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.

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S.O.S: Save our Singing (Voice)

Throat trouble?

It’s been a rocky couple of months for pop starlet Adele. Although she romped home with the gold at both the Grammys and the Brit Awards, too much Rolling in the Deep took its toll on her vocal chords and she recently underwent serious throat surgery to sort out recurrent bleeding caused by a benign polyp.

Regardless of whether you love her music or think singing exclusively about bad relationships is a little self-indulgent, there are lessons that all singers can take from Adele’s experience where looking after their voice is concerned, so they don’t find themselves in the same situation and having to cancel concert dates – every musician’s worst nightmare!

To help, Two Moors Festival artistic director Penny Adie – herself a former opera singer, who used to live and work in the Middle East and found moving from exceedingly hot temperatures to air-conditioned rooms very tough on her throat – has come up with a few tips to help singers protect their pipes.

  • Drink a lot, although some singers believe that water clogs the throat. I know one who drinks flat Coke, which is a good lubricant apparently
  • Some singers don’t eat cheese or anything else that might clog up their throat
  • Breathe down and slowly, filling the lungs – and every tiny cavity – with air
  • Don’t gasp in lots of cold air
  • Keep yourself as fit as possible
  • Get lots of sleep
  • Don’t drink ice-cold drinks
  • Don’t smoke – although lots of singers used to do so
  • Use whatever’s at your disposal to help – I once used a starched dinner napkin to tie around my throat
  • It’s also sensible to wear a scarf at times (carol singing out of doors isn’t a good idea, no matter how fun it is).

Are you a singer? What have you found helpful for looking after your voice?

May’s Two Moors Residency: Beethoven and Strauss

The idyll that is Barkham

The Two Moors Festival’s long-running Residency series continues this month, with seven outstanding musicians taking to the stage to treat audiences to a soupcon of Strauss and a little bit of Beethoven.

On May 25th, the strains of Till Eulenspiegel Lustige Streiche and the Septet in Eb major Op.20 will be heard floating out of Barkham Farm’s gallery – converted livestock sheds with brilliant acoustics – and high above the hills of Exmoor.

For those unfamiliar with the work, Strauss’ Till Eulenspiegel Lustige Streiche chronicles the misadventures of Till Eulenspiegel, a German peasant folk hero, as he makes his way about the countryside, causing trouble and being an incorrigible flirt. He meets a rather sticky end, however, and is eventually captured by the authorities and has his head chopped off. Meanwhile, Beethoven’s famous Septet – also to be performed at the festival’s main event in October – was dedicated to the Empress Maria Theresa and remains one of the composer’s most popular works.

Since 2005, the residencies have served as a respite for hard-working professional musicians looking to escape the hustle and bustle of London and other cities, allowing them to rehearse undisturbed in beautiful surroundings and total peace and quiet. In the past, the gallery has welcomed the likes of The Honeymead Ensemble, The Duke Piano Trio, The Aronowitz Ensemble and The Pavao Quartet – perfect for people in the area who often can’t hear classical music of a certain calibre outside the bigger concert halls.

This month, violinist Chihiro Ono, viola player Arnand Ghillebaert, cellist Ben Birtle, double bass player David Stark, clarinetist Max Welford, bassoon player Sinead frost and horn player Francesca Moore-Bridger will be performing. These players will then go on to join others for a performance of Mahler Das Lied von der Erde on October 13th as part of the festival’s main two-week event.

All proceeds of this residency go towards the festival’s work in education and, while tickets are by donation, a starting point of £15 per person has been given. A delicious supper – and lots of wine! – is also available, with tickets going for £12.

For tickets, contact:

(01643) 831 370

adie.exmoor@btinternet.com

Let’s hear it for the Two Moors Festival Young Musicians

Katie Roberts, flautist

Each year the Two Moors Festival hosts a Young Musicians Platform, giving youngsters under the age of 18 from the south-west – covering Cornwall, Devon, Somerset, Dorset, Gloucestershire, Bristol and Wiltshire – the opportunity to audition for a much-coveted spot in a concert of their own at the festival’s main two-week event in October.

2012 saw a record number of talented classical musicians from schools in the area apply – a total of 41! – and 20 were ultimately selected to go through to the second round, which was held at the pastoral haven that is Barkham over the weekend (May 5th).

Trumpets, trombones, flutes, guitars, violins, voices – even, perhaps most unlikely of all, a recorder – were all put through their paces throughout the day, with the musicians playing a wide variety of pieces, from Bach’s St Matthew Passion and Monti’s Czardas to Elgar’s Chanson de Matin and Linde’s Music for a Bird. One plucky contestant even strummed his way through one of his own compositions – a rather brave move by all accounts (and one that the Simon Cowells of this world would no doubt shoot down in flames).

This year’s judges – festival artistic director Penny Adie, bassoon player Jo Stark, singer Caroline Luard and violinist Tamsin Waley-Cohen – really had their work cut out for them, whittling the 20 hopefuls down to just four but tough decisions had to be made and after an hour of intense discussion and a couple of fiery debates (including one on musicianship versus entertainment), the cuts were made and the October concert began to take shape.

An exhausted Penny said at the end of the very long day: “What an exciting and exhilarating competition! It’s very encouraging to know that young people are still getting so much out of playing and performing. How wonderful to see so much enthusiasm and determination to enjoy music-making. The standard of the competition has risen enormously in the last three years and this year is no exception. It was so encouraging to see so many youngsters coming from a wide range of schools and backgrounds, particularly from the state sector.”

The concert the lucky four (not yet revealed) will be performing in is to be held in Ashburton on October 13th, so put a note in your diary if you want to see some of the best emerging talent in the south-west.

In pictures

Here are a few more pictures of the day, including a couple of behind-the-scenes shots.

This year’s judging panel
Caroline Adie, cooking for the audience
Jacob Warn, recorder player
Caroline Adie, 1950s house wife
Katie Roberts
Feeding the 5000!
Proving recorders ain’t just for schoolkids
Pimms o’clock!
First BBQ of the year
John Adie, BBQing at the end of the weekend
Judge Jo Stark, enjoying some well-earned Pimms


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

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