Tag Archives: barkham

Penny Adie writes…

Each week, Two Moors Festival artistic director Penny Adie will be here on the blog, letting you all know just what’s been going on down at Festival HQ in Devon.

“Sometimes it would appear that life behind the scenes at the Two Moors Festival is dull and we do nothing in preparation for October’s concerts. I assure you that it isn’t! Last week, for instance, saw my husband, the fundraiser, write to no less than 11 trusts for much needed money that will ultimately support different concerts or some of the education work that we do. Each application made requires individual attention depending on the needs of the organisation. Some demand background while others ask for up-to-date financial records and finally, they have to see first hand what type of events we present. This means the enclosure of the previous year’s programme, newsletter, brochure – in fact anything that will sell the festival.

As for my job, the last 10 days have seen approaches to a number of artists asking if they would like to give a recital. Much of the programme is complete by this stage but there are always gaps to fill. Often someone needs to change the proposed date. While this in theory sounds fine, the new date is invariably already ‘bagged’. This means saying farewell to that particular event and starting from scratch with something else. And so it goes on… As artistic director, my job is to be as creative as possible – and stick to the budget!”

Places still available for Two Moors Festival Young Musicians Platform

Classical in the countrysideEvery year, the Two Moors Festival holds a competition to find the most promising young classical musicians in the south-west, with a prize of £250, the chance to perform alongside professional musicians in the main two-week event in October as part of the Festival and the opportunity to take part in an exclusive masterclass.

The competition is open to those aged 18 and under on January 1st 2014 who are classical musicians of minimum grade seven standard, either living or at school in the south-west of the UK.

There are still places available for entrants, although entry will close on January 31st for this year’s competition, with the first round of auditions taking place on the weekend beginning 8th March.

Click here to find out more information and download an entry form.

The Two Moors Festival Fundraising Recital

The Busch EnsembleFollowing on from this year’s Two Moors Festival main two-week event in October, the festival is holding a fundraising recital to help boost the charity’s finances ahead of next year’s programme (which is due to take place between October 16th and 25th), with drinks, canapes and music provided by the wonderful Busch Ensemble.

The concert is in aid of the festival’s Residency Project, which offers musicians at any stage of their career the opportunity to rehearse completely undisturbed in the beautiful surroundings of the Devon countryside at Barkham, the festival headquarters – which, aside from amazing views and lots of peace and quiet, boasts a studio with unrivalled acoustics and a Bosendorfer Imperial Grand.

The recital – taking place on January 21st next year – will be put on in the London home of Bob Boas, who is passionate about the arts and music. Following the death of his son, Bob set up a trust to help young musicians just starting out, with concerts taking place at his home raising funds for the Nicholas Boas Charitable Trust first and outside organisations second.

Tickets for the January 21st event cost £25 and tickets can be booked by emailing boas22m@btinternet.com or over the phone on 020 7436 0344.

If you’re unable to make it to the concert but would like to make a donation to the Festival, please make cheques payable to The Two Moors Festival and send them to:

Barkham, Sandyway, South Molton, North Devon, EX36 3LU

St Peter’s and St Mary Magdalene’s Church, Barnstaple

BPC-SpringThe start of this year’s Two Moors Festival main two-week event in October is very nearly upon us. The first concert to take place in 2013 is Beginning to See the Light, a charity concert we’re putting on in aid of the Calvert Trust, Barnstaple Samaritans and our own work in schools in rural areas.

The programme includes pieces by composers like Lockrane, Duke Wellington, Gavita, Count Basie, Gershwin and Bernstein, and will be held from 19:30 in St Peter’s and St Mary Magdalene’s Church in Barnstaple. The church itself has been around since about the 12th century, but so many changes have been seen since then that there are precious few traces left of the original building.

Lots happened to the church in the 18th and 19th centuries, with the spire being badly damaged by fire in 1793 and the weathercock being completely melted after it was hit by lightening in a freak thunderstorm back in 1810. This wasn’t the worst thing to happen to the church, however, and in 1860 a survey was undertaken and it was found that the entire building was structurally unsound. Restoration in 1823 had had an effect on the structure, with walls beginning to bulge, the roof sagging and the spire threatening to collapse. It was thought it would all have to be pulled down but luckily it was saved after designs from the 13th and 14th centuries were referred to.

We’re very much looking forward to the start of the festival and are very happy that the first concert will be held at St Peter’s. If you’d like tickets for the event, contact the festival box office on (01643) 831 006 to book.

Tickets are by donation, from between £15 and £28.

Bread and jam

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Followers of the Two Moors Festival will know that at a lot of the classical music concerts we put on as part of the main two-week event in October we have a little stall where we sell all sorts of festival goodies, from ties, umbrellas and postcards to cushions, scarves and even cream and homemade scones.

Well, this year we’re thinking about doing something a little different and are kicking around the idea of having hampers full to bursting with homemade strawberry jam, bread, local cheese, chocolates – all either made by us here at the festival or sourced from local Devon businesses (which we’re always very keen to support, in any way we can).

This is still very much an idea in its infancy but we thought we’d spend a day or two this week practising our baking skills. So we spent an entire day roasting over a very hot Aga (which we’re very lucky to have in the kitchen of Barkham, the festival HQ), stewing up hundreds of strawberries to try out our first batch of jam. It turned out wonderfully and now our larder is very well stocked indeed!

We’ve also been doing a lot of bread baking, using Mary Berry’s amazing Aga cookbook, but have to work on our plaits. Once baked, the plaits don’t seem to stick together very well – perhaps we’re not doing it tight enough. Does anyone have any tips for baking plaited bread?

Would you like to see hampers of food for sale at festival events? Let us know!

Figgy the festival cat

We’re very sorry to have to tell all you Two Moors Festival fans that our dear little cat Figaro (Figgy to his friends) has died. If you ever came to visit the festival headquarters down in Devon, you’ll no doubt have come across his soppy little black self curled up on a plush cushion on a huge chair (much too big for a cat!) by the Aga.

He was very much loved, dividing his time fairly equally between sleeping in a little ball, crawling around the plates and saucers in the cupboards of our huge dresser in the kitchen and being dive-bombed by house martins while out and about in the garden. He was pretty dim for a cat but the most loving animal we could have asked for – and we’re very proud to say that he made it to the ripe old age of 17… excellent going for a cat!

Although we’ll miss him always, we’re not ones to dwell on these things and, because we’ve always had cats and our home seems very empty without them, we’re now very happy to say we’ve got a new crazy little kitten – called Falstaff!

He’s another black and white, and we know he’s a keeper because he shows absolutely no fear whatsoever of festival German Shepherd Flora. Here are a couple of snaps of the new addition to our family. We hope you can come down to Devon to meet him very soon!

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The classic tale of the £1 bathroom suite

At the Two Moors Festival headquarters here in North Devon, we put on a lot of concerts and residencies, with countless musicians passing through our doors every year. Luckily, we used to run a holiday cottage and B&B business at Barkham so we have enough room to accommodate them all (most of the time!), but after 20 years, a bit of an update in Old Copse – one of the cottages – has been required.

We needed to give the bathroom a bit of a facelift, as the Pearl Suite (as we called it) was a leftover from the days of the previous owner, so can be dated at least as far back as 1987. We know how hard all the musicians who come down here work and how much they deserve a bit of a wind down at the end of the day, and a bath you can’t even stand up in because it’s under the stairs just wouldn’t cut it any more.

So John, festival fundraiser, decided to take matters into his own hands and headed to the internet and eBay to see what he could find. And he really did come up trumps, finding a very nice cream suite for the princely sum of – wait for it… – £1.04!

Another fun festival story to tell around the dinner table!

A Christmas walk in the Westcountry

upcott-farm-heddons-mouthWe can’t believe it’s only three weeks until Christmas! The Two Moors Festival HQ is getting more and more festive by the day… we’ve already turned on the carols, have been hunting out the perfect tree and have brought dusty boxes of decorations down from the attic to make sure we’re ready for the silly season.

One of our favourite ways to relax and unwind over Christmas is to bundle up in scarves, hats and gloves and take festival dog Flora out onto the moors for a (very) bracing walk. We used to do a lovely hike around the hills of Landacre on Boxing Day, with a big party of about 20 people, and then head back home for lots of food and games of all sorts.

While that’s one lovely tradition that’s been replaced with other (equally lovely) ones, there is one walk that we thought we’d recommend if you happen to be in this part of the world in December (or any other time, for that matter!).

If you make your way from Woody Bay to Heddon’s Mouth, you’ll be sure to have a brilliant time. There are some really beautiful views and a lot of history just waiting to be discovered – and you start off on an old carriageway, so you can immediately imagine all the different people who have passed that way over the years.

Watch out for Heddon’s Mouth Cleave as you go – it’s one of steepest valleys to be found around here and is definitely worth paying a visit. And when you get to Heddon’s Mouth itself, you’ll find yourself in an area steeped in history. Nazis used to pull up around here in their U-boats to stretch their legs and find fresh water and it was once the bay of choice for smugglers!

Let us know if you do go on this beautiful walk – we’d love to see any photos you take as well!

The Busch Ensemble Two Moors Festival residency

We recently had The Busch Ensemble down at Barkham, our Two Moors Festival headquarters, for one of our famed residencies. The events take place several times each year, with groups of musicians coming down to the beautiful Devonshire countryside to play lots of music in our gallery, eat lots of yummy food, play with Flora the festival dog and just generally relax and have a lovely time.

Here’s Jonathan Bloxham, cellist with the Ensemble, talking about the week he and his group enjoyed down in Devon.

Two Moors Festival (2MF): How did you come to do the residency?

Jonathan Bloxham (JB): Douglas Murdoch who is in charge of these residencies is an old youth orchestra colleague of mine from up north. We’ve known each other for years! As it often goes with old friends, we don’t see each other often, but earlier this year when we bumped into each other Douglas kindly offered to put us in touch with Penny. We’re incredibly grateful for his idea!

2MF: How does playing in the middle of nowhere compare to playing in the Wigmore Hall?

JB: In principal, we are always at all times equally committed for each and every performance, whether we are playing in Wigmore Hall or ‘the middle of nowhere’. The middle of nowhere that you mean though is quite an amazing place. It has such an unbelievably beautiful piano and also as a result with how spoilt we have been throughout the week, we wanted to give our absolute best to thank everyone involved who let us work there for the week! The audience is obviously smaller, creating an intimacy, as well as a very pleasant atmosphere to play in.

2MF: What did you all enjoy most about the residency?

JB: Living in big cities, we always have difficulty finding rehearsal space and time. There is always an hour’s worth of travel on either end, which means we have to plan our days extremely carefully and we often run into unwanted troubles, like tube delays, double room bookings, having to rebook, bad pianos, bad acoustics, noisy rooms. This week was a dream for us, we were in one place, and could literally practice 24 hours a day, and whenever we wanted. The only thing we had to do was walk about ten metres! This is every musician’s dream, to work like this in preparation for concerts, or CD recordings, without any distractions (apart from Flora of course).

2MF: What do you think makes our residencies such a success?

JB: A mixture of things. The beautiful location, the amazing facilities, both the room as well as the piano, and of course the way we are taken care of by Penny and John. They gave us such a wonderful vibe and freedom to do whatever we wanted, as well as great food and company. It gives you so much free mental space to just work on what is most important, the music we want to play.

2MF: Have you made a lifelong friend in Flora?

JB: Not only Flora, but also Figaro (the festival cat!) gave us so much joy. The way Figaro was always resting and ready to be cuddled was amazing. Flora, who would get extremely jealous if you only looked at Figaro, would always remind us that it was time to play with her, and we did so very much! We figured out she has been trained extremely well as a goal keeper, as well as being extremely cute. In the end it was nearly hardest to say goodbye to Flora after the week, as it’s probably longer until we see her than John and Penny!

2MF: How did you find the piano?

JB: What a monster, what a sound! It took a couple of days to make friends with it, but then it became our best one! When playing chamber music with it, you sense it’s enormous power, which is never quite let loose. Its orchestral presence turns every trio into a symphony.

2MF: Would you come again and do another residency?

JB: Throughout the week, we were wondering if there would be a possibility of a permanent residency. If we are allowed to come back, we’ll be there in a couple of hours!!

The Busch Ensemble at the Two Moors Festival

You may have heard of The Busch Ensemble. This very talented group – pianist Omri Epstein, violinist Mathieu van Bellen and cellist Jonathan Bloxham – were the winners of the Royal Overseas League competition in 2012 and the Recording Prize at the Salieri-Zinetti International Chamber Music Competition in Italy.

It’s been a very busy and successful year for the chamber music group, which only got together in November 2010 and have since performed all over the world, in the UK, Germany, the Netherlands and France, and in concert halls as prestigious as the Wigmore, The Sage Gateshead and The Queen Elizabeth Hall.

So you can imagine how ecstatic we were here at the Two Moors Festival to welcome this enigmatic ensemble to our headquarters in Devon for a week-long residency, culminating in a smashing classical music concert in our gallery, with a programme of Beethoven, Brahms and Ravel on Friday night (September 14th).

The three musicians had a great time throughout the week and really made the most of the opportunity to relax and play wonderful music in a rather idyllic setting – more so than others we’ve had to stay at Barkham. On Thursday, they rehearsed for a whopping ten hours, popping back over from the gallery whenever they needed to refuel. “They even went back to the gallery at 22:30, as they found it so perfect an environment to play in,” festival artistic director Penny Adie said.

As much of an impression as The Busch Ensemble made on the audience – their performance really was mind-blowing and the congregation were left open-mouthed – our little corner of the world seemed to have impressed them just as much.

Omri fell in love with our piano, they are all keen to record in the gallery if possible and they just loved the total relaxation, the readily-available food and the fact that they didn’t have to travel anywhere to give a concert. From our point of view, they were amazing – they even did the washing up! We were particularly impressed with the care they took over their concert dress. They all wore the same high-class shirts, had very polished shoes and wore superbly pressed trousers, something that can slip through the cracks at our residency concerts because the musicians are just so relaxed!

“It makes such a difference and makes the audience feels there’s something special going to happen,” Penny added.

It really was a wonderful evening and week – The Busch Ensemble are welcome back any time!

Have you ever been lucky enough to see The Busch Ensemble in concert?