Festival Launch Postponed

Festival Launch Postponed

In view of the current worldwide and national situation surrounding COVID-19, the Board of the Southwell Music Festival has decided to cancel the launch event for the 2020 Festival, originally scheduled to take place at Southwell Minster on Friday 17 April.

The 2020 programme will instead be launched online at a date yet to be determined.

At present it is intended that the 2020 Festival should take place as planned between Wednesday 26 and Monday 31 August.

As in previous years the Festival intends to bring an ensemble of the best and brightest classically-trained professional singers and players to Southwell from across the UK and Europe for top quality choral, orchestral and chamber concerts.

Ticket booking dates are also currently unchanged, with booking for Festival Friends opening on Monday 18 May at 9.00am and to the general public on Monday 8 June at 9.00am.

Festival Founder and Artistic Director Marcus Farnsworth said:

“The Festival takes the safety of performers, audiences, staff, volunteers and hosts extremely seriously and the Board and management will continue to monitor the situation very closely.

“We will continue to follow the latest UK government and Public Health England guidance and act on any further relevant advice as appropriate. Further announcements will be made as soon as practical.”

All information about the Festival and further announcements can be found at southwellmusicfestival.com. For the latest news and updates about the Festival please sign up to our mailing list via this form, or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

A Christmas Celebration 2019 – Review

We’re pleased that the Nottingham Post’s Classical Music critic William Ruff was able to join us for last night’s Christmas Celebration concert in Southwell Minster. William clearly enjoyed himself too, describing the concert as

the perfect antidote to the sensory overload which accompanies the festive season these days… a triumph of artistic finesse

To read this and other reviews of Southwell Music Festival events, please visit the Press page.

Looking for Christmas gift inspiration?

Looking for Christmas gift inspiration?

In case Christmas gift inspiration is in short supply we would like to propose membership of the 2020 Festival Friends, perfect for the music lover on your list.

As a 2020 Festival Friend your gift recipient will enjoy:

• Priority Booking for Festival concerts
• Three informative newsletters with background information and features
• Complimentary copies of the highly-regarded programme book
• An invitation to the Friends’ Reception during the Festival.

Prices – unchanged since the Festival began in 2014 – are £50 for Bronze, £150 for Silver and £300 for Gold membership.

Full details and an application form are available online or you can email Friends Administrators Anne and Dave Francis on friends@southwellmusicfestival.com or call 01636 330014 for further information.

A Christmas Celebration – tickets still available

Many of you have already booked your tickets to this year’s Christmas Celebration concert, taking place at Southwell Minster on 20 December, 7.30pm.

If you’ve not booked yet and don’t want to miss out then there’s still time to buy your tickets, priced from just £12. It’s the perfect way to start the Christmas season.

The Southwell Festival Voices will be conducted by Artistic Director Marcus Farnsworth and this year there will be a special focus on the music of 20th century English composer Herbert Howells.

This seasonal music will be complemented by evocative readings of poetry and prose and we’re pleased to welcome back actor Clive Mantle to Southwell Minster to be our reader for the evening.

Buy tickets online or call the Ticket Hotline on 01636 330014.

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