Jottings from the Artistic Director

Someone told me recently how much he enjoyed my Blogs and went on to say that I should write more. Talk about being flattered! 

In any case, this has given me enormous incentive to do one here and now – if only I could post it on the website. I seem to have lost my ‘postman’ which is a bore. Either that, or I am even more computer-illiterate than I thought. Oh dear…

It’s been such a long time since I did do a Blog and there is so much to say, that I really don’t know where to begin. I think it’s a case of sticking a pin in and seeing what comes up.

The most recent thing that has happened is the first round of the Festival’s Young Musicians Competition. Impressive it was too. We had a wonderful mix of instruments (plus their players!) and for the first time in years had only one singer. This is unusual but it’s luck of the draw as you simply don’t know whether there is going to be an influx of flutes (seven, in fact) or the same for piano. There were two percussionists however, as well as a young harpist. I love the first round as the standard is so mixed. On this occasion, this was unusually high, with every competitor giving his or her best; all seemingly pretty relaxed about it. We – the panel, comprising four professional artists, bent over backwards in order to put them at their ease. It might be a comment on someone’s dress or asking what they had for breakfast or some such. Body language says a lot and from the moment a youngster comes through the door, you know whether or not they mean business! However, you do get the odd surprise when a too-cocky-by-half 14 year-old comes prancing in thinking he/she is doing you a favour. I should perhaps add that the complexities of putting the competition together are manifold. The arrangements have to be slick so that dedicated parents who drive miles feel that they can do so with as little hassle as possible. We are lucky in that the organiser of the competition runs it not only smoothly but spends much of the year visiting schools and also music teachers.

So that’s the first thing that has sprung to mind. The second is the stunning recital that took place in John Lewis’s ‘Place to Eat’. A cunning ploy to entice people back to the high street to do their shopping, this recital was part of a series and was given by the pianist, Pavel Kolesnikov (no less), who gave a serious programme of Tchaikovsky and Brahms. With slightly intellectual pieces from both composers this was a challenging musical diet for shoppers but much to my relief, they lapped it up. The John Lewis staff’s organisation was immaculate even to turning off the air-conditioning –  only for the generator to kick in thinking everyone in John Lewis was going to run out of oxygen!

The festival’s team whether Trustees, or members of the Campaign Board or the professional staff have been working flat out. The festival is a big beast these days and a force to be reckoned with. Gone are the days when, my late husband, John and I would sit at the kitchen table looking at a simple programme, work out how to make it pay, and do a few press releases. Oh, and the fun bit was going on church crawls to ascertain whether a few of them would make good concert venues. These excursions meant sussing out the pubs as a result of which we could write the Festival’s guide to Michelin star chips. Now however, we have a dedicated and super-efficient Executive, Karen Malim who manages to keep a steady string of emails going throughout the day focusing on a vast array of different issues. We also have a splendid administrator, Sarah Vertigan who tears her hair out trying to keep me in order (I am not good at filing and am constantly losing data, forgetting someone’s programme (is it Schumann or Mozart? And who is playing it?). If Sarah weren’t there to pick up the pieces, I don’t know what I would do.

Our Trustees are steered by Richard Fletcher and what a good egg he is too! He runs a tight ship and is much admired by all those who work alongside him. Stimulating, organised and so generous with his time, he gives his all to the Festival – as does everyone else. 

It seems to me that there must be something about the festival that attracts these remarkable people to lend their support. They don’t have to be a trustee. All they do is purely voluntary; their advice is sage as well as valued by everyone – especially me. I know that I am a loose canon and they find me very confusing as well as a problem Artistic Director.

On which note, let’s see if I can find some means of putting this on the screen for everyone to see.

Penny Adie

 April 2019


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