Choosing a Two Moors Festival theme

Penny_FloraEach year, we have a different theme for the Two Moors Festival, which helps us focus the programme and ensure that we have the best of the best music and performers taking part. This year, our theme was anniversaries – there were just so many in 2012, we felt we had to do something to celebrate such a meaningful and momentous year – and we’ve caught up with artistic director Penny Adie to find out just how she goes about deciding what to do every October.

“My life as artistic director of the festival has been described as the ‘fun bit’. It certainly has many fun moments but it is a huge responsibility creating the programme because if you don’t get it right, the audience won’t come, ticket sales will be poor and potential sponsors won’t wish to delve into their pockets. Therefore it is a challenge and one that can cause many a sleepless night – all in a good cause!” she says.

“When we first started the festival, I used to avoid having a theme for linking the concerts. They were chosen at random and if an artist was free, I would grab him or her, particularly if they were at the top of the tree. Also, as their programme was concerned, I would leave much of it to them. Not very creative, now I think back! There was a commission of the opera, Tarka the Otter, the idea for which came to my husband and me in 2004 while sitting in a traffic jam in the Bayswater Road. Two years later, this was premiered having been composed by Stephen McNeff as a work for professionals involving many local people. It was a roaring success gaining a 4-star review in the Times.

“It may seem as if the festival programme was somewhat unimaginative in the first few years. However, this was not the case, for its aim was to take concerts at the highest level to the most rural places on Dartmoor and Exmoor that had seen no music – full stop. That in itself was artistic enough to attract concert-goers. Since the arrival of the splendid new Boesendorfer in 2007, my ideas have changed. It was time to be resourceful and come up with as much creativity as possible. That year saw an emphasis on the piano, with programmes focusing around the Aronowitz Ensemble. 2008 saw ‘Beethoven and Biscuits’, the extraordinary title given to a project whereby all nine Beethoven symphonies were performed in the piano duet arrangements with 18 pianists. These concerts took place at elevenses or at teatime when biscuits were offered to the audience.

“I decided to go one step further the following year, having invited renowned pianist Andreas Haefliger to come on board as an associate director. His involvement produced a wonderful array of recitals, one of which prompted our first BBC Radio 3 broadcast. So time has produced a much broader array of music, thus attracting an audience from further afield plus a significant increase in ticket sales. By the time we arrived at 2012, a strong idea had taken its grip with a theme of ‘Anniversaries’ in any shape or form (we have Her Majesty to thank for this).

“So there was a concert celebrating the combined 100th birthdays of Martin Roscoe and the Brodsky Quartet, a celebration of the 350th Anniversary of the Book of Common Prayer, the 1812 overture, a song recital based on the sinking of the Titanic and so on. These involved much research on my part and considerable collaboration with most of the artists involved. These programmes have emerged into a significant challenge and increasingly so in order to complete them by the time the brochure goes to print in May.”

What a great little snapshot of how the festival programme is put together – and what a lot of work it is! We’ll be hearing from Penny again soon, so make sure you keep an eye on the blog!

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