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The Two Moors Festival Autumn Concert Series 2013

Kerenza PeacockLast year at the Two Moors Festival main two-week event in October, we put on a hugely popular series of performances in the waiting room of Tiverton Parkway train station – which proved to have incredible acoustics! Because of its success, we’ve decided to run the event again, this time in the lead-up to the October programme, and it’s on right now!

All artists involved are supremely talented young musicians, either music scholars, former instrumentalists with the National Youth Orchestra or studying at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, Wells Cathedral School or the Royal Academy of Music.

It all started on September 6th, with Polly Bartlett entertaining concert-goers and commuters alike on her recorder and oboe, followed by Anna Im on violin on the 13th.

The next concert is on September 20th, with marimba player Molly Lopresti performing Stout’s Mexican Dance and Abe’s Dream of the Cherry Blossoms. The weekly programme will continue until October 11th, ending with flautist Victoria Creighton – just five days before the Two Moors Festival really gets going on the 16th.

Entry to these concerts at the train station are free and no ticket is required. We hope to see you there!

An interview with: Jayson Gillham

jayson-gillham-by-saga-images-10-bwAt this year’s main Two Moors Festival two-week event in October, we’ve got a very special piano recital from Australian pianist Jayson Gillham, Commonwealth Musician of the Year, Gold Medal winner at the Royal Overseas League and major prize winner at the Leeds Piano Competition in 2012. We’re very pleased to welcome him to All Saints Church in Dulverton on October 19th and caught up with him to find out even more about his chosen programme, which includes pieces by Beethoven, Wagner, Verdi, Debussy and Liszt, among others.

2MF: What do you think of the Festival’s theme of light this year?

JG: Light is a great theme because there are so many different ways one can interpret it. Light is often used figuratively in our language, the phrases “shedding a light upon” to mean highlighting or focusing on something, or “seeing the light” so becoming enlightened or increasing understanding of something, as well as the literal meanings of not dark or not heavy. It is a broad theme because everything we interpret through sight requires light so it includes colour and synaesthesia of colour and sound. Light and colour metaphors are used a lot when describing music such as ‘tone colour’ and a ‘bright’ or ‘dark’ sound.

2MF: How did you go about picking pieces to fit in with this?

JG: I spent a lot of time thinking about the programme and when I came across the idea of Enlightenment and moving from a mental or emotional place of darkness to lightness that I realised I had the kernel for a very interesting solo piano programme.

2MF: What do you think about playing in a church? Have you ever done it before?

JG: Churches are often used for recitals. Music has always been part of the church, but these days it is much more secular and churches are maintaining their social function as a place for listening to concerts rather than sermons. I like playing in churches, but the large ones can often be too resonant for the type of music that I play.

2MF: Which piece in your programme is most challenging?

JG: For me the Chopin Polonaise-Fantaisie is the hardest to solve. It is structurally awkward and hard to make a convincing whole.

2MF: Which one do you think the audience will enjoy the most?

JG: I guess we’ll have to see on the day – maybe we can have a show of hands!

2MF: Which do you enjoy playing the most?

JG: At the moment I’m really enjoying L’Isle Joyeuse, which is incredibly evocative and has everything that people love about Debussy’s music – washes of sound, sparkling, shimmering textures and a gorgeous tune.

2MF: Are you going to any of the festival’s other concerts this year?

JG: I hope to stay for a couple of nights so yes I’d love to go along to whatever I can. I haven’t looked at the programme in detail yet but was intrigued to find the mirror of my programme – ‘from light to darkness’

2MF: What do you have planned for the future?

JG: Some of my upcoming highlights are a recital at the Louvre Auditorium, Paris, and a concerto with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra.


If you follow the Two Moors Festival, you’ll know we have a liking for putting on concerts in less than traditional venues. At last year’s main two-week event in October, we took flautist Harry Winstanley and strummer Ashley Myall (plus lots of concert-goers) on a hike up to Hay Tor in Dartmoor and also put on a series of concerts at Tiverton Parkway Railway Station.

This year, we’re continuing the theme by putting on a lovely concert with four bassoonists – Joanna Stark, Eanna Monaghan, Andrew Watson and Llinos Owen – in the rather unusual venue of Mole Valley Farmers in South Molton, a very well-known farming store that stocks everything from five-bar gates to delicious nutty Cheddar cheese.

As rare as it is to hear live classical music in a shop, it’s just as rare to hear the bassoon played beyond its orchestral context – let alone in a quartet. Those of you who have tried to play the bassoon – and those who do so professionally – will know that this rare breed of instrument is particularly difficult to master, rather awkward to manage and solo repertoire can be a bit thin on the ground.

This evening’s performance – taking place on October 22nd – promises to be a truly exciting and eye-opening one, with the programme including Alan Ridout’s Pigs, John Addison’s Four Miniatures and Grieg’s In the Hall of the Mountain King.

It starts at 3pm on the day and is free for all, with no tickets required. Here’s a little taster of one of the pieces due to be played.

We do hope you can make it!

Concert at Culbone

One of the most popular venues for concerts at the Two Moors Festival’s main two-week event in October is Culbone Church, the smallest parish church in England that you can find nestled in some of the most beautiful National Trust woodland around – and it’s not hard to see why!

The church can only hold 40 people and we really do recommend it as a show… after all, there’s nothing quite like sitting down to listen to a programme of glorious classical music after a scramble up a hillside!

Past performers at Culbone include acclaimed cellist Natalie Clein and this year we’ve got double bass player Toby Hughes taking to the tiny stage to play pieces by Misek, Saint-Saens, Gajdos and Gliere. Toby first began playing the double bass aged nine, won the Two Moors Festival’s Young Musicians Platform competition in 2007, went on to study in Switzerland and is now finishing his degree at the Royal Northern College of Music.

Here’s a little taster of some of the pieces he’ll be playing:

The concert starts at 11:00 on October 25th and you might like to bring a thermos of coffee with you as, because of the lack of green room, concert-goers stay in the churchyard until the start. Tickets cost £20 and can be purchased from the festival box office on (01643) 831 006 – but you’ll need to be quick as the Culbone concerts are always one of the most popular on the festival programme.

The box office is open!

Brochure2013cover_000If you’re waiting for the chance to get tickets for your favourite concerts at this year’s Two Moors Festival (taking place between October 16th and 27th) then you’ll be very pleased to hear that the festival box office is now open and waiting for your call.

There’s a huge variety of concerts and talks taking place at this year’s main two-week event, the theme of which is light. We kick proceedings off with a charity concert in aid of the Barnstaple Samaritans, the Calvert Trust Exmoor and the Two Moors Festival’s own work in rural areas, played by the truly wonderful Callum Au Big Band (who we recently featured an interview with on the blog).

From there, we have some brilliant percussion concerts, cover the world of Indian Music with Sanju Sahai, feature a programme of Damase, Britten, Copland and Telemann with Jonathan Rimmer on the flute, a lovely walk from Withypool and over Winsford Hill, a musical church crawl, a talk on stained glass… the list really is endless and you’ll have a difficult time narrowing down your choices!

If you head to our website you can download a full brochure so you can see what you’d like to come to. Once you’ve decided, give the box office a ring on (01643) 831 006 to book your tickets. We look forward to seeing you in October!

Do you fidget at the opera?

A violin on a black background.Going to a classical music concert can be a bit tricky if the seats aren’t hugely comfortable. You can be sitting there for quite a long time, which can result in lots of shifting around as legs and bottoms go to sleep, which can be rather distracting for rest of the audience.

In an interesting move, the Metropolitan Opera in New York has taken steps to counteract numb bum syndrome (as we’re calling it here at the Two Moors Festival!) by installing ergonomic seat cushions in its building over the next decade, swapping around 3,300 seats.

“Fidgeting is contagious. If the person next to you starts fighting for the armrest or the person behind you starts crossing his legs… that can interfere with your experience,” Ian Moore – chief executive of NuBax, which pitched the idea to the opera house – said.

The clever new seats have been designed to straighten the spine, tilt the pelvis forward and improve blood flow, so the only reason for fidgeting at any of their productions in the future will be be that, well, you’re just a fidget in general.

Unfortunately you’ll just have to control your fidgeting impulses at this year’s Two Moors Festival’s main two-week event in October – our concerts all take place in churches and the ministers will probably have something to say about it if we start pulling out all the pews!

The animals came in 2 by 2!

zm_praying_otter_jp_120217_wblogWe blogged last week about our production of Noye’s Fludde that is taking place as part of the main two-week Two Moors Festival event in October on the 23rd in Exeter Cathedral. The performance is involving over 150 schoolchildren from the south-west as singers, instrumentalists and the animals that came in two by two.

We’re currently looking for people who want to sponsor the children as animals (as it costs £60 per critter to make the costumes and masks, and we’ve got 72 animals to find!) and so far you’ve all been so very generous indeed. You can choose what animal you’d like to sponsor and so far we’ve got two ducks, two lizards, two koalas and a few isolated animals (very sad – no one should have to go on the ark alone!) but we’re still very much in need of help.

There are rabbits, lions, foxes, monkeys, badgers, eagles, deer, wolves, giraffes and a whole lot more for you to sponsor – and it really is a brilliant opportunity to help children from rural areas experience classical music, which doesn’t often reach schools in this part of the world. This memorable concert involves all sorts of professional musicians (including Petroc Trelawny as God and Callum Thorpe as Noah), and is directed by Thomas Guthrie who is renowned for his work with the Royal Opera House – and it promises to be a truly memorable part of this year’s festival.

If you’d like to sponsor some animals, you can contact the festival on (01643) 831 006 or by emailing 2mf@onetel.com.

Which animal will you be sponsoring?

A Ramble along the River Barle

devonlandacre_bridge_midAs long-term followers of the Two Moors Festival will know, a walk through the beautiful countryside of the south-west has become a regular feature of the festival’s main two-week event in October – and 2013 is certainly no exception!

After enjoying lots and lots of classical music from October 16th to 19th, you can have a very well-earned respite on the 20th by going on a very energetic hike over Exmoor, from Withypool, along the River Barle and back over Winsford Hill, joining local expert on moorland flora and fauna Jeremy Holtom to find out all you can about the area.

While we can’t guarantee the weather, we can guarantee that you’ll have a lovely time. The Exmoor National Park is one of the most beautiful to be found in England. It has virtually no light pollution, no telegraph poles – in fact, many places on the top of the moor still don’t have mains electricity (after all Barkham, the Two Moors Festival HQ, was only connected to the grid in 2001!).

If the sun does deign to shine on all us happy walkers, you can see all the way across to Wales, Dartmoor and Westward Ho! from the top of the highest point at Dunkery Beacon (certainly a sight you need to behold at once in your lifetime) – and one of the best times to go for a walk is in winter, when the hedgerows sparkle with delightful hoar frost.

We’ll be meeting at the Royal Oak in Withypool on the 20th at 14:00 for a lovely four-mile stroll, so please do come along if you can. Hopefully it won’t be raining – and you’ll certainly build up a nice hearty appetite for the evening concert in Dulverton. which is a chamber music recital given by The Busch Ensemble.

So – who can’t wait until October?

Elephants at a lunchtime concert

#One of our favourite programmes taking place at this year’s Two Moors Festival main two-week event in October has to be Elephants at a Lunchtime Concert – a show that includes Poulenc’s Babar the Elephant and excerpts from Debussy’s Children’s Corner Suite.

Taking place on October 18th at 13:00 at All Saints’ Church in North Molton in the very heart of Exmoor, the concert involves Year 6 pupils from North Molton Primary School who will be participating as narrators throughout the hour-long programme, accompanied by acclaimed pianist Harvey Davies.

This is definitely going to be one of the most fun events throughout the whole two weeks – and just because the pieces by both these composers were written for children certainly doesn’t mean that adults won’t have a brilliant time if they come along as well. You can bet we’ll be there!

Babar the Elephant was originally written by Poulenc for the children of his cousins and takes the form of narration alongside piano accompaniment, telling the story of the little elephant Babar whose mother is killed by a huntsman and who is then befriended by a little old lady. Eventually, Babar marries Celeste, becomes king of the elephants and lives happily ever after (as all excellent stories end).

The six-piece Children’s Corner Suite by Debussy was composed in 1908 for his daughter Claude-Emma (or Chou-Chou to her friends!), including an excerpt called Jimbo’s lullaby. The elephant in this story originally came from the French Sudan and lived in the Jardin des Plantes at around the time Debussy was born (part of P T Barnum’s circus), and which one of Chou-Chou’s toys was named after.

Check out these little videos of the pieces, just to whet your appetite ahead of October 18th!

The Fascination of Astronomy Made Clear

newsYou may have heard that the theme of this year’s Two Moors Festival main two-week event in October is light – a theme that was chosen after artistic director Penny Adie saw the effects of light streaming through some stained glass.

In keeping with this interesting idea – if you’ve got your brochure for this year’s festival, you’ll certainly be impressed by how the different artists have interpreted the theme – a talk is being given at the Yarn Market Hotel in Dunster by Douglas Rice, chairman of the Tiverton and Mid Devon Astronomy Society since its foundation in 1985, on the dark skies of Exmoor.

The night skies above this part of the world are the stuff of legend – and were recently designated the very first International Dark Sky Reserve in Europe, so you know that it’s one of the best places to go for a spot of star-gazing. If you’re thinking of going, then you might want to head to Brendon Two Gates, Holdstone Hill, County Gate, Haddon Hill, Webbers Post and Wimbleball Lake, all of which are particularly good. On a clear night, you can see lots of astronomical sights just by the naked eye – and you can see a whole lot more with a pair of binoculars.

If astronomy is of interest, you definitely don’t want to miss this revealing talk. It takes place at lunchtime on October 24th, with coffee and shortbread when you get to the hotel and a lunch of chicken chasseur or spinach and ricotta canelloni if you pre-book. Entry is free by ticket only so make sure you phone the festival box office on (01643) 831 006 if you’d like to go.