The Two Moors Festival garden party: A preview

The sun is shining, the weather is sweet and here at the Two Moors we’re counting down the days until our annual garden party takes place. On June 23rd and 24th, Barkham will be overrun with lots of talented musicians, all of whom are no doubt warming up their instruments, restringing their bows and optimistically packing their suncream in anticipation of two days of fun, frolic and playing an abundance of wonderful music on the croquet lawn and in the apple orchard.

We’ve been holding our garden parties every year since the Two Moors began and it has since become one of the most eagerly awaited events we put on – apart from the two weeks of concerts in October, of course! Come rain or shine (generally rain, in typical British summertime tradition), we welcome people from all over the UK, who come to enjoy a day out in the Exmoor countryside, complete with a delightful musical backdrop.

But music ain’t just the name of the game where the garden party is concerned and you need to make sure you come to Barkham with a very empty tummy. Think sinfully rich Devon cream teas, never-ending jugs of Pimms, summery salads, coronation turkey, vegetable quiche and all sorts of other tasty treats, all homecooked by festival artistic director Penny Adie and her merry band of helpers. This year, John Adie will also be throwing his chef’s hat into the ring and for the first time in festival garden party history he’ll be firing up the barbecue and grilling some of Devon’s finest sausages – all locally sourced.

Another reason both visitors and musicians love to come to Barkham for various musical shindigs is the fabulous festival dog, Flora. She’s a ridiculously friendly German Shepherd who craves attention, so make sure you give her a big pat on the head when you see her trotting around being nosey.

If you think the garden party sounds like something you’d like to attend, you’ll be pleased to hear that we have two tickets to give away, which come with a free glass of Pimms to top it all off.

All you have to do to win is answer this (very) easy question:

Who is the festival’s mascot?

Leave your answer in the comment box below and you could soon be enjoying the sun (hopefully) in the idyllic Devonshire countryside.

To book tickets (although you can buy them on the day), call 01643 831 370.

Tickets £6 each.

In pictures

Here are a few snaps of past garden parties.

Penny cooking up a storm
How many strawberries?
Flora joining in the fun
Get to work!
Relaxing on the patio
The perfect place to play music
Strike a chord
Some serious salad
In the gazebo
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4 of the best: Opera baddies

No matter how much they doth protest, everyone loves a villain really, don’t they? Life would be exceedingly dull if it was all puppies and roses from beginning to end and, certainly, nobody would bother going to the opera if Carmen was a demure, sweet girl who brandished flowers instead of knives and who didn’t have such wanton ways.

To honour the baddies of opera (predominantly male, since the baritone lends itself particularly well to the expression of humanity’s dark side and female characters tend to either lose their marbles or die), we’ve compiled a list of our six favourite blackguards, who we really do love to hate.

1. Baron Scarpia from Puccini’s Tosca

What would this opera have been like without the devious chief of police? He’s never happier than when he’s busy playing mind games with the (rather easily fooled) Tosca, out and about doing a spot of torturing here and there or sentencing people to death quicker than you can say “Bob’s your uncle and Fanny’s your aunt”. Even though he meets a sticky end at the hands of a very desparate woman, Scarpia has the last wicked laugh in the end, with all his quarry finding themselves six feet under when the final curtain falls. A solid seven on the evil protagonist-o-metre.

2. Nick Shadow from Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress

When it comes to being very, very bad indeed, the nefarious Nick Shadow shows all the others of his ilk how it’s done properly (although he does have a bit of an advantage, what with being the devil and everything). If there were medals available for being a bit of a cad, Nick would be right at the top of the podium, shaking hands with the judges and accepting his award with glee. He certainly deserves a pat on the back for seeing his very ambitious plans through to fruition. It can’t have been easy to convince someone to marry a bearded lady going by the name of Baba the Turk or that he is in possession of a machine that turns stone into bread and could prove the saviour of mankind. Hats off to you, Nick Shadow. You’ve scored a very well-earned eight on the evil protagonist-o-metre.

3. Don Giovanni from Mozart’s Don Giovanni

Wine and women, women and wine, that’s what the rather misogynistic Don Giovanni’s all about, dividing his time fairly equally between chasing anything in a skirt and partying hard, with a spot of murder thrown in for good measure. He does a pretty good job of evading suspicion and apprehension for the most part – using his manservant in ways probably not included in the job description – but is eventually bested by a statue of the man he killed and dragged down into hell. An interesting character, but perhaps not as villainous as others in opera, so peaks at five on the evil protagonist-o-metre.

4. Iago from Verdi’s Otello (boo, hiss…)

There’s nothing like an accomplished puppet master to really get an audience’s blood boiling and Iago is a true dab-hand at the art of manipulation. He gets the captain of the navy so drunk he loses his job, convinces his boss that his wife is cheating on him and almost gets away with murder. Even though his plan goes a bit belly up at the end and he has to hotfoot it out of Cyprus because half the cast is dead and it’s all his fault, Iago’s canny ability to get everyone to do what he wants with apparent ease scores him an excellent eight on the evil protagonist-o-metre. Congratulations, Iago.

Who’s your favourite operatic baddie and why?

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.

Walking with Dartmoor ponies

Dartmoor ponies have been seen roaming the hills and dales of this part of Devon since the Middle Ages and they have now become one of the biggest tourist draws of the countryside, with countless visitors flocking to the area each year to see these stout little beasts in the flesh.

Of course, some people are more clued up than others about how to wend their way through the countryside without leaving the indelible footprint of mankind behind, whether it’s picking up any rubbish, putting fires out thoroughly or keeping dogs under control and firmly on leads where necessary.

This latter point is particularly important when encountering the hardy ponies that roam both Dartmoor and Exmoor freely. Only last week a dog was seen near Burrator Reservoir on Dartmoor attacking a mare and foal, which resulted in both dog and foal being put down.

Such incidents are easily avoidable, if just a little bit of care is taken. Alona Stratton, breeder of registered Dartmoor ponies and former council member with the Dartmoor Pony Society, has advised tourists coming to the area that it is best not to disturb the horses and avoid approaching them.

“Leave them be,” she says. “Don’t try to feed or stroke them. By doing so you encourage them to go nearer to the roads. Keeping dogs on leads and under control is also important. Respect the ponies’ space and they’ll respect yours.”

The Dartmoor National Park Authority is also working to tackle the problem of dogs on the moors, launching new campaign Paws on Dartmoor in response to the increasing numbers of incidents involving uncontrolled dogs and livestock.

Between June 8th and 10th, a range of activities for dog-owners is being put on at Roborough Common to promote responsible access to the area, with professional trainers on hand to provide obedience tips, National Park rangers leading free guided walks and the Dartmoor livestock protection officer also offering advice and assistance.

So if you’re going to any Two Moors Festival events this year, please make sure you keep your dog well under control and show the ponies on Exmoor and Dartmoor the respect they deserve.

Should dogs be kept on the lead at all times when out walking or can they ever be well-trained enough to be let off?

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

Find out about the latest news from the Two Moors Festival here!