Working Towards our Fundraising Goals

Since the cancellation of the 2020 Festival, the Festival board and committee has been working to secure funding to ensure the on-going financial stability of the organisation at this time.

As you may be aware, income for the Festival comes primarily from ticket sales as well as our Festival Friends scheme, sponsorship and private philanthropic support. Although we will not incur the financial costs of running the Festival this year, there remain annual costs that need to be met, to keep the Festival running into 2021 and beyond. It is vital that we continue our fundraising activities throughout the coming year, as pressure on public funding next year is likely to grow.

Emergency Funding Success

We are pleased to announce that we have made a successful application to Arts Council England’s Emergency Funding. This funding will go some way towards covering these costs and developing the future of the Festival. We would like to publicly thank Arts Council England for this support, knowing that hard decisions have needed to be made at what is an uncertain time for the arts and cultural sector.

Thank You

We would also like to thank all those who have generously donated to our crowd-funder. We have been overwhelmed by the generosity of Southwell Music Festival audiences. Our goal is to raise £5,000, and now the total stands at £4,101, so we are not far off!

Make an online donation to Southwell Music Festival via

We very much appreciate the on-going support from our audiences to ensure that we will be back bringing music to Southwell in 2021. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

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.

Launch Weekend!

The launch of the 2019 Southwell Music Festival will be marked by four events spread over two days – Friday 5 and Saturday 6 April – and involving the Festival’s partner charity Awards for Young Musicians.

The Festival itself takes place from 21-26 August. As in previous years the programme will be announced by Artistic Director Marcus Farnsworth at a free concert in the Minster – this year taking place on the evening of Friday 5 April at 7.30pm.

To give a greater insight into this year’s programme and the Festival in general, Marcus and his Associate Artistic Director Jamie Campbell will take part in a free public Q&A at Southwell Methodist Church from 4-5pm on Saturday.

The encouragement of new musical talent is part of the Festival’s DNA and so it is appropriate to be renewing our partnership with AYM which provides vital support for young musicians of exceptional ability from low income backgrounds.

On Saturday afternoon (1-3pm) three AYM beneficiaries will take part in a free public masterclass in the State Chamber when they will be coached by some of the Festival’s professional musicians.

That evening at 7.30pm the young musicians will share a concert in the Minster with the Festival Chamber Soloists, performing solos and a trio; the professional musicians will perform Mendelssohn’s Piano Trio in C minor. Tickets costing £15 (free to 18s and under) are available at or in person from the Cathedral Shop.

Details of the whole weekend are available at including a downloadable leaflet and poster.

2018 Performer Profiles: Maria Spengler

Associate Artistic Director Jamie Campbell introduces some of the outstanding performers taking part in the 2018 Southwell Music Festival.

“We’re looking forward to welcoming violinist Maria Spengler to the Southwell Music Festival for the first time.

Maria Spengler. Photo: N. Babic

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

My name is Maria Spengler, I come from Belgrade and I’m a violinist. For the last 20 years I call London my home, where I live with my husband and my 8 year old daughter Sara. I divide my time between a teaching post at the Belgrade Academy of Music and chamber orchestras such as Aurora Orchestra, English Chamber Orchestra and BandArt Orchestra, based in Madrid.

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

If I had to choose one piece from the entire program, my favourite would be Bartok’s Divertimento for string orchestra. I was very fortunate to get to know the string orchestra repertoire very early on in my professional life, while still a student in Belgrade, through my first engagement as a leader with a string orchestra St George Strings. Divertimento is where Mozart and Corelli meet the folk music from Balkans, through eyes of Bartok, it echos with nostalgia for me. It will also be great to revisit Mendelssohn’s master piece for string octet, real treat for every string player.

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

At the moment I am on a little break between concerts on a tour with Aurora Orchestra performing Beethoven’s 5th Symphony from memory. After that the next interesting project will be in Spain, with the BandArt orchestra where we will be playing a series of concerts, including Mahler’s 9th Symphony. At the end of the year I will be going back to Bach Solo Sonatas, as a follow up to my PhD in Music, that I did at the University of Arts in Belgrade.

Top Tips for Festival Goers

Free programme book!

We have produced a sumptuous souvenir programme book as the perfect companion for your Festival enjoyment.  Running to more than 100 glossy pages it provides a wealth of information about the music, the performers and much else besides.  And it will grace any coffee table in style.  Call us crazy but we are giving it away.  Preferably in return for a minimum donation of £5.




Talking of souvenirs we will once again have branded tote bags, mugs and other high quality items on sale at the merchandising stall at each concert.






Special offers

Several local restaurants and other eateries are extending a warm welcome to Festival goers with special offers on production of the programme book.





Half the events are free

In addition to the ticketed Festival events there is a programme of fringe concerts around the town, a Friday lunchtime concert in the Minster, the Masterclass in the State Chamber on Saturday morning, and on Monday afternoon the performance of Mozart’s Vespers and Matthew Martin’s Bank Holiday organ recital. All free with no ticket required.

And that’s not including four wonderful church services in the Minster on Sunday and Monday. See the festival brochure or go here for details.

Opinions win prizes

Your views and valuable to us and help us when planning future festivals.  So please let us know what you think by completing the questionnaire available at Festival concerts and enter our prize draw.  The winner will receive a case of great wine thanks to the kind support of Mr and Mrs Fine Wine.




Christmas concert 

And don’t forget to book tickets for the concert that marks the start of Christmas 2017 – A Christmas Celebration on Friday 22nd December at 7.30pm with the Southwell Festival Voices, Marcus Farnsworth (conductor), and David Oakes (reader).  From Hildegard of Bingen to Irving Berlin and from Charles Dickens to Wendy Cope.  Tickets will be on sale at the Festival shop and online during the Festival.

Heavenly Voices

Photo: Nick Rutter

The ensembles created for each Southwell Music Festival are at the heart of the Festival’s appeal.  Jamie Campbell and myself continue to be excited by the quality of performers who agree to take part – and to return, sometimes year on year.  This is true of both instrumentalists and singers.

Starting next week, as part of the build up to the Festival, we will publish a series of profiles of give an insight into the personality and background of some of our leading performers.  Today I want to focus on the immensely impressive body of singers who make up the Southwell Festival Voices: this is to introduce a final, rousing video extract from last year’s programme and to point ahead to an important new Festival initiative later in the year.

Our Festival Voices are drawn from Britain’s leading vocal consorts – including the BBC Singers, the Gabrieli Consort, The Sixteen and the Tallis Scholars.  At each Festival they distinguish themselves by their virtuosity, the impact of their sound, and by their immensely hard work.

Knowing that we have such talented singers available means that we can programme some of the most technically challenging and rarely-performed music in the repertoire.  This year’s inclusion of Poulenc’s dramatic cantata for double choir Figure Humaine is a perfect example: it’s a choral tour de force which provides the climax to our late night programme of words and music Voices of Freedom taking place in the Minster on Friday 25th August.  A few tickets are still be available online, by calling 0115 989 5555, or by visiting the Southwell Cathedral shop.

The power of our vocal ensemble is always amply demonstrated at the Saturday night concert as the famous outcry ‘Praise to the Holiest in the height’ from last year’s performance of Elgar’s The Dream of Gerontius shows.  We hope you enjoy this souvenir from 2016.

Looking beyond the 2017 Festival I’m delighted to announce that, for the first time, the outstanding qualities of our singers will be on show outside the Festival when we present them in a concert of words and music for Christmas: this will take place in the Minster on Friday 22nd December at 7.30pm. Please put the date in your diary.

A Christmas Celebration will be a potpourri of sacred and secular words and music for Christmas through the ages – from Hildegard of Bingen to Irving Berlin alongside a range of traditional carols, and from Charles Dickens to Wendy Cope.  To provide the readings we will be joined by the distinguished actor David Oakes whose face you may well know from such series as The Pillars of the Earth, Truth or Dare, The White Queen, The Borgias and Ripper Street.  Tickets will be on sale at the time of the Festival.

Less than three weeks to go…


Child’s Play

Peter & the Wolf at the 2016 Southwell Music Festival. Photo: Nick Rutter

At Southwell Music Festival we want to share the thrill of live musical performance: a mission to broaden the audience for classical music is part of the Festival’s DNA.  In particular we want to give the very youngest people and their families the chance to start their journey of discovery.  So last year we held our first Family Concert.

Peter and the Wolf was a huge success – delighting a large number of young people, their parents and grandparents.  As the short video shows, this joyful occasion dispensed with all the conventions of classical concert going.

The 2017 Festival will present another animal story which is perfect musical entertainment for young families.  In Jean de Brunhoff’s charming tale, set to music by Francis Poulenc, a baby elephant called Babar loses his mother to a hunter in the jungle. Terribly upset, he runs away to Paris where he meets a rich old lady who loves looking after elephants.

The old lady gives Babar everything he needs to become an elegant gentleman but not to find happiness: this is only found when he is reunited with his cousins Artur and Celeste.  He returns with them to the jungle, becomes King of the Elephants, and discovers true happiness with Celeste as his Queen.

This is a very informal event for families with children up to and including junior school age.  Cushions for sitting on the floor are recommended though chairs are also available.

The Story of Babar will be told by the actress Victoria Newlyn accompanied by Festival musicians on Saturday 26th August at the Minster School, Southwell.  The performance begins at 11am however to be part of the action there is mask-making from 10.15.  The performance is sponsored by Hockerwood Park.

To make the event even more accessible, tickets are free to people aged 12 and under. For everyone else – £8.  All tickets may be booked in advance.  A £1 donation on the day is suggested towards the cost of craft materials.  Tickets can booked online here, by calling 0115 989 5555, or by visiting the Southwell Cathedral shop.

After last year’s Family Concert one parent said: “We loved all of it!!  So amazing to see all those children having such a lovely time.”  I’ve no doubt that Babar will help us conjure the same magic and look forward to your company to enjoy his story.

So, if you have not already done so, please encourage family members of whatever age to join us for this musical treat.

See you in August.

Great Musical Conversation

Composer Charlotte Bray

Listening to chamber music is like eavesdropping on a musical conversation, and music for a trio of performers is musical conversation at its most intimate.

At this year’s Festival, Jamie Campbell and I are excited to present a programme of trios in a wide variety of combinations: it reveals how composers from the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries have risen to the challenge of trio writing and in the process created some of their most memorable music.  We hope you will join us on this journey of musical discovery and enjoy the ride.

We include lyrical works by Brahms – his rarely-performed Two Songs for Alto, Viola and Piano and his popular Trio for Violin, Horn and Piano – Shostakovich’s dramatic Piano Trio No. 2, and two works by one of Britain’s great young composers, Charlotte Bray.

Charlotte is emerging as a distinctive and outstanding composer of her generation.  Still only 35, she has written for some of the world’s leading musicians, orchestras and ensembles. The main influences on her music are the baroque and renaissance eras and particularly Bach.  Brahms and Shostakovich, with whom she shares the Festival programme, are also important to her.

The two piano trios by Charlotte are inspired by Shakespeare plays: That Crazed Smile is based on A Midsummer Night’s Dream and its interplay of dreams and reality; the starting point for Those Secret Eyes is Macbeth and explores dark and sinister plotting and deceit.

The programme not only showcases highly individual repertoire but also a number of our very special Festival Chamber Soloists including mezzo-soprano Marta Fontanals-Simmons, violinist Sara
Wolstenholme, violist Lena Eckels, cellist Nathaniel Boyd and hornist James Pillai.  And not forgetting an embarrassment of amazing pianists – James Baillieu, Libby Burgess and James Cheung.

The Art of the Trio can be enjoyed on Thursday 24th and Friday 25th August, from 7.00-9.00pm.  The concerts take place in the State Chamber – the ideal setting for such intimate music making, as was acknowledged by The Sunday Times Chief Classical Music Critic Hugh Canning who said it was “perfect for chamber music and song”.

Tickets can booked online here, by calling 0115 989 5555, or by visiting the Southwell Cathedral shop.

Six weeks to go…

There are only six weeks until the start of the 2017 Southwell Music Festival (24-28 August).

This will be our fourth Festival and I’m pleased that the event appears to be as popular as ever.  Some concerts have already sold out and only a few seats remain available for most concerts.  To those who have already made their commitments may I say thank you for your support.  If you have yet to decide what to attend, may I suggest that now might be a good time to do so.  Tickets can booked online here, by calling 0115 989 5555, or by visiting the Southwell Cathedral shop.

I’d like to highlight one particular programme of which Associate Artistic Director Jamie Campbell and I are particularly proud.  Our exploration of the musical possibilities of the spaces at Southwell Minster is an ongoing project and the Strings in the Quire programme on Thursday 24th and Friday 25th August at 8.15-9.15pm is the latest example of this.

Last year’s unforgettable performance of Strauss’s Metamorphosen revealed the potential of the Minster’s 13th century Quire as an ideal space and acoustic in which to present the Festival’s outstanding body of string players.

So this year we have included a programme comprising three highly attractive works for string orchestra from the beginning, middle and end of the 20th century.  These will be contrasted with brief but arresting contributions from the Festival’s brilliant brass players.

Arvo Pärt’s haunting Cantus in Memory of Benjamin Britten expresses his admiration for Britten, whose song cycle Les Illuminations announced the arrival of a genius: this ravishing work, setting poems by Arthur Rimbaud, was written when Britten was still in his 20s. It will be sung by the soprano Alison Rose.

The concert ends with Vaughan Williams’ radiant and revolutionary Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis which was conceived with a cathedral acoustic in mind – in this case Gloucester Cathedral where it was premiered at the 1910 Three Choirs Festival.

During the next few weeks, as part of the countdown to the 2017 Festival and to whet your appetite for what is to come, we are raiding our archive of recordings from last year’s Festival.  Today I’d like to share an extract from Elgar’s The Dream of Gerontiusthe Demon’s Chorus – which illustrates the commitment and quality of our outstanding ensemble of singers and players.

We look forward to seeing you in August.


southwell music festival

A Gift from the Festival – Strauss’ Metamorphosen

Public booking is now open for the 2017 Festival (24-28 August). To mark the occasion we have a special video release from last year’s Festival – an entire performance of Strauss’ Metamorphosen for 23 solo strings.

This performance was recorded live in the Quire of Southwell Minster on 26th August 2016. The Southwell Festival Chamber Soloists are directed from the violin by the Festival’s Associate Artistic Director, Jamie Campbell.


Tickets will be available to the general public from today – either online at, by calling 0115 989 5555 or by visiting the Cathedral Shop in Southwell.

Ticket sales during the Friends priority booking period have been very strong and therefore we advise early booking to avoid disappointment.