Category Archives: Devon Life

Community Spirit

I am writing this over the Spring Bank Holiday weekend.
Having been tea lady at my local church’s flower festival, I was so struck by the feeling of community spirit that I simply had to put my thoughts into a Blog.
What has this got to do with the Two Moors Festival? Read on…
There is a wonderful feeling of neighbourliness at the heart of the festival. This is what makes it so special. While many of our audience members travel from far and wide, the major percentage of those who go to concerts are local. With the roots of the festival stemming from Foot and Mouth disease, it is entirely appropriate that most of our followers hail from farms and rural businesses. There are also plenty of semi-retired folk who have given up city life in exchange for peace and quiet not to mention unpolluted air.
Of course our concerts bring people whose performance expectations are high. They take it for granted they will hear interpretations of sonatas, Lieder, unaccompanied Bach not to mention a wide spectrum of chamber music performed at the highest level. But it’s more than that, however. There is a sort of ‘package deal’ whereby they are more than likely to meet their chums having made friends the previous year. They enter the church venues full of smiles. Then they get waylaid by striking up a conversation culminating in a …’let’s carry on in the interval’…
The tone is one of a village atmosphere. It doesn’t matter if a recital starts a few minutes late. There are always stragglers coming in at the last minute. Incidentally, why is it that church doors have catches that either stick or close with a crash. Sometimes a little DW40 would help!
I hear people offering someone a lift home. I see an elderly lady being proffered an arm when negotiating uneven steps. Some might be having a friendly argument as to who should pay for a programme. More to the point, they catch up on news. This isn’t the sort of news you would necessarily hear in other concert situations. This might focus on whether it has been a good lambing season. They could be comparing notes on the varying sums they get paid for milk; could someone recommend a good builder to repair tiles on a roof; was it a bad summer for slugs and didn’t we get a fantastic crop of black currants this year. By the way, they grow like weeds in my garden with the biggest crop ever coming to 51lbs!! They finish by saying …’you must come and stay’ – knowing full well they won’t see each other for another year.
There are also those who want to impress. It amuses me no end to eavesdrop on a discussion of an interpretation of Beethoven’s D major sonata. And of course the balance was all wrong! Wasn’t the performance of Figaro sublime – did you go? And weren’t we lucky to get tickets for the Berlin Phil. at the Proms!
We’ve all done it…
While having a dig at these amusing exchanges, there are the whinges too. It’s useful to hear them as it’s the only way that we, as organisers, can learn.
It’s possible to argue that the cost of a festival’s ticket s is high especially so when sitting on an excruciatingly hard pew. The parking may be tricky in some places and as for loos, they can pose major problems. In the main, people recognise that small rural churches do not have these facilities and accept them without fuss. I shall never forget the wonderful sides-man in one Dartmoor church who on explaining where to find a loo, told us all to go the lamp-post!! What he meant to say was , turn left at the said spot.
Where we can, we offer lunches and teas which are usually provided by ladies within the community. We always endeavour to make sure that each venue makes money out of food sales.
Which brings me back to where I started – flower festival teas. Thinking that I would be doing this as a duty, I had a truly lovely time serving vast slices of cake (I munched the ‘to die for’ chocolate sponge) while chatting to lots of wonderful people. I managed to catch up on gossip and was able to meet lots of new faces. It was fun and I could have stayed longer only my dog needed some exercise. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world and all down to the community spirit that took me there. This is what the festival is all about.’

May 2018

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A Day in the Life of the Festival’s Artistic Director…

blog-photo.jpegI shall relate yesterday’s as you will only get as far as elevenses if I do today.

A good start because the weather, for the second time this year (now April), is glorious.

8am – having been listening to Petroc Trelawny (I always say Good Morning to him) and brought to my senses by Theresa May’s promise to remove plastic straws from the shelves, I bounce out of bed and hear the wonderful chirrup of the first swallows who have returned, high-speed, from warmer climes. They nest in the log pile and tantalise the cat (who ate my lunch yesterday). Talking of said cat, he solemnly munched his way through the last Hot X Bun; homemade and jolly good. He has a passion for bread of any description and even if it’s frozen, as this was, will make a beeline for it. I was furious and had to make do with toast instead.

Anyway, to return to getting up; I walk Flora who is over 12 years old, selectively deaf and the best-natured German Shepherd Dog you’re ever likely to meet. She sleeps close to my desk – which can be anywhere depending on where the laptop is. She can’t be bothered to bark much these days which is a good thing as it’s very loud and even after all these years still makes me jump. Barry, my wonderful builder turns up to paint more of the house exterior. He is a man in a million and knows more about what’s going on in the world than all the politicians put together. We discuss the pros and cons of Radio 2 v. R 4. We also agree that were we sedentary, the Archers would come to our rescue.

Then to Two Moors Festival stuff. The programme for the brochure is 99% ready to be drafted by the printer. Our Administrator, the super-efficient and jolly, Sarah Vertigan, has been chasing the missing bits of repertoire along with Op Nos. Why can’t musicians give you these? It should be in their contracts – there’s a thought. Also we need press quotes or slogans through which we can enhance the temptation to buy tickets. Things like – ‘the last few bars were a success’ won’t do. We need things like – ‘his passion and innate musicianship came through to the finale leaving the audience spell-bound’. If one can put ‘The Times’ as opposed to ‘Barkham Journal’ so much the better.

Need a break; put the kettle on for coffee for Barry and me, both of us eating our way through chocolate cornflakes and chatting in the sun.

Time to get the hoover out to remove the endless flow of moulting dog hairs. I decide the bedroom needs a once-over so drag the machine upstairs and feel virtuous afterwards for having the enthusiasm for doing some polishing as well. A mindless occupation one might think but in my case, I am contemplating a commission for harp, voice and cello based on some poems written by war-damaged soldiers from Afghanistan and Iraq. This project has great potential not least because the poems are incredibly moving. There is a charity involved called ‘Style for Soldiers’ which was set up by Emma Willis. She has fostered many soldiers over the years and improved their sense of well-being by making them bespoke shirts from her exclusive shop in Jermyn Street.

Back to my diary…

Emails going back/forth to Sarah V. She now needs more press quotes and more op.nos. Also, who and what is going to fill the last empty slot which is an hour’s concert on the morning of the 19th October. I have been wracking my brains on this for some while but nothing creative has sprung to mind. Until I get an email out of the blue from a very talented oboist called Peter Facer. He was/is a friend of my daughter who was also an oboe player. They both went to the Purcell School. Peter went on to Cambridge where he got a double first – how sickening is that! Caroline is now a very good and bouncy primary school teacher. Anyway, Peter got in touch to say he was back from Australia and if ever I wanted an ‘upmarket’ oboist, he was just the man! Well, what timing… Knowing what a super musician he is, I got straight back to him asking if he were free on the day of the gap. And he is; now to decide on what he will play. With any luck his programme will include the glorious Schumann Romances.

On to the next bit.. All the above has taken longer than I thought. It’s compounded by the fact that all internet connection here is dodgy because I live four miles from the nearest village and the only access to any form of 21st century technology is via a satellite dish on the strawberry patch in the vegetable garden. Damn – I forgot to water the tomato plants… Must remember.

This weekend sees the auditions of the Festival’s Young Musicians Competition. I need to clarify the timings from the competition’s administrator (another Sarah, just to confuse things). The standard is phenomenally high to the extent that some of the winners are finalists of the BBC’s YMs. Also, the fact that we attract entries from as far as Bath, Bournemouth and Truro gives an indication on the level involved. Oh, I should say that the competition is regional.

It’s now lunchtime and I decide to take it outside armed with my Joanna Trollope novel. It’s fun and I make it last while I scoff lots of very nutty Cheddar cheese and the same with new Parmesan along with bread, fruit and chocolate. If that isn’t enough, I make myself some coffee with double cream floating on the top. I am drafting emails to various companies in order to beg for top class auction Lots. We have a glitzy auction on the 8th Sept. Two tickets for an LSO concert, paintings, caviar hamper, dinner for two at Gidleigh Park are a good start. Let me know if you can provide a trip in a hot air balloon…

The afternoon is to be faced. I need to draft some letters about some concerts and by hand too. What I plan to say needs to ‘sit there’ for a bit before I send as I must make sure that what I want to say is put across in the way I want. Am now working on a workshop possibility with a fabulous guitarist, Andrey Lebedev, for a small organisation called Young Musicians Support. It provides impoverished youngsters the means to have lessons and lends them instruments.

I am also setting up a project with Exmoor National Park to commission a work based on R D Blackmore’s book ‘Lorna Doone’ which will have received its first publication 150 years ago in 2019. There is to be a major year-long celebration. This is a super opportunity, as you can imagine.

Now teatime… I take Flora for a stroll. I do the long way round the wood; she can’t be bothered. I then make some tea and for Barry too. More cake. Then I take time out and sow some seeds. Which variety becomes a major dilemma. Do I do foxgloves or Chard? While I decide, I have all last year’s dahlia tubers outside and remove the soil so that they can dry out properly. Have decided to sow lettuces and Sweet Williams. It’s now 7.30pm and wonder why I am hungry. How I love the garden! All the while, my brain has been working on programme possibilities for next year’s festival. No details – sorry mate. I am so grubby I go and soak in a Badedas bath armed with new book which is a biography of Wallis Simpson. I may not finish it as there are nearly 500 pages. Why did I choose it when I could have reread the ‘Secret Garden. – a story that I wallowed in as a child. Supper of pork chop is very late but means I can watch the second episode on the murder of Stephen Lawrence. What a ghastly tragedy that was. I then do more emails, chasing up the last of the op.nos and doing drafts for more 2019 projects.

I find I am yawning a lot and reckon it’s time to take Flora out for a last pee. My final job for the day is to set two mouse traps. I am getting a dab hand at fixing these but find I have to wear gloves to remove the poor specimens squashed by the deadly wire that gets a grip. I don’t have much sympathy when they have attacked almonds, raisins, white chocolate and much else besides.

Well, that’s about it. And I expect any reader to be bored stiff by now. If you have waded through to the end, you’ve done well.

Good night!

Penny Adie
April 2018

The idyllic life of an Artistic Director

Who would have thought I would be writing this while surrounded by deep snow. It may be pretty, however it isn’t practical. So far we have had to cancel the first round of the Festival’s Young Musicians competition as no one would have got to Devon safely; then I had to cry off from going to the finals of the Oxford Lieder Prize which also meant that I couldn’t stay with close friends; next on the list was a trip to the Royal College of Music to hear one of our previous Young Musicians winners, the talented violinist, Joel Munday and finally another London gaunt still hangs in the balance. If you add to this the cancellation of a discussion with the BSO’s Heather Duncan (try driving to Lyme Regis through hedge high snow); as well as a festival meeting then it rather sums up the perils of living at 1200ft perched on top of Exmoor.

 

There are advantages to being snowed-in. It provides every excuse to say ‘I am awfully sorry but there is no way I can possibly be there”. And it’s true. When I have no access, I really do mean it. Proof of this was the delivery – or should I say, non-delivery of a gas top-up from Flogas. Bless their efficiency! It meant I had no gas for three weeks which resulted in the three cottages (we used to do holiday lets) had no heating which might have burst the pipes when it thawed. The water pump froze thereby preventing any hope of a hot bath. Try visualising me having a high-class Badedas strip wash from the washing up bowl (I drew the curtains in case anyone was foolhardy enough to venture down the drive to peer in). The latest is the Aga needs a service judging from its output of minimal heat and its lack of the ‘pop pop’ sound that should lurk in the background. It’s funny how comforting that pianissimo gurgle of flames is; a sort of monotone Musak.

 

It always used to amuse me when, on the odd occasion, I would be on the phone having an earnest conversation with say, the CEO of a company from which I was trying to extract some sponsorship, when I would find myself saying would he mind if I took the kettle off the boil. Then the large German Shepherd dog – Flora – would bark at the arrival of the postlady at which point all hell had broken loose and any hope of bagging thousands of £££££ for the festival had gone.

 

It’s a miracle that any programming takes place. Forget the creative bit.

 

Oh, the life of an artistic director! (Dare I say it but it’s great fun)

 

Penny Adie

21st March 2018

Two Moors – Food for thought from Artistic Director Penny Adie…

It seems a long time since I wrote a blog and firstly, I may have forgotten how and secondly, I don’t know what to write about it. My mind is blank.

 

I do not want to mention anything to do with Brexit (we’re all fed up with the word – although I realise that, for musicians, it will have effect on travel to Europe, visas, cost and so on.

 

Music Education – could someone come up with a better name? It’s enough to put anyone off as it makes me think of the 3rs.

 

Statistics – endless lists of figures – 3000 achieved the stone-age project, and so on. While I recognize these are valuable tools towards making successful funding applications, what does this tell us; that young people have become passionate about music and desire above all else to be immersed in it?

 

Producing different and often ridiculous schemes just to attract funding.

 

Commissions that have no afterlife. These can be very expensive.

.

Doing workshops with so-called musical games that are supposed to ‘educate’ youngsters into loving classical music. You might be interested to know that when we have done workshops, it’s Bach that appeals more than anything else.

 

The word Gig is normally associated with jazz. Why has it become the norm for classical concerts to be called this? Is it because it is meant to grab a new kind of audience?

 

The two politically correct projects to my mind has been the success of BBC Radio 3’s Ten Pieces Project and likewise, Julian Lloyd Webber’s magnificent El Sistema scheme. These are opportunities like no other and those involved need to be congratulated on their foresight, courage and brave enough to forge ahead knowing that both would require a considerable sum of money in order to maximize their potential.

 

Now, here IS what I will Blog about –

The following things which DO bring intense joy and lasting love of music to children are:

 

Playing alongside professional artists in a professional orchestra. The impact and rewards from doing this are immediate and at the same time, give a thrill to the adult players as they know the long and lonely hours they have spent practising have paid off so that children as well as those of A level age are inspired to carry on scrubbing strings, blowing reeds, and hitting drums. The results are mind blowing and to such an extent, that one of the winners of the Festival’s Young Musician competition said the experience of being part of an orchestra of high calibre was the deciding factor as to whether she should pursue music as her career or do something else instead.

 

Taking part in a competition such as that set up by the Two Moors Festival whereby stress is removed through awarding four equal prizes instead of one. We provide an audition environment in an old barn in the depths of Exmoor and by giving chocolates to the candidates. We endeavour to create an atmosphere that is so relaxed that entrants often comment on it and although not winners, come back repeatedly to gain benefit from playing in this environment. The formula wins hands down every time.

 

Giving children a mini masterclass in their chosen instruments as part of their competition auditions.The four professional adjudicators give ideas, show them that an audience is on their side, tell them not to be afraid, show them how to project. The one thing we never do is make comments on the teaching. This is most important and none of our business!

 

Offering children/secondary students the opportunity to hear live classical music – Mozart, Beethoven and Haydn among many othes work a treat. Going to a concert and making sure you get tickets just behind the percussion or double basses so that they feel as if they are taking part.

 

Getting students to present a concert ie as a broadcaster would do on the radio and on TV. Of course they would have to listen and become familiar with the work prior to doing this.

 

They can have the chance to see what it’s like to stand in front of an ensemble, hold the baton and wave it around. One does this with prior warning to the musicians concerned.

 

Put questions to the professional artists and do mock interviews.

The list is endless…

 

No doubt this blog will cause debate and I will be shot down in flames but I FIRMLY believe that these are the things that will bring a lasting love and joy that music brings to the lives of children. They will grow up having been inspired, to realise there is a difference between listening and hearing music, to experiencing all the different emotions and effects that music can have on their lives and in many cases, it will also stimulate children into wanting to play an instrument.

 

This is more or less how I grabbed music with open arms and never looked back. It has remained with me for over sixty years giving me inspiration, joy, fun, a sense of humour, helping me through crisis and sadness: many chances to make new friends; given me confidence; making me able to express myself without inhibition; to make a noise; to explore music from different countries as well as their related cultures; experience religious music; to be aware of the different genres – opera,

film music, telling a story; learning about Shakespeare, poets, lyrics, screen writers, dramas, musak, being aware of sound – phone signals, beeps, noise, shouting and how Beethoven must have been so distressed at his lack of hearing.

 

As you can see, the list is endless.

 

So now over to you

 

Penn Adie

January 2018

 

PS

I now realise that I have talked about the very things I said I wouldn’t!!

Thank you!

Well, what a festival! Yet again, we are so grateful for everyone who was involved in this year’s festival – there are so many volunteers and people behind the scenes that it would just not be possible to carry on without.

Of course, the standard of music this year was as exemplary as ever with so many wonderful comments from audience members.

We must rest for a few days before planning 2018 – keep an eye out for news announcing next year’s programme!

Thank you!
Two Moors Festival Moors Scenes 01.JPG

A word from our Artistic Director, Penny Adie

Build up!

I can’t be the only Artistic Director to be so consumed by the build-up to an arts event that no matter how hard you try, sleep seems to be a bit thin on the ground. Not that it matters because you can make up for it afterwards – and I certainly do in spade-loads. A bath armed with a good book is a luxury, as is sitting in front of the fire glued to Bake Off (with supper perched on knees), not to mention walking the dog and seeing one’s friends. These are all lacking currently but would one have it differently? No of course not; this is all part and parcel of what running a festival is about and particularly the Two Moors that is unlike any other in Britain.

There is a wonderful passion attached to this event. This has been present from the outset when my late husband, John and I set it up as an antidote following the devastation caused by Foot and Mouth disease. Since then it has blossomed into a national festival of which – and I am not afraid to say – he and I were (and I am) justifiably proud. It is our dedication and commitment that have manifested themselves and has spread to our audience members who come year on year showing their devotion to the type of concert that is offered to them. The Trustees have also shown their love of the organization and but for them and their sheer hard work, the festival would not be where it is today. It’s worth bearing in mind that all members of the Board are busy people who give up inordinate amounts of time to keep it afloat; who put forward ideas to make sure it continues to develop, offer opinions on whether it steers along the right course and to use their influence on broadening our horizons.

With only two weeks to go before kick-off, keeping an eye on ticket sales is very important (they are currently most encouraging) and it’s always interesting to see the surprises along the way. Some concerts that you least expect to, sell overnight while others you think are going to have a capacity audience, don’t fare well at all. Strange how the public mind works! Inevitably there are one or two who whinge at the prices. They don’t realise that their seat would cost in the region of £85 were there no sponsorship. They never stop to think that the cost of going to a football match would work out to be far more expensive!

Almost the last thing on the ‘must do’ list before opening night is to galvanise the press into action. The amount of work this entails is vast. Social media comes into its own these days and if you don’t do it, you’re really sunk. One Tweet can, when spread, reach thousands of people. Even if no one purchases a ticket, the profile enhancement is worth ££££££s. Both the national and regional press have to be bombarded with articles in hopes they will be printed near the front of the paper rather than alongside, say, the motoring section. BBC Radio 3, and our super media partner, Classic FM, are great at mentioning the festival on air and of course, we spread flyers to any shop of pub that will have them.

So it’s a case of wait and see and hope that this year’s music-making will give a thrill to those listening as it has previously. It will be wonderful if does then I can have my longed-for bath!!

 

Penny Adie

September 2017

An exciting pre-festival event!

We have been very lucky that Laurence Beckford has agreed to talk to us about his fascinating job as a wood and stone carver. He is at present working on John Adie’s grave stone and it seems appropriate that we will be able to hear his talk.

Laurence_working

Master Carver Laurence Beckford lives and works in Dulverton, and is one of only handful of master carvers and apprentices in the country. Laurence’s work is in high demand, and he has worked on many prestigious projects, including the restoration of the fire damaged Grinling Gibbons carvings at Hampton Court Palace and the replacement of the carved enrichments in the State and Octagon Dining Rooms at Windsor Castle (where Laurence was the ‘signature’ carver). Laurence’s talk will give us a fascinating insight into the rigorously detailed work involved in the restoration of fire, weather and vandal-damaged carvings. He will also talk about his passion for traditional ‘hand cut’ lettering in slate and stone. If you would like to see more of Laurence prior to his talk you can visit his website http://www.beckfordsartworks.co.uk

6:30 pm
Fri, 29 Sep 2017
Filleigh Village Hall, EX32 0RS

Tickets: £10 (includes wine and canapés)

It will be a very interesting evening, as a fund raiser for the Festival. There will be plenty to eat and drink so do join us if you can. Tickets from The Two Moors Festival website, or from the Box Office 01392 665885.