download an application form here where you will also find details to contact the Friends Administrators.

Wishing you a happy and peaceful Christmas.

Marcus Farnsworth
Artistic Director

… Less Than Four Weeks To Go!


In only four weeks time Southwell will once again be taken over by the Music Festival’s inspiring ensemble of singers and players bringing their talent, energy and enthusiasm to the town.

More than eighty of the best professional musicians from across the UK and further afield will take part in our fifth annual festival running this year from Wednesday 22nd to Monday 27th August.

I’d like to highlight four programmes that showcase these outstanding performers:

Bach’s Mass in B minor – Wednesday 22nd August, 7.30pm, The Nave
The Festival is fortunate to attract some of the best consort singers who perform regularly with the likes of The Sixteen, The Tallis Scholars and the Gabrieli Consort.

This supreme expression of JS Bach’s genius will be given a chamber performance on period instruments with the solo and chorus parts being sung by nine members of the Festival Voices. I will be directing this performance and joining as the tenth singer.

Piano Recital by Clare Hammond – Saturday 25th August, 1.00pm, The Nave
Pianist Clare Hammond was brought up in Nottingham and has since gone on to establish a glowing reputation – winning the Royal Philharmonic Society’s Young Artist Award as well as praise from The Telegraph for the “amazing power and panache” of her playing.

Clare has developed a reputation for her imaginative concert programmes and her Southwell programme is no exception – ranging from a Haydn Sonata to Stravinsky’s Petroushka Suite by way of The Flight of the Bumblebee and several Debussy Preludes. An exciting programme with a humorous twist.

Chamber Classics: The Czech Connection – Thursday 23rd and Friday 24th August, 7.00pm, The State Chamber
This programme has everything – intimacy, lyricism and drama. It gives audiences the chance to enjoy the talent of our musicians at close quarters – in the musical conversation of Dvorak’s String Sextet, the evocative melody of Dvorak’s Gypsy Songs performed by soprano Alison Rose, and the drama of Janacek’s The Diary of One who Disappeared, which brings the opera stage into the State Chamber.

Janacek’s song cycle sets poems about a farmer who falls for and runs off with a gypsy girl. This passionate music channels Janacek’s love for his muse Kamila Stosslova – a much younger woman and another man’s wife. It is performed by two leading soloists – mezzo Madeleine Shaw and tenor Andrew Tortise.

For the Fallen: An Armistice Commemoration – Sunday 26th August, 7.30pm, The Nave
The brilliant Festival Chamber Soloists – the pick of the crop of our instrumentalists – take centre stage for this moving concert.

The first half reflects on the tragedy of war from the perspectives of Debussy, Butterworth and Josef Suk. It also includes Stuart MacRae’s setting of Wilfred Owen’s poem reworking the parable of Abraham and Isaac – in which the modern day Abraham “slew his son/And half the seed of Europe, one by one.”

In the second half we present Stravinsky’s The Soldier’s Tale – a setting for instrumental septet and narrator of the parable of a soldier who sells his fiddle to the devil in return for unlimited financial gain.

Some tickets for these concerts are still available – either online at www.southwellmusicfestival.com/onlinebooking or by calling 0115 989 5555 or visiting the Southwell Cathedral Shop.

We look forward to seeing you next month.

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 tickets.ncem.co.uk. If you are not in reach of Southwell do try to catch the Choral Pilgrimage elsewhere: you will find the full itinerary 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.