Category Archives: Music

In conversation with…

To get to know some of our wonderful artists a little better ahead of this year’s Two Moors Festival, we have invited some of them to share the answers to a few short questions so we can learn
more!

First up we have Oliver and Owen from O Duo Percussion….

Have you ever visited the Two Moors area before?

Oliver: Yes, to play for the festival (twice)
Owen: Yes! We’ve played at the festival on a few occasions now…..I’ve also been on the edge of Exmoor to an excellent pub for recreational purposes! 

What did you want to be when growing up? 

Oliver:  When I was quite young, a doctor! Then later, a musician….
Owen: From the age of 14, a percussionist! I didn’t really think about it before then or at least I can’t remember!

Who’s your inspiration?  

Oliver:  Probably my Grandad, who came from a really poor, working-class family in Dundee and became Principal Cellist of the LPO!
Owen: In music, no-one really…. But I try and put into perspective being a musician, by thinking of those of have trickier/life threatening jobs, like my brother in the army.
 

Ambition or talent: which matters more to success for you? 

Oliver: Both
Owen: Has to be both! Whilst I’m a believer in anyone can do it, I think you need that something extra to go up a level, that doesn’t mean to make a career. But, I think the best musicians have both

What is the greatest achievement of your life so far? 

Oliver: Musically, I guess playing most of the UK’s biggest concert halls with O Duo, after forming the duo at College.
Owen: Deep! Making a career (ie. Paying the mortgage, buying a house, and being able to pay for the family to live!) out of being a musician.
 

What are you looking forward to most when performing at this year’s Two Moors Festival?

Oliver: Being in a beautiful part of the country….
Owen: Being in one of the finest parts of the country, with great audiences.

O Duo Percussion
Owen Gunnell marimba
Oliver Cox marimba
Performance: 11:00 am Tue, 17 Oct 2017
Venue: St Pancras Church, Widecombe-in-the-Moor, TQ13 7TA

Programme Announcement – 2017 Festival

The time has arrived to announce our 2017 festival programme – and we are so excited about it! With a total of 28 outstanding concerts for everyone to enjoy, this year’s festival takes place from Friday 13th October to Sunday 21st October 2017 across a total of 13 beautiful venues in Dartmoor and Exmoor.

The festival grows in calibre every year and now truly ranks in the top class of classical music events in the UK. And this year is no exception! Have a read here of some of the highlights of 2017:

  • The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra makes its first appearance in the South West at The Two Moors Festival performing alongside gifted pianist, Pavel Kalesnikov, to play Grieg’s much loved piano concerto
  • One of the most exciting British chamber ensembles, the Heath Quartet, will be performing Haydn, Tippett and Mendelssohn
  • Acclaimed pianist Barry Douglas will be performing twice, once with the Endellion Quartet which will be broadcast live in concert on BBC Radio 3
  • Schubert’s three famous song cycles are to be performed in one day with pianist, Jâms Coleman(tackling no less than 58 songs in the process!)
  • Esteemed international violinist Tasmin Little will travel to All Saint’s Church, Okehampton to for a recital to include Prokofiev’s D Major Sonata and Brahms Sonatensatz in C minor. Accompanied by Australian Pianist Andrey Gugnin
  • This year the festival also branches into Jazz with Alec Dankworth’s eclectic Spanish programme oozing flamenco rhythms and traditional Spanish and Cuban folksongs
  • Final concert brings the North Devon Sinfonia, winners of BBC Four’s ‘All Together Now – The Great Orchestra Challenge’, who will be performing Haydn’s Creation. The singers for the Festival chorus are local choral singers, largely made up of members of 2MF and the Devon Wildlife Trust,  our community partner for this event.

Ticket release dates are as follows:
Benefactors from 3 July 2017
Associates from 10 July 2017
Friends from 17 July 2017
General Booking opens 26 July 2017

All information for the 2017 festival can be found on our website: http://tickets.thetwomoorsfestival.co.uk/sales/2017festival/2017-concerts-and-talks

We can’t wait to see you again for another wonderful festival!

Winner Of Our Tarka The Otter Opera Ticket Competition Revealed

As you’re all no doubt already aware, our series of classical music concerts is creeping up on us – not long to go now until October 15th! We hope you’re all as excited as we are about the two-week event. It’s our 15th anniversary so there are some extra-special performances going on by way of celebrations.

And one of those is two performances of our acclaimed opera Tarka the Otter, based on the book by Henry Williamson. It was greatly received by all (and succeeded in scoring itself a 4* review in the Times) so if you have bought tickets for this year’s event then you know you’re in for something really rather special.

If you’re an avid reader of the Two Moors Festival blog then you’ll know that we recently ran a competition offering two tickets to Tarka the Otter worth £28 each on October 20th at 19:30 at Exeter Cathedral down here in Devon.

The competition has now closed and we’re delighted to announce that the winner, picked at random, is Patrick Robinson. Patrick, if you’re reading this please do drop us a line via the Box Office on (01643) 831 006. Alternatively, get in touch via Facebook and send us a message.

We hope you enjoy the performance. We’d love to hear what you think of it. See you there!

Top 10 Classical Music Blogs!

As a UK classical music festival, we here at the Two Moors Festival are always following and reading other organisations’ and bloggers’ websites. There are some really brilliant classical music blogs out there so it’s amazing for us to announce that we’ve been featured in the top ten list of all classical music blogs in the UK.

Compiled by Cision (now Vuelio), the rundown includes Jessica Duchen’s Classical Music Blog, Planet Hugill, The Cross-Eyed Pianist, Boulezian, British Classical Music: The Land of Lost Content, Where’s Runnicles?, Richard Bratby, new:dots, Classical Iconoclast and us, the Two Moors Festival.

We’re so honoured to be given a mention and in such seriously good company, so thank you very much Cision/Vuelio for valuing our blog and giving us a mention for the work we do in the classical music sphere.

We urge you to go and have a look at the other blogs in the top ten – there’s some amazingly interesting stuff being written about and if you’re interested in this genre of music, then your reading list should certainly include all of these blogs.

Have you already come across any of these blogs before? Which of them are your favourites and why? We’d love to hear what you find so inspiring about each of them so come along and drop us a line in the comments below.

State of play in the Festival’s run-up

67 days to go until UK classical music festival The Two Moors Festival begins…

When I think of how much there is to do in only 67 days, it is positively daunting. It’s better not to dwell and just get on with it.

Business is brisk in the Box Office – a relief as it would be seriously worrying were it not so. Friends’ bookings are healthy and the number of new Friends is up on last year. This is positive in itself and a good boost to morale. It also gives our wonderful person running the Office plenty to do. We are so lucky this year in having Oxford music undergraduate, Rebecca McNaught to help. Not only is she a super person, but is brilliant at the job and great on the phone giving would-be ticket purchasers all the information they need before they make up their minds to buy tickets.

Talking of the Box Office, we must be one of the few festivals to have a real person at the end of the phone. We guarantee that whoever speaks has specialist knowledge and who knows how to pronounce indecipherable names such as Ibragimova and Shostakovich. It is amazing how much difference this makes to ticket sales!

Tackling PR is vital at this time of year. The trouble is where to start as there are so many avenues of possibility. The other problem is how to cover 1,200 square miles of festival patch. We are fortunate in that the local press and regional magazines such as Devon Life are keen to include features. Local radio also sparks as does BBC TV’s ‘Spotlight’ providing there is something to film – concerts by and large do not make good television! The national media is becoming more supportive than ever and as I type, there has been a splendid article in Classical Music Magazine as well as promises from the press and various Listings.

Classic FM has done us proud over the years and we’re crossing fingers that they might be able to give us air-time as they have in previous years. There is also BBC Radio 3’s ‘In Tune’ which we try to interest – successfully a number of times.

There is the series of run-up concerts in the Ticket Office at Tiverton Parkway’s Ticket Office. These may sound totally off the wall. Well, they are! The concerts do not disrupt the everyday working of the station; people come and go and it’s quite often that someone might be asking whether they might need to change at Birmingham New Street while Bach is providing the background music. We never stop the ongoing business of raising funds to cover costs. How tedious this is for my husband, John. We wouldn’t survive without his Trojan efforts.

One of the main jobs to do in August is assembling the programme. It’s true to say that this is a nightmare. Inserting notes and biographies are the easy bits. The hardest part lies in achieving consistency in the way a work is written. Does one write Sonata in E major Op. 14 No.1 or Sonata Op. 14 No.1 in E – the options are endless!

On which note, I will end and give readers the next instalment in a few days’ time.

The Opera Of Tarka The Otter At The Two Moors Festival 2015

Back in 2004, we here at the Two Moors Festival decided it would be a good idea to commission an opera based on Henry Williamson’s much-loved novel Tarka the Otter – a great addition to the listings of Devon music festivals, we thought.

For those who haven’t read it, the book has great ties to this part of the world, set as it is in the very heart of Exmoor. Williamson wrote it after returning to Devon following WWI and his experiences at that time can be seen creeping into the work itself.

In 2006, our opera premiered at RHS Rosemoor and was so successful that Times critic Richard Morrison gave it a 4* review.

As part of our celebrations of the Two Moors Festival’s 15th anniversary, we’re proud to bring Tarka the opera back once more and hope that if you didn’t manage to see it last time, you are able to get tickets this year.

Composed by Stephen McNeff and directed by Thomas Guthrie, part of the original idea of putting on such an opera was – much like Noye’s Fludde – to involve the local communities as much as possible. Consequently, many children from local schools take to the stage as ducks and eels – and it’s certainly a sight to behold.

This year, the production will take place at Exeter Cathedral on October 21st – which audiences that saw it last time will no doubt appreciate, since the opera’s debut took place in a marquee!

Tickets cost between £10 and £35, and can be purchased via the Two Moors Festival box office. Make sure you book early as this is sure to be a sell-out show.

See what else is on at this year’s two-week event in October on our website.

Cellist Rebecca McNaught On Becoming A Performing Musician

My aim is to be a professional cellist of some description. Playing is what I love most and want to do for as much of my life as possible. I’m currently studying music at Merton College, Oxford. People often ask one of two things when I tell them where I study:

  • Oh so that’s a performance based degree, right?

  • Why there?

The first question is completely wrong: it’s an academic music degree. The second question is one I certainly ask myself when staring at a blank word document hoping I can form a 1,500 word essay about a 14th century French composer I have never even heard of, or bashing notes out of a keyboard in the hope my score reading sounds vaguely like Lassus. So why did I choose university over conservatoire in the first place?

The first answer is either overly simple or simply stupid. I don’t know. When I was in year 12 going into year 13, I made the (big) decision that I didn’t want to spend the next three years of my life practising. And practising. I wanted to see a bit more of the world and to meet people who weren’t just musicians.

Here in Oxford some of the best musicians don’t even study the subject: they are medics, historians, chemists, you name it. Secondly I wanted to have the chance to view music from an academic perspective, to get a feel of how and why music is constructed in the way it is, and to contest those accepted traditions of musical analysis and the musical canon. Although this has been a big challenge for me personally, I feel that what I have already learnt in two terms has altered my attitude towards the way I view musical practice. And however difficult, I am really loving it.

Performing at university

It might be easy to think that the performance opportunities at a university would be limited but it’s certainly not the case. In one term alone I did three solo recitals alongside a mountain of chamber and orchestral playing. Emails regularly fall into my inbox asking for a cellist to help out and it’s very easy to get overloaded with opportunities. Quite often I can spend as much of my day playing as I do working! So has it been the right decision? It’s a case of waiting and seeing…

Clearly this is all very one sided. I’ve only done two terms at a prestigious university and so I have no knowledge of the transition to conservatoire after university, or the leap straight into conservatoire after school. So I decided to ask a few friends who have taken different performance paths to give me their views.

The first is a friend who, like me, headed to Oxford after his A levels to study music. However, he has since graduated and now studies the oboe at the Royal Academy of Music so can now see the utility of his degree as well as the transition between the two.

His choice to go to university first was very similar to me as a degree: “It left my options open in a way that I didn’t think a performance course might.” His first year was filled with orchestral playing and he points out that that meant he “did very little practice and had to make a real effort to head over to the practice block amid the tidal wave of other things I could have been doing”.

For him it was chamber music that made all the difference. “Setting up my trio was one of the most rewarding things I did at university and I grew so much as a musician. Oxford also has loads of opportunities to perform in lots of different settings. Every lunch time, there will be a clash of college music society recitals to choose from and it’s a great chance to try out new pieces.”

So I asked him the big question: whether he thought his degree had been useful to his performance plans. “My academic work stretched me and equipped me with the tools to examine and make sense of life in all its richness. I think a good degree will nurture these skills and, in that sense, I don’t think that it’s necessary to study music.”

Thus his concluding advice was as follows: “If you know that you definitely want to be a performer then maybe music college is for you. But if you have a sense of curiosity about the world outside of being a classical musician, then I would strongly suggest an application to university. You meet people interested in all manner of subjects and have the opportunity to expand your view of the world.” And this is ultimately the decision I made when I was in sixth form.

What about conservatoire?

Going straight to conservatoire has its advantages too: you don’t lose out on hours of practice while writing essays and you are surrounded by musicians following the same dream as you. Another friend, a singer who went straight to the RNCM at the end of sixth form said: “It is hard work but I appreciate the fact that 60 per cent of my degree will be based on a 30 minute recital as I feel I can portray my hard work and skill through this far better than I ever could in a written dissertation.”

If you know that playing, not writing essays, is what you want to do then conservatoire is the way forward without question.

The longer I spend at Oxford the clearer my choice is becoming to go onto conservatoire once I have finished my degree. It seems strange that it has been an academic degree that has made my mind up, and that’s not because I’m not enjoying it. But, at the moment, I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else. I feel privileged to be spending three years expanding my mind about music away from the cello and then being able to put that information into practice.

I am astounded by the number of performance opportunities I have been given. But more importantly I feel lucky that I am being given these opportunities by both tutors and students who have such varied interests and such passion for their subjects and hobbies alike.

At the end of school you are told to follow your heart. My heart was undecided and university has been the place where I’ve been given the time to see what I really want to do. And who knows, in a year this may all have changed!