Category Archives: News

Sir Ranulph Fiennes: Everest, The Eiger and more

Sir Ranulph Fiennes has braved the wilds of the polar ice caps, tirelessly hiked his way up some of the highest mountains in the world, completed a 52,000-mile Transglobe overland expedition and has been dubbed the world’s greatest living explorer by the Guinness Book of Records. But now he’s facing an entirely new challenge – the audience in the Queen’s Theatre, Barnstaple.

On June 8th, the 64-year-old – who was the first person to visit the North and South poles by surface means – will be taking to the stage to be interviewed by acclaimed mountaineer and photographer Ian Parnell, who accompanied Sir Ranulph on his expeditions up Everest and The Eiger.

Speaking to the North Devon Journal, the explorer and author of 19 books said: “Today is not like it was 30 or 40 years ago when we were pioneering these things, because today practically everybody’s grandmother is up Everest, every weekend. It’s not quite like it was. The ones that are left and not done are incredibly difficult.”

Exmoor seems to hold a special place in Sir Ranulph’s heart. Not only does he live here with his wife and daughter but he also uses its wild expanses of countryside as a training ground, where he selects the people to accompany him on his expeditions. Now, he’ll be discussing the challenges and fears he faced as a climber – a pursuit he first took up as he entered his 60s and after suffering a rather severe heart attack!

This sounds like it’ll be a very inspiring talk. If you go, let us know how it went.

Further information

Time: 19:45

Tickets: £18/£16/£12

Call (01271) 324 242 to book.

In lights: Dunkery Beacon

“Dunkery Beacon,” whispered John, so close into my ear, that I felt his lips and teeth ashake; “dursn’t fire it now except to show the Doones’ way home again, since the naight as they went up and throwed the watchmen atop of it.”

This may well have been the case in Lorna Doone, RD Blackmore’s tale of tyranny, true love and 17th-century politics in the heart of the Devon and Somerset countryside, but these days Dunkery Beacon – the highest point on Exmoor at 1,705ft – is set alight for very different reasons.

If you find yourself down south and in this part of the world on June 4th, make your way to this peak, part of the Anchor Chain of Beacons, which are all due to be lit at 22:00. According to Edwin Beckett, appointed beacon registrar for Dunkery Beacon, more than 4,000 beacons will be set alight on the 4th as part of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations.

“We request that visitors to the area bring a torch and take all their belongings and any rubbish home.  We are delighted with the help being provided by the National Trust, our parish council and volunteers from the area, Exmoor Farmers for the use of their car park and Mr and Mrs Harold Stevens for also allowing cars to be parked at their own risk in their field by Dunkery Gate,” he said.

You’ll have a truly spectacular view of the countryside if you do head to Dunkery Beacon in June, with lots of other beacons across the south-west and even Wales – used to alert people around England throughout the ages – visible from this particular point.

We’d love to see some of your photos if you do go to Dunkery on the 4th. Send them in for our readers’ gallery!

Universe of Sound: The Planets

You’ve got a lot to look forward to this summer, what with the Olympics (who’s got tickets?), the Proms, Wimbledon and the Queen’s Jubilee. Well, now you can add another exciting day out to your ever-growing list of activities – Universe of Sound: The Planets, a new free digital installation by the Philharmonia Orchestra at London’s Science Museum.

It launched yesterday (May 23rd) and will be on until July 8th, six whole weeks of magical music-making where visitors to the gallery can experience the feeling of being in an orchestra for themselves, be it as a musician, composer or even the conductor.

Visitors can record performances and post and share them online, see massive 360-degree projections of the Philharmonia performing Holst’s masterpiece conducted by artistic adviser and principal conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen and play both real and virtual instruments, as well as chatting to musicians from the orchestra itself, who will be at the exhibit every day.

“The Planets is a rousing piece of music and it’s something that almost everybody knows, even if they don’t know what it is. It’s really exciting to do something with this piece and combine it with the wonders of technology,” Mr Salonen said.

This all ties in very nicely with the Phil’s concert at the Royal Festival Hall on July 8th, with The Planets and the world premiere of Talbot’s World, Stars, Systems, Infinity both on the programme. Musical demonstrations, interviews and large-screen projections – presented by Paul Rissman – will all be included to help concert-goers really get to grips with the Holst piece.

What do you think of The Planets? Timeless or terribly overplayed?

Devon goes for gold at the Countryfile Awards

As any classical music fan will know, the countryside is often a huge inspiration for composers (Beethoven’s pastoral symphony, anyone?) and here at the Two Moors Festival we are, quite rightly, very proud of our beautiful south-west setting. Now, Devon has been recognised for the glorious destination it certainly is in this year’s Countryfile Magazine Awards, being nominated in several categories.

No trip to Devon – even if you come to us in bleak mid-winter – would be complete without a quick sample of a true-blue cream tea, a belief that tv chef Valentine Warner (who compiled the list of best regional dishes for the awards) clearly shares. “A cream tea should be treated as a ritual. If only I had the time to eat one every day,” he writes. Hear, hear!

But it’s not just sumptuous food that has the people over at Countryfile excited about the many and varied Devonshire delights. Oh, no – our little towns are going for glory this year as well and anyone who’s been to Totnes – described by countryside writer Nicholas Crane as a “visionary town with a castle, a busy market and a delightful location” – will certainly be happy to see it in the running for Britain’s favourite market town.

Clovelly – a quaint little village that has been owned and run by the same family for generations – is also in it to win it this year, with Countryfile presenter Jules Hudson adding it to the best heritage attraction category and describing it as a place that “offers a slice of romantic escapism into history and the feel of classic coastal settlement”.

So what are you waiting for? Go and register your vote and help Devon clean up at the awards ceremony for 2012. You could even win a two-night break in the county if you do take part.

What’s your favourite part of Devon? Where do you think people should visit first?

Two Moors Young Musicians Platform winners revealed

Earlier this month, the Two Moors Festival held its annual Young Musicians Platform competition, with the 2012 event receiving a record number of applications from talented musicians from all over the south-west. The standard was higher than ever before as the 17 who made it through to the second round battled it out for a place in the top four and a spot in a concert in Ashburton on October 13th as part of the festival’s main two-week event.

The judges have conferred, the votes are in and the winners can now be revealed. They are:

– Singer Lucy Bray, 18, from Exeter School

– Clarinetist Laura Deignan, 16, from Devonport High School for Girls

– Flautist Katie Roberts, 17, from Wells Cathedral School

– Recorder player Jacob Warn, 17, from Queen Elizabeth’s Hospital School, Bristol

Festival artistic director Penny Adie had this to say about this year’s group of winners: “[They] exceeded expectation. Gifted and possessing that rare quality of inner musicianship, all four showed themselves to be at one with their instruments and each thoroughly deserved their awards. Recorder player Jacob Warn excelled himself with his slick command of the recorder, while Laura Deignan, (having entered previously), proved what a fine musician she is with a beautiful sound on her clarinet. Katie Roberts also produced a strong rich tone. Lucy Bray, the young soprano, came equipped for a professional performance. Already with a solid technique and at one with Lieder, she gave a beautiful performance.”

You’ll be able to see these four play in concert in October as part of the festival’s main two-week event, so keep your eye out for the soon-to-be-released brochure and the opening of the box office.

Keep an eye out for the Olympianist

If you’re out and about between Land’s End and John O’Groats this merry month of May, then you really should keep your eyes (and ears!) very well peeled indeed for the Olympianist, who’s zipping from one end of the country to the other by bicycle and giving impromptu piano concerts for charity along the way.

The Olympianist is actually internationally renowned pianist and keen cyclist Anthony Hewitt, who pedalled away from Land’s End on May 9th and gave his first concert that day in Truro at Penair School. So far, he’s hopped off his bike and whipped out his piano (which is following behind him in a van) at The Old Chapel in Calstock, Exeter Cathedral, Market Square in Newbury and St Lawrence’s Church in Lechlade.

He’s already suffered one puncture (but was rescued by two locals, one of whom donated £5 to his cause), cycled his way through a lot of mist in Land’s End and is no doubt getting very used to giving concerts dressed head to toe Lycra as he aims to raise £20,000 for music and children’s charities.

“I am very excited about this Herculean task,” Anthony says. “It embodies the spirit of the ancient Games, which incorporated musical competitions into sporting events for normal citizens.”

Music-lovers will be treated to a very varied programme, with Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata, Schubert’s Impromptu in Eb, Chopin’s Fantasie-Impromptu and Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody No.2 all to receive an airing either out of doors or at a pre-arranged venue at one of Anthony’s many stops along the route. Composer Steven Goss has also been commissioned to write a new work, Piano Cycle, which will be premiered on May 19th at Swaledale.

The Olympianist’s Route:

Get in touch if you’ve seen the Olympianist on your travels. You can also follow him on Twitter here.

Schubert the Sheep: Our plucky little mascot

Schubert is no ordinary sheep. Although born and bred on the wilds of Exmoor, he has eschewed the fields and pastures favoured by the others in his flock to pursue a more cultured existence, free from sheep dips, the shearing pen and collies snapping at his hooves.

In 2001, he found his way to Barkham at the height of the foot and mouth crisis and was adopted by the Two Moors Festival as its official mascot. Since then, Schubert has travelled all over the south-west, meeting and greeting hundreds of musicians and classical music-lovers and helping to make the festival a success wherever concerts take place.

Whether he’s climbing up to sit in the church pulpit at a concert, doing a love duet with Cardiff Singer of the Year Marius Brenciu or attending a talk at a local rotary club, Schubert is never happier than when he’s out there supporting the festival.

Here are just a few photos of him in action over the years:

If you see Schubert at any Two Moors events, snap a picture of yourself with him and email it in for our readers’ gallery.

Send your pictures to: sadie054@googlemail.com

Introducing…New Two Moors chairman John Willan

John Willan

It’s all change here at the Two Moors Festival. At the beginning of the year we waved a solemn goodbye to acting chairman Des Belam (who remains involved as deputy chairman) and said hello to his successor, John Willan, a former chorister at Magdalen College who read music at the University of Edinburgh and has a diploma in piano from the Royal Academy of Music, where he is also an honourary associate.

John is certainly more than qualified to assume the role of chairman for the festival, a post he is really looking forward to sinking his teeth into. Working as a classical producer for EMI in the 70s and 80s – alongside the likes of David Munrow, Domingo, Argerich, Gavrilov and Levine, to name but a few – John became managing director of the London Philharmonic in 1985 and was approached by the BBC in 1995 to build a music division for BBC Worldwide.

In just three years, he established the BBC Legends label and BBC Music Publishing, leaving the company in 1999 to join the board of music agency Hazard Chase. In 2006, he was appointed chairman of the International Artist Managers’ Association and, in 2009, was made a governor of the Royal Academy of Music.

John had this to say about joining the Two Moors Festival as chairman: “Who could resist such an offer? A beautiful part of the world, excellent music-making in wonderful surroundings, such energy and imagination from the artistic and administrative team and a real attempt to involve young people. A festival in every sense of the word, which I hope to support in every way I can.”

Penny Adie, artistic director of the festival, is just as thrilled to have John at the helm, steering the charity onwards and upwards. “I am hugely excited at the prospect of his chairmanship of the festival as, with his global experience of the arts, he will take it further forward in its development as a key arts organisation in the south-west.”

With a roster of past artists that includes outstanding musicians like Yevgeny Sudbin, Julian Lloyd-Webber, Andreas Haefliger and Mark Padmore, the festival can only go in one direction – up! – now that John is involved. Here’s to 2012 and beyond.

Welcome, classical music fans!

Hello and welcome to the official blog for the Two Moors Festival, Classic FM’s festival of the south-west.

Those of you already familiar with the Two Moors (and its dapper mascot Schubert the Sheep, who can be spotted out and about enjoying the Devon air and excellent music at many a festival event) will know that the communication hub of the company – an old farm in the middle of a charming Exmoor valley – has had its issues with 21st-century technology over the years.

It was only connected to the mains electricity grid in 2001 – the year the festival was launched, in fact – and has only just managed to get broadband in the last month. Barkham is no longer a communication black hole, gone are the days of dial-up, and – although mobile phone signal remains very much a pipe dream for anyone within a two-mile radius of the farm – it seemed only fitting that the arrival of a super-fast internet connection be celebrated in style.

To that end, the festival is now working on modernising its website and will be running this blog to help keep you Two Moors fans up to date with what’s going on down in deepest, darkest Devon throughout the year. So if you want to keep your finger on the pulse of festival and country life, as well as the classical music world, make the Two Moors Festival Official Blog your first port of call.

Hope to see you here again soon.

– Sarah

Blog editor