Happy Christmas!

Southwell Music Festival LogoAt the end of a momentous year in the life of our fledgling festival I am writing to wish you a very Happy Christmas and a prosperous New Year and to thank you for being part of what we have achieved so far.

Over the Christmas holiday we will publish twelve more highlights from the 2014 Festival here on our News page  – with something new appearing each day between Boxing Day and Twelfth Night.  Our own celebration of the Twelve Days of Christmas.

I am also delighted to announce our second London concert – taking place as last year at the home of Sir Vernon Ellis in South Kensington.  The 2015 concert will be held onTuesday 3rd February.  Last year Nottinghamshire came to London in force and we hope you will also support us on this occasion.

Looking a little further ahead we will be announcing the programme for the 2015 Festival on the evening of Friday 13th March in the Minster at 7.30pm.  We hope you will join us to hear details of the exciting plans which are now taking shape.

Finally while you have your diary open it’s worth reminding you that the 2015 Festival itself will take place from Thursday 27th to Monday 31st August.

All this information – and very much more – is contained in a special newsletter which you can download here.

Seasons greetings from all at the Southwell Music Festival.

Festival Launch Anniversary

On 7th October 2013 more than 170 people met in the Minster for the launch of the Southwell Music Festival.

That evening the organising team shared its vision for the scope and quality of the proposed Festival in both words and music and requested help to take the project forwards.   The response was overwhelmingly positive.

We asked for help in a number of areas – including hosting around 50 visiting performers and considerable financial support: this support, and much besides, was readily forthcoming.

I also stated our ambition to deliver “an event of the highest quality – not only on stage but in the way it is presented and run”.

Since the inaugural Festival in August we have received many comments expressing surprise that what took place then was the first Festival and not the latest edition of an event that had been running for years.

These comments provide a good measure of the standard of organisation and presentation that we achieved. We wanted to create an event in keeping with the quality of our town and to involve the community in the endeavour: I hope this feedback is something in which everyone involved will take pride.

The other part of our ambition was to create an event with high artistic standards and the wonderful performances that took place show how we achieved that goal. Here, in celebration of the first anniversary of our Festival launch this time last year is the recording of the finale of the Mendelssohn Octet – that miraculous work which began our concert in the State Chamber on the Festival’s opening day (22 August). Later that evening the same players closed the simultaneous concert at The Stage at the Old Theatre Deli – a rare achievement.

In less than four minutes this movement captures the delight in music making and the sense of euphoria that was the hallmark of that memorable Festival weekend – a sense of exhilaration that I strongly suspect exceeded the expectations of any of us present that night last October.

We hope to create similar excitement when the Festival returns from 27-31 August 2015.

With thanks.

Marcus Farnsworth

Founder and Artistic Director

A Festival Souvenir

It’s already four weeks since our memorable inaugural Southwell Music Festival.

Thank you for the glowing testimonials which we continue to receive:

“The atmosphere created was wonderful for performers and audience alike.”

“Without doubt the quality of the performers was outstanding.  Southwell should be proud to have hosted such a festival.”

“A stunning weekend with top-quality music in our wonderful town.  A huge thank you to everyone who was involved.”

And at the centre of the programme was a performance of Haydn’s The Creation which will live long in the memory of performers and audience members alike.  One quote sums it up:

The Creation – electrifying – could not be bettered.”

 To keep the memory of that exhilarating musical experience alive we thought you would enjoy this video.

2014 Festival Gallery

You can now view our 2014 Festival Gallery. Photos courtesy of tenor Andy Staples and cellist Karel Bredenhorst.

Photo by Andrew Staples


Once in a while, life throws up an event so special that those who were there will for ever remember it with deep affection; and, in attempting to convey the elemental joy of the occasion to those who were not, can only say “you should have been there”.

To my way of thinking – and I suspect I am not alone, last weekend was one of those rare, life-enhancing, and possibly life-changing, experiences. We were privileged to be there and to be part of it in whatever way.

What we experienced at the inaugural Southwell Music Festival was not due to the contribution of any one of us; it arose from our collective effort to make and be part of something special.  I think I can say without fear of contradiction that we did – and it was.

Thank you to everyone who was with us on the journey and who shared the experience.  We established the Southwell Music Festival in such an emphatic way that several people – audiences and performers – have commented that they could not believe that this was the first Festival; still less that it was accomplished entirely with voluntary effort.

Time will give perspective to what we have achieved but already it is possible to say that we go forwards to next year with the confidence of knowing that our musicians are keen to return; that audiences are hungry for more; that people enjoyed playing host to our performers; and that there is interest in considering the financial support we will need.

To put this enthusiasm in perspective we were lucky enough to have Hugh Canning, music critic of the Sunday Times, with us on a private visit: he sent a couple of enthusiastic tweets following The Creation and described the State Chamber as “perfect for song & chamber music”.  He also much enjoyed choral evensong.

I am also pleased to report that our benefiting charity Framework is more than £1,400 better off due to the generosity of those attending our Fringe events, and that the Southwell Artists enjoyed visits from many of our audience members.  Initial indications are that visitor numbers to the town over the weekend were significantly up and that local traders benefited.

I am indebted to two of our visiting musicians for portraits of the weekend in words and pictures which I share with thanks to Cheyney Kent for his affectionate blog and to Andrew Staples for his evocative pictures.

Marcus Farnsworth

Founder and Artistic Director

From vision to reality

Two short years ago it was an idea; this time next week it will be happening.

The stage is set for the inaugural Southwell Music Festival at the August Bank Holiday (22-25 August): the final preparations are taking place and most of the tickets that are for sale have been sold.

Now we eagerly await the arrival of the dozens of very talented musicians who will bring the entire enterprise to life and give it meaning.  Every programme is full of the most wonderful music and I can’t wait to hear the music making that is in prospect when these great performers get together.

I invite you to give our musicians a very warm welcome – and here I thank, in particular, those who are most generously playing host to our players and singers – involving our visitors in the community in a special way and making their stay all the more memorable.

Thank you to everyone who has been with us on this journey of preparation – from initial, formative conversations to our launch in the Minster last October and on into the period of detailed preparation in which widespread interest and generous support have given the entire project a most encouraging momentum.

If you have not already booked please contact the Box Office (01636 812933): there may be a few seats available, not least for The Creation on Saturday 23rd August.  However more than half the events in the programme are free, including the excellent Fringe programme.  Full programme details are available here.

We also invite you to visit the Southwell Artists’ Open Studios (Saturday 23rd and Sunday 24th): for details of their brilliant event see here.

One way or another this will be a Bank Holiday to remember.  And talking of souvenirs, don’t leave without picking up a copy of the brilliant 100 page Souvenir Programme Book which will be available from the Cathedral Shop from Wednesday 20th August, and at all Festival events, for £5. Crammed with information about the music, the performers, Southwell and much more, it’s worth every penny.

Another reason to buy a copy is that it contains details of seven restaurants, pubs and other hostelries which have attractive special offers for Festival goers on presentation of the Programme Book.

We hope you have an outstanding Bank Holiday weekend at the Southwell Music Festival.

Marcus Farnsworth

Founder and Artistic Director

Get ready for Bank Holiday Party

If you have not already done so, please plan to be in Southwell over the August Bank Holiday weekend.  More than 60 of the best young professional classical musicians are preparing to converge on the town from across the UK to take part in the first Southwell Music Festival.

The visiting musicians are joining several local performers and Southwell’s distinguished group of visual artists who are holding their sixth biennial Open Studios event. A great weekend’s entertainment is in prospect.

More than half the events in the Festival are free and take place throughout the town across the weekend. The Festival’s Fringe programme includes jazz outside The Old Theatre Deli (Friday 22nd, 2pm), local young singers in the Methodist Church (Friday 22nd, 4pm), harpist Roisin Hickey with members of the Nottingham Youth Orchestra in the Walled Garden of the Archbishop’s Palace (Saturday 23rd, 3pm), and an illustrated lecture on Byron in Southwell by the distinguished local Byron expert Geoffrey Bond at the Southwell Library (Saturday 23rd, 4.30pm).  On Sunday 24th at 5pm a brass group will perform in Southwell Methodist Church.

Free events at Southwell Minster include the Festival Upbeat – a chamber music concert featuring artists appearing in the Festival (Friday 22nd, 12.15pm) and the Bank Holiday Organ Recital given by the Minster’s Assistant Director of Music Simon Hogan (Monday 25th August, 3.30pm).  On Saturday 23rd at 10am visiting musicians coach five young local musicians in a Masterclass in The State Chamber.

Admission to free events is on a ‘first-come-first-served’ basis.

On Sunday, visiting singers and instrumentalists will provide a special musical contribution to the Minster’s regular services – Sung Eucharist at 10.30am and Evensong at 3.30pm.

Also on show throughout the town on Saturday 23rd and Sunday 24th (10am to 5pm daily) will be the works of more than a dozen leading local artists who have created the sixth biennial Southwell Artists’ Open Studios.

Visitors are invited to follow a simple walking route across the town, stopping off at the studios and homes of the artists.  A wide range of visual media will be on display, featuring the work of both local artists and guest artists who live nearby or have an association with the town.

The artists will be present to discuss their work and answer questions.  A £4 charge will be made which gives access to all the studios for the duration of the weekend.  All profits go to the local learning disabilities charity REACH (formerly the Southwell Care Project).  Information about the Southwell Artists’ Open Studios can be found at www.southwellartists.co.uk

Such has been the popularity of the Festival that tickets for the main concerts in the Minster and The State Chamber (formerly the Great Hall) are now in short supply.   A few are available for the Festival’s main concert – The Creation in the Minster on Saturday 23rd, and for the late night candle-lit choral concert at 10pm on Friday 22nd August.

To encourage young people to enjoy the Festival, 100 Golden Tickets are available to all ticketed performances for £5 or less.  They are only available on a first-come-first-served basis from the Cathedral Shop in Southwell on proof of identity to people who are aged 18 or under on the day of the concert.

The Festival box office is at the Cathedral Shop (01636 812933) and programme details and availability can be found here.

We look forward to seeing you at the Festival.

Tickets Update

We are very pleased that people are buying tickets in large numbers.  There are still seats available for The Creation – but those are going fast; a few for the late night concert on Friday, and we could still take singers (especially tenors!) for the Come and Sing Haydn on Bank Holiday Monday but for the rest of our ticketed events – including the extra concert in the Old Theatre Deli – it’s returns only! 

In addition to the ticketed performances there are a number of free un-ticketed events happening throughout the Festival; the Festival Upbeat, the Organ Recital and of course the performance resulting from our Come and Sing Haydn. Local young musicians will also be participating in our Fringe events, so keep an eye on our events page for more details. 

I look forward to seeing you next month.
Marcus Farnsworth
Founder and Artistic Director

By Popular Demand – An Extra Concert

Tickets for Haydn’s The Creation are selling fast and only returns are available for ticketed Great Hall events so an extra concert is being presented by Southwell Music Festival to meet demand for tickets.

The Classical Cabaret will take place in the historic theatre above the Old Theatre Deli on Market Place, Southwell at 7.30pm on Friday 22nd August.

With some of Britain’s very best young professional musicians in town for the Festival weekend, the wide-ranging programme will feature a vocal quartet performing Elizabethan madrigals – perfect entertainment for a summer evening, and a virtuoso brass quartet playing a variety of baroque ensemble pieces.

The price of the ticket includes a delicious buffet supper and, following an extended interval, the audience will be entertained by eight string players performing the magnificent Octet by Felix Mendelssohn.

The concert will end at approximately 9.30pm – in good time to move to the Minster for Light out of Darkness – the candle-lit concert of words and choral music beginning at 10.00pm.

Tickets for the Classical Cabaret are £20 full price and, for under 18, £15 including supper provided to the Old Theatre Deli’s usual high standards.  There will also be a full bar service (drinks are not included in the ticket price).  We very much regret that there is no wheelchair access to this part of the Old Theatre Deli.

The theatre has limited capacity so to avoid disappointment please do not delay in applying for tickets:

  • by email to tickets@southwellmusicfestival.com
  • by post to Southwell Music Festival, c/o Music and Liturgy Office, The Minster Centre, Church Street,  Southwell, Notts, NG25 0HD
  • at the Cathedral Shop in person or by calling 01636 812933.

Please state the number of tickets you require and whether discounts apply; please provide full contact details and indicate whether any of your party have special dietary requirements.

Tickets can be paid for by bank transfer online or by sending a cheque.  Details of how to pay can be found here.  Please note there is no booking form for this event.

With thanks for your interest and support.

Marcus Farnsworth

Founder and Artistic Director

Tickets now on sale

Public booking opened for our first Southwell Music Festival ten days ago and I am delighted to report a very healthy demand for tickets.

Support for the Festival continues to give the organisers great encouragement.  We wondered how many people would share our enthusiasm for the Festival idea: now I think we know the answer.

Tickets are not now available to adults for the three main concerts in the Great Hall – the Chamber Classics on Friday evening; the piano recital on Saturday lunchtime and the World War One commemoration concert on Sunday evening.  However there may be some Golden Tickets available at reduced prices for young people up to the age of 18.

Tickets for the Festival’s centrepiece concert – Haydn’s The Creation in the Minster on Saturday evening – are going well with all the front nave seats already taken.

There is also healthy demand for tickets to the late night choral concert in the Minster on Friday evening and we already have a good size choir in place to Come and Sing Haydn on Bank Holiday Monday – though more singers are welcome.

We are delighted that people have not only supported the Festival by buying tickets but are showing their support by becoming Friends of the Festival too.  More than 80 people have done so.  Thank you.

On the artistic side too I have been thrilled by the enthusiastic response of my professional friends and colleagues when invited to join us for a musical weekend in Nottinghamshire.

The enthusiasm of our performers combined with the very generous support of the local community – as ticket buyers, as financial backers, as participants and as volunteer helpers, promise to make the 2014 August Bank Holiday in Southwell a weekend to remember.

For programme details and an indication of availability please visit our tickets page.


Marcus Farnsworth

Founder and Artistic Director