marcus farnsworth

Marcus’s Festival preview on Radio Nottingham

With less than two weeks to the start of the Southwell Music Festival (25-29 August), Artistic Director Marcus Farnsworth is on BBC Radio Nottingham today at 4.15pm talking to Pip Watts about this year’s programme.

Tickets for the Festival are selling strongly with a few still available for most performances.  Call 0115 989 5555, go onlinehere, or visit the Southwell Cathedral Shop.

Don’t miss the chance to enter our superb Prize Draw to raise funds for the Festival.  For only £10 you have the chance to win two stalls seats for a performance at the Royal Opera and a night for two at a five star central London hotel this autumn.  Click here to buy tickets.

southwell music festival

A Musical Exploration of the Minster


Southwell Minster is at the heart of our Festival and its contrasting spaces provide many different possibilities for performance.

Last year audiences discovered how wonderfully effective the Crossing under the great central tower could be as a performance space.  We build on that success this year with a late night performance in the round of another powerful piece of chamber music – Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nacht (Transfigured Night) on Friday 26th August at 10pm.

This highly-charged string sextet is a musical depiction of two lovers walking in moonlit woods and the intensity and passion of their parallel emotional journey.  This is rarely-heard early Schoenberg much loved by string players, combining the harmonic and structural formality of Brahms with the sensual sonorities of Wagner.

To the east of the Crossing is The Quire which is in complete contrast to the immense strength and scale of the Minster’s Norman nave that provides most visitors with their first impression of the building: it is a more intimate, lighter space with different acoustic properties and, as it is used for daily worship, is the part of the building with which the Minster’s musicians are particularly familiar.

We now hope that it will become increasingly familiar to Festival audiences.  Already it is the venue for our successful late night sequence of words and music and this year we once again test the outstanding virtuosity of the Festival Voices with a rare performance of Benjamin Britten’s challenging late work Sacred and Profane: Eight Medieval Lyrics alongside choral works by James Macmillan and Thomas Adès (Thursday 25th August, 10pm).

The scale of the Quire also provides the chance to present larger pieces of chamber music and so, in response to demand for Festival tickets, we have introduced a new element to the Festival’s chamber music programme: on Thursday 25 and Friday 26 August at 7.30pm we present two pieces of chamber music which are rarely performed because of their scale and unusual instrumental requirements.

The final work of Richard Strauss is Metamorphosen for no less than 23 solo strings – an enigmatic piece which is perhaps an elegy for the destruction of so much German culture in the Second World War.   It will be directed by Associate Artistic Director Jamie Campbell.  Its companion piece is in complete contrast: Beethoven’s Septet for the unusual combination of violin, viola, cello, double bass, clarinet, bassoon and horn is a light-hearted serenade in the style of Mozart.

These concerts will be among the most memorable of this year’s Festival and if you do not already have tickets I hope you will obtain them soon either online here , by calling 0115 989 5555 or by visiting the Southwell Cathedral Shop.

Marcus Farnsworth
Artistic Director

southwell music festival

Southwell Music Festival Prize Draw 2016 Opens

The Southwell Music Festival Prize Draw 2016 has been launched.  The prize, worth approximately £750, is two stalls seats for the performance of Mozart’s operatic masterpiece Cosi fan tutte at the Royal Opera, Covent Garden on Saturday 24th September at 6.45pm, plus a luxury night for two at a five star central London hotel with breakfast included.

Cosi fan tutte was the most popular choice in the recent Southwell Music Festival poll, however if this opera or date is not suitable to the winner it will be possible to change by arrangement with the organiser.

clarkepng250This remarkable prize in support of the Festival has been made possible by Clarke Associates Wealth Management, the sponsors of this year’s Festival performance of Elgar’s The Dream of Gerontius.  

Prize draw entry will be available online until Tuesday 23rd August.  Entry may also be purchased at Southwell Cathedral Shop, Church Street, Southwell and will continue to be available during the Festival. Multiple entries are permitted.  Purchases will be entered in the draw which will take place during the free Come and Sing performance starting at 2pm in Southwell Minster on Monday 29th August. 

Festival preview on BBC Radio 3

Festival preview on BBC Radio 3

Southwell Music Festival Founder and Artistic Director Marcus Farnsworth will appear on BBC Radio 3’s In Tune on Monday 25th July.

As well as previewing the 2016 Festival with interviewer Sean Rafferty, Marcus will also be singing – accompanied by James Baillieu at the piano.

Marcus is due to appear between 4.30 and 5.30 – either side of the 5.00pm news summary.

Come and Sing Edwardian Masterpieces

Come and Sing Edwardian masterpieces


To complement The Dream of Gerontius which will be performed on Saturday 27th August in the Minster by our professional choir and orchestra, the Festival’s Come and Sing programme for Bank Holiday Monday includes some of the most popular works by Parry, Elgar and Stanford.

Artistic Director Marcus Farnsworth will be rehearsing and conducting performances Elgar’s The Spirit of the Lord from his oratorio The Apostles, Stanford’s sublime Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis in G, featuring Festival soloists Alison Rose and Greg Skidmore, as well as two of his Bible Songs, and three of Parry’s most popular works – the great coronation anthem I was Glad, written for the coronation of Edward VII in 1902; Blest Pair of Sirens; and Parry’s most famous piece Jerusalem in the centenary of its composition.

We are delighted that around 200 people have signed up so far however there is still time to get involved.  Please note it will not be possible to accept new registrations on the day.  You can book online by clicking here or by calling 0115 989 5555 or visiting the Southwell Cathedral Shop.  For further detail you can view the dedicated leaflet here.

Details of the arrangements for the day will be sent out in the coming week to those who have already registered and the vocal scores are already available for download here and there are also links to specimen performances on YouTube to aid private practice in advance.

The Festival is most grateful to Susan Dawson for her continued support of the Festival in sponsoring this year’s Come and Sing.

Name that opera

There is still time to name the opera at the Royal Opera Covent Garden which could be the prize in the draw being promoted by Clarke Associates Wealth Management in aid of the Festival: please go here.  Polling will close at the end of Monday 18th July and prize draw tickets will go on sale on Monday 25th.

Win a night at the Royal Opera! First choose the opera

ROH_2Later this month Southwell Music Festival will launch a spectacular prize draw to raise funds for the Festival including tickets to the Royal Opera this autumn. First there is a chance to suggest which opera the winning ticket holder should attend.

The prize, worth £750, comprises two seats for a performance at Covent Garden plus a luxury night for two at the five star Radisson Blu Edwardian, Hampshire hotel on nearby Leicester Square with breakfast included.

This remarkable prize has been organised to support the Festival by Clarke Associates Wealth Management, the sponsors of this year’s Festival performance of Elgar’s The Dream of Gerontius.

Tickets to enter the draw, costing only £10, will be available from Monday 25 July. Multiple entries are permitted and all income will go to support the Festival. The draw will be made during the Festival.

Details of how to enter the draw will be available on this website and at those interested have until 15th July to indicate which opera they would like to see if theirs was the winning ticket. You can indicate your preference here. Entering this poll does not guarantee a winning ticket!!

Congratulations Sheku!

Our artistic director Marcus Farnsworth writes:

Congratulations Sheku! 

I’m sure that many of our readers will have enjoyed tuning into last night’s BBC Young Musician Final. All three finalists were outstanding and it made for a wonderful evening of music making. We are delighted that Nottinghamshire’s very own Sheku Kanneh-Mason was named BBC Young Musician 2016. If you missed it, you can watch his performance again via the BBC iPlayer

I know you will all wish to join me in congratulating Sheku on his outstanding performance. It is rare to witness such direct and assured music making from someone so young and I am sure that he has a great career ahead of him. I look forward to hearing more from him in the years to come.

The making of a winning performance?

Last summer the 16 year old Nottingham cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason took part in the Saturday morning masterclass at the 2015 Southwell Music Festival.  With his sister Jeneba at the piano he worked on the opening movement of Shostakovich Cello Concerto No 1 with Festival cellist Nathaniel Boyd.  You can watch the occasion here.

This Sunday night Sheku performs the entire Shostakovich concerto at the Barbican Hall in London when he appears as one of the three finalists in the BBC Young Musician 2016.  This time he will be accompanied by the BBC Symphony Orchestra conducted by Mark Wigglesworth.  The occasion will be broadcast live on BBC4: here’s a preview.

When we established the Southwell Music Festival one of our priorities was to offer encouragement to young, up-and-coming local musicians.  We sincerely hope that the work Sheku did that summer Saturday in the State Chamber has helped him on his way to a winning performance at the Barbican on Sunday evening.

The Southwell Masterclass will take place at this year’s Festival (Saturday 27th August).  We cannot guarantee a place in the BBC Young Musician final as a consequence however there are still opportunities for musicians who have achieved Grade 8 standard to take part and work with our distinguished visiting professional musicians.  More details and an application form can be downloaded here.

Very best wishes to Sheku from everyone associated with the Southwell Music Festival.

Marcus Farnsworth
Founder and Artistic Director
Southwell Music Festival

Public booking opens – with an extra performance

Public booking is now open for the 2016 Festival (25-29 August) and already an extra performance has been added to meet demand for tickets.

Last August, Nottingham Post music critic William Ruff wrote: “…you had better start queuing now for next year.  The eyes of the musical world …need to be directed towards Southwell in August”.

It looks as if the public has taken Mr Ruff’s advice to heart: booking by the Festival Friends during the priority booking period has meant that the Sunday evening concert  – Henry Purcell – the Eternal Inspiration – has already sold out.

The number of tickets had already been increased by around a third to meet public demand, however a second performance of Henry Purcell – the Eternal Inspiration will now take place at 4.45pm on Sunday 28th August in the State Chamber.

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.

A performer’s enthusiasm

JamieAnticipating the excitement of this year’s Festival, Associate Artistic Director Jamie Campbell says:

I often have to remind myself how ‘new’ our festival is, as it already seems firmly established after just two years, with a loyal audience and a committed group of musicians who look forward to returning to the town all year.

“I have been looking forward to the 2016 Festival ever since the end of the last one and I am certain that it will again be the highlight of my musical year.

“I am relishing the chance to play with musicians who I find the most inspiring in the profession and who are all close friends. The warmth of the reception we receive from audiences and the wonderful acoustics of the venues make it a pretty exceptional experience.

“I am particularly looking forward to performing and directing Richard Strauss’ Metamorphosen in the Minster. It is a piece that all string players love because of the rich, lush harmonies and gorgeous long melodies.  To follow this with Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nacht (Transfigured Night) in the late night concert on Friday seems almost too good to be true – our audiences are in for a treat. If you don’t know either work I would implore you to come.

“Roll on August!”

southwell music festival

New concerts – and more tickets – in 2016

This August Bank Holiday, for the third year in succession, Festival Founder and Artistic Director Marcus Farnsworth is inviting musical friends and acquaintances to Southwell for a classical music extravaganza.

The 2016 Southwell Music Festival – to be held throughout the Bank Holiday weekend (25-29 August) – will include 28 musical events, of which half are free.

The main work (Saturday 27 August) will be Elgar’s oratorio masterpiece The Dream of Gerontius with a stellar line-up of young British soloists – David Butt Philip (tenor), Anna Stéphany (mezzo) and David Soar (bass).

Our ensemble of around 80 young professional musicians will make up the chorus and orchestra and will also perform in the Festival’s other principal concerts.

Marcus Farnsworth said:  “Last year was only our second Festival and we were delighted once again by the enthusiastic public response as well as by positive comments in the national and local press.

“It is clear that building the Festival around an ensemble of brilliant musicians is a very important ingredient in the Festival’s appeal.  Our players come from leading choirs and orchestras across the country and abroad: the outstanding quality of music making and the enthusiastic commitment of our performers is frequently commented upon by audience members.

“Last year’s Festival sold out, so we have increased the number of performances: this year there will again be around 30% more tickets available.  This increase has been achieved by introducing new events and offering more repeated concerts.  So we are able to keep the Festival to five days – which we believe is the right length, and it continues to be possible to attend every concert.”

Among the many highlights in 2016 is the Festival’s first family concert (Saturday 27 August) based around a performance of Prokofiev’s famous piece of musical storytelling – Peter and the Wolf: this takes place at the Minster School which is being used for the first time.

Other musical highlights include a rare performance of Richard Strauss’s final work Metamorphosen for 23 solo strings (Thursday 25 and Friday 26 August) directed by Associate Artistic Director Jamie Campbell.  The late night sequence of words and choral music in the Minster on Thursday – now a regular part of the programme – will include Benjamin Britten’s rarely-performed and challenging late work Sacred and Profane: Eight Medieval Lyrics alongside choral works by James Macmillan and Thomas Adès.  Friday’s late night concert will be a performance of Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nacht in the original version for string sextet.

Sunday evening’s chamber music concert Henry Purcell – The Eternal Inspiration (28 August) celebrates the connection between Purcell and Britten in the latter’s arrangements of Purcell songs and a performance of Britten’s Second String Quartet.  The programme also illustrates Purcell’s enduring influence on other contemporary composers – Oliver Knussen, Mark-Anthony Turnage and Thomas Adès.

A further highlight will be two performances of Schubert’s Schwanengesang given by Artistic Director Marcus Farnsworth accompanied by one of the Festival’s house pianists – the distinguished James Baillieu.  Marcus also has several conducting commitments during the Festival – the late night choral programme, The Dream of Gerontius, two services on Sunday, and the Come and Sing on Bank Holiday Monday.

Continuing to reflect on this year’s programme Marcus said: “Giving opportunities to local performers is a key part of the Festival’s approach and local musicians will again feature in five free fringe concerts around the town alongside the main concert schedule.

“The Come and Sing on Bank Holiday Monday has proved very popular with local singers and they are in for a real treat this year: taking our cue from Gerontius, we plan to assemble a choir of nearly 300 to perform the great warhorses of the Edwardian choral repertoire – including Parry’s I was glad and Blest Pair of Sirens, and to finish with a roof-raising centenary performance of Jerusalem in which the audience will be invited to join.

“Another central ambition for the Festival is to involve young people in classical music both as performers and audience.  The family concert is a start on our project to build a young audience, however Saturday morning will also see a further Masterclass when local young musicians work with visiting professionals and this is followed by our Saturday lunchtime recital which provides a showcase for a local performer of great promise. This year we are proud to present a recital by the winner of the Nottingham Young Musician of the Year 2015: Matt Glendening is principal clarinet of the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain and a star in the making.”

“Another of our ambitions for the Festival is to relieve Southwell of its ‘hidden gem’ status and put the town on more tourists’ radar.  We were delighted that the local tourist information centre last year recorded its highest number of visitors for Bank Holiday Monday.”

This exciting musical programme is complemented by a wonderful array of art exhibitions: pre-eminent among these is the return of the Open Studios event (27 and 28 August) presented by Southwell’s colony of professional artists.  The Southwell Artists will also present a free Musical Draw – a chance for artists of any age or ability, amateur or professional, to attend and draw at the Come and Sing rehearsal.

Concert tickets go on sale to Festival Friends on 18 April and to the general public on 9 May.  It is expected that demand for tickets will be substantial and since several of the venues are small they may sell out quickly.  The Festival’s Friends scheme not only offers priority booking but also reduced price tickets, a newsletter and a reception during the Festival.  A Festival Friends application form is available here.  The full programme can be found here.

The Festival  is funded entirely from box office income and the generous support of local people and organisations – including several who are sponsors of performances and performers.

Marcus Farnsworth concluded:  “We were thrilled last year when Hugh Canning, chief music critic of The Sunday Times, described the Festival as ‘a community event of an astoundingly high standard’ and saw ‘a clear indication that Southwell can already equal, even surpass, more established festivals’.  We hope this year’s programme will continue to meet these high standards.”