2020 Southwell Music Festival Cancelled

Following the recent decision to cancel the launch of the 2020 Festival, the Board of the Southwell Music Festival has now decided to cancel this year’s Festival, scheduled to take place between Wednesday 26 and Monday 31 August, in the light of the evolving situation caused by the Covid-19 virus. 

Festival Chairman, Geoffrey Bond said:

“This is a decision taken by the Festival Directors with the greatest regret though in these extraordinary and gravely uncertain times we are sure it will come as no surprise and will be well understood: the safety of performers, audiences, staff, volunteers and hosts comes first. We are thinking of all our musicians at this extremely worrying time – both personally and professionally.

“At the same time I am confident that when the Festival returns in 2021 it will do so renewed and reinvigorated: establishing a festival of national significance in only six years has been an immense achievement and this pause provides a chance to consolidate that achievement with fresh thinking and planning. We are confident that the Festival will return with the same loyal support from the community and its audiences.

“I’d like to record the Board’s immense appreciation of all the work done so far to prepare for this year’s Festival which will be carried forward to prepare for the Festival’s return next year.

“Inevitably some expenses have already been incurred in preparing for the Festival and we would be most grateful for the public’s support to ensure that we keep the Festival on an even financial keel. Visit southwellmusicfestival.com/Fund2020 to view a video message from our Artistic Director Marcus Farnsworth where you can also make a donation.”

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.

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 www.southwellmusicfestival.com/feedback 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 reviewsgate.com (prior to its appearance in print in the Nottingham Post at the end of the week).

Lottery Funding for Festival

A message from Artistic Director Marcus Farnsworth:

“I’m delighted to announce that the 2019 Festival will be supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England.

“This is the first time we have received such support and is a huge step forward for the Festival, and one that we have been building towards for some time.

“We are most grateful for this recognition of what we have created so far – a festival of an incredibly high standard which has palpable benefits for the local community, and of which Hugh Canning, Chief Classical Music Critic of The Sunday Times has said: ‘…Southwell can already equal, even surpass, more established festivals. The artistic results are remarkable’.

“No festival of this kind can survive on box office income alone and our achievement in presenting five increasingly successful festivals has only been possible with the extraordinarily generous support of the local community – with private individuals sponsoring performances and musicians, an increasing number of Festival Friends, and the indispensable in-kind contribution of our hosts and volunteers.

“This year box office income will account for 39% of total costs (a relatively high proportion) and we will again be most generously supported by the community. However, if the Festival is to continue developing, we need additional support which is why help from the National Lottery through Arts Council England is so significant.

“This £15,000 grant will contribute to artistic, administrative and audience development – help in funding our wonderful ensemble of 100 outstanding professional singers and players; funding for professional festival management to direct and support our band of volunteers; and enabling a variety of marketing initiatives.”

To find out more about the work of Arts Council England please visit www.artscouncil.org.uk

Programme and booking information for the 2019 Southwell Music Festival is available at www.southwellmusicfestival.com or from the Cathedral Shop.