Tag Archives: classical music

In conversation with…

To get to know some of our wonderful artists a little better ahead of this year’s Two Moors Festival, we have invited some of them to share the answers to a few short questions so we can learn
more!

First up we have Oliver and Owen from O Duo Percussion….

Have you ever visited the Two Moors area before?

Oliver: Yes, to play for the festival (twice)
Owen: Yes! We’ve played at the festival on a few occasions now…..I’ve also been on the edge of Exmoor to an excellent pub for recreational purposes! 

What did you want to be when growing up? 

Oliver:  When I was quite young, a doctor! Then later, a musician….
Owen: From the age of 14, a percussionist! I didn’t really think about it before then or at least I can’t remember!

Who’s your inspiration?  

Oliver:  Probably my Grandad, who came from a really poor, working-class family in Dundee and became Principal Cellist of the LPO!
Owen: In music, no-one really…. But I try and put into perspective being a musician, by thinking of those of have trickier/life threatening jobs, like my brother in the army.
 

Ambition or talent: which matters more to success for you? 

Oliver: Both
Owen: Has to be both! Whilst I’m a believer in anyone can do it, I think you need that something extra to go up a level, that doesn’t mean to make a career. But, I think the best musicians have both

What is the greatest achievement of your life so far? 

Oliver: Musically, I guess playing most of the UK’s biggest concert halls with O Duo, after forming the duo at College.
Owen: Deep! Making a career (ie. Paying the mortgage, buying a house, and being able to pay for the family to live!) out of being a musician.
 

What are you looking forward to most when performing at this year’s Two Moors Festival?

Oliver: Being in a beautiful part of the country….
Owen: Being in one of the finest parts of the country, with great audiences.

O Duo Percussion
Owen Gunnell marimba
Oliver Cox marimba
Performance: 11:00 am Tue, 17 Oct 2017
Venue: St Pancras Church, Widecombe-in-the-Moor, TQ13 7TA

Tickets now on general sale!

The time has come that all tickets are now on general sale for this year’s Two Moors Festival! You can buy tickets both online, over the phone and in person.

CBSO Classical Music Festival
City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

We already have some performances nearly sold out so please do book soon in order to not miss out.

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Two Moors Festival team

 

 

Programme Announcement – 2017 Festival

The time has arrived to announce our 2017 festival programme – and we are so excited about it! With a total of 28 outstanding concerts for everyone to enjoy, this year’s festival takes place from Friday 13th October to Sunday 21st October 2017 across a total of 13 beautiful venues in Dartmoor and Exmoor.

The festival grows in calibre every year and now truly ranks in the top class of classical music events in the UK. And this year is no exception! Have a read here of some of the highlights of 2017:

  • The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra makes its first appearance in the South West at The Two Moors Festival performing alongside gifted pianist, Pavel Kalesnikov, to play Grieg’s much loved piano concerto
  • One of the most exciting British chamber ensembles, the Heath Quartet, will be performing Haydn, Tippett and Mendelssohn
  • Acclaimed pianist Barry Douglas will be performing twice, once with the Endellion Quartet which will be broadcast live in concert on BBC Radio 3
  • Schubert’s three famous song cycles are to be performed in one day with pianist, Jâms Coleman(tackling no less than 58 songs in the process!)
  • Esteemed international violinist Tasmin Little will travel to All Saint’s Church, Okehampton to for a recital to include Prokofiev’s D Major Sonata and Brahms Sonatensatz in C minor. Accompanied by Australian Pianist Andrey Gugnin
  • This year the festival also branches into Jazz with Alec Dankworth’s eclectic Spanish programme oozing flamenco rhythms and traditional Spanish and Cuban folksongs
  • Final concert brings the North Devon Sinfonia, winners of BBC Four’s ‘All Together Now – The Great Orchestra Challenge’, who will be performing Haydn’s Creation. The singers for the Festival chorus are local choral singers, largely made up of members of 2MF and the Devon Wildlife Trust,  our community partner for this event.

Ticket release dates are as follows:
Benefactors from 3 July 2017
Associates from 10 July 2017
Friends from 17 July 2017
General Booking opens 26 July 2017

All information for the 2017 festival can be found on our website: http://tickets.thetwomoorsfestival.co.uk/sales/2017festival/2017-concerts-and-talks

We can’t wait to see you again for another wonderful festival!

Young Musician Winners Announced!

We are so pleased to announce our four winners for this year’s Two Moors Festival Young Musicians’ Platform:

Matilda Wale, aged 16, Voice, from New College, Swindon

Ellen O’Brien, aged 17, French Horn, from The Castle School, Thornbury

Poppy Freya McGhee, aged 12, Violin, Hugh Sexey Middle School, Wedmore

Joseph Pritchard, aged 17, Cello, from Yehudi Menuhin School, Surrey

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The standard this year was exceptionally high so huge congratulations to everyone who took part. We look forward to seeing these wonderful performers at this year’s festival and for all the upcoming young artists, keep an eye out for the opening of the 2018 competition later this year!

Cellist Rebecca McNaught On Becoming A Performing Musician

My aim is to be a professional cellist of some description. Playing is what I love most and want to do for as much of my life as possible. I’m currently studying music at Merton College, Oxford. People often ask one of two things when I tell them where I study:

  • Oh so that’s a performance based degree, right?

  • Why there?

The first question is completely wrong: it’s an academic music degree. The second question is one I certainly ask myself when staring at a blank word document hoping I can form a 1,500 word essay about a 14th century French composer I have never even heard of, or bashing notes out of a keyboard in the hope my score reading sounds vaguely like Lassus. So why did I choose university over conservatoire in the first place?

The first answer is either overly simple or simply stupid. I don’t know. When I was in year 12 going into year 13, I made the (big) decision that I didn’t want to spend the next three years of my life practising. And practising. I wanted to see a bit more of the world and to meet people who weren’t just musicians.

Here in Oxford some of the best musicians don’t even study the subject: they are medics, historians, chemists, you name it. Secondly I wanted to have the chance to view music from an academic perspective, to get a feel of how and why music is constructed in the way it is, and to contest those accepted traditions of musical analysis and the musical canon. Although this has been a big challenge for me personally, I feel that what I have already learnt in two terms has altered my attitude towards the way I view musical practice. And however difficult, I am really loving it.

Performing at university

It might be easy to think that the performance opportunities at a university would be limited but it’s certainly not the case. In one term alone I did three solo recitals alongside a mountain of chamber and orchestral playing. Emails regularly fall into my inbox asking for a cellist to help out and it’s very easy to get overloaded with opportunities. Quite often I can spend as much of my day playing as I do working! So has it been the right decision? It’s a case of waiting and seeing…

Clearly this is all very one sided. I’ve only done two terms at a prestigious university and so I have no knowledge of the transition to conservatoire after university, or the leap straight into conservatoire after school. So I decided to ask a few friends who have taken different performance paths to give me their views.

The first is a friend who, like me, headed to Oxford after his A levels to study music. However, he has since graduated and now studies the oboe at the Royal Academy of Music so can now see the utility of his degree as well as the transition between the two.

His choice to go to university first was very similar to me as a degree: “It left my options open in a way that I didn’t think a performance course might.” His first year was filled with orchestral playing and he points out that that meant he “did very little practice and had to make a real effort to head over to the practice block amid the tidal wave of other things I could have been doing”.

For him it was chamber music that made all the difference. “Setting up my trio was one of the most rewarding things I did at university and I grew so much as a musician. Oxford also has loads of opportunities to perform in lots of different settings. Every lunch time, there will be a clash of college music society recitals to choose from and it’s a great chance to try out new pieces.”

So I asked him the big question: whether he thought his degree had been useful to his performance plans. “My academic work stretched me and equipped me with the tools to examine and make sense of life in all its richness. I think a good degree will nurture these skills and, in that sense, I don’t think that it’s necessary to study music.”

Thus his concluding advice was as follows: “If you know that you definitely want to be a performer then maybe music college is for you. But if you have a sense of curiosity about the world outside of being a classical musician, then I would strongly suggest an application to university. You meet people interested in all manner of subjects and have the opportunity to expand your view of the world.” And this is ultimately the decision I made when I was in sixth form.

What about conservatoire?

Going straight to conservatoire has its advantages too: you don’t lose out on hours of practice while writing essays and you are surrounded by musicians following the same dream as you. Another friend, a singer who went straight to the RNCM at the end of sixth form said: “It is hard work but I appreciate the fact that 60 per cent of my degree will be based on a 30 minute recital as I feel I can portray my hard work and skill through this far better than I ever could in a written dissertation.”

If you know that playing, not writing essays, is what you want to do then conservatoire is the way forward without question.

The longer I spend at Oxford the clearer my choice is becoming to go onto conservatoire once I have finished my degree. It seems strange that it has been an academic degree that has made my mind up, and that’s not because I’m not enjoying it. But, at the moment, I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else. I feel privileged to be spending three years expanding my mind about music away from the cello and then being able to put that information into practice.

I am astounded by the number of performance opportunities I have been given. But more importantly I feel lucky that I am being given these opportunities by both tutors and students who have such varied interests and such passion for their subjects and hobbies alike.

At the end of school you are told to follow your heart. My heart was undecided and university has been the place where I’ve been given the time to see what I really want to do. And who knows, in a year this may all have changed!

Q&A With Notus Winds

Last week, we held another of the Two Moors Festival’s famous residencies, this time with amazing wind quintet Notus Winds coming down to Barkham in Devon for a few days to enjoy some much-needed respite and lots of rehearsing in one of the most beautiful parts of the world.

The week ended with a brilliant performance in our gallery (fans of classical music concerts will no doubt already have popped along to check out the venue!), so we thought we’d catch up with the group one final time to find out how it all went.

classical music concerts
2MF: How long have you been together as a group?
NW: We started playing together in our first year at the Academy. Our first, rather ambitious, venture was learning Barber’s beautiful Summer Music. Needless to say it wasn’t our most successful performance but we revisited the work last year, more successfully, for the final of the Academy’s Patrons’ Award. It’s always interesting coming back to repertoire after a break – in this case we had all matured both personally and in our playing to a point where we could do the music more justice.

2MF: What brought you together?
NW: We’ve known each other in various combinations ever since NCO in 2005. Some of us met in the following years through the NYO, the Purcell School and the Junior Department of the RCM. The idea of forming a quintet was discussed by a few of us at an NYO course just before starting at the Academy, and the rest is history!

2MF: What’s your biggest concert to date?
NW: Last year we won the Academy’s Patrons’ Award, resulting in an evening recital at Wigmore Hall last June. This was an incredible opportunity to play some of our favourite music at a beautiful and prestigious venue. Another close contender has to be our debut at the BBC Proms for their Portrait series back in September, when we performed Sir Harrison Birtwistle’s Five Distances in front of the composer himself at a concert celebrating his 80th birthday.

The piece is one of our favourites (possibly because we are instructed in the score to stand as far apart as possible!) but the RCM Amaryllis Fleming Concert Hall is the biggest space that we have tried it in to date, and it was being recorded for broadcast on BBC Radio 3 – exciting and terrifying in equal measures!

classical music concerts
2MF: What’s the oddest thing that’s ever happened at a concert?
NW: This is a difficult one… Odd and extremely amusing things happen very often, and we always have a little chuckle about them (which we try to wait for until after the performance) but perhaps the most bizarre was when we were giving a recital at the Festival de Inverno in Brazil a couple of years ago. We had finished the final piece and the Brazilian audience, ever enthusiastic, requested an encore.

Luckily we had a little something prepared; unluckily not all of us had remembered to bring the music on stage. Whilst Jon, our bassoonist, sprinted off stage to find it, an awkward silence fell over the hall. Had the audience been an English-speaking one, we would have felt comfortable filling the time by talking about the music and making a joke or two.

This particular audience didn’t speak a word of English, but Carys could not bear the silence any longer so disregarded the language barrier and started talking anyway, to a sea of blank faces. When Jon eventually ran back out with the music the audience was as relieved as we were and welcomed him back with rapturous applause. Needless to say we all double check our music backstage nowadays!

2MF: What’s the best compliment you’ve been paid as a group?
NW: People often say very kind things about us, but a recurring compliment we notice is the observation about the blend of our sound. It is easy in chamber music for individual timbres and tones to stand out from a group – especially in a wind quintet where all the sounds are produced in different ways and have a huge potential for variation. It’s therefore very flattering to hear that ours are well-blended as it is something that can’t always be rehearsed.
classical music concerts
2MF: How did you hear about the Two Moors Festival residency programme?
NW: Back in October 2014 we were fortunate to come to the Two Moors Festival to give a lunchtime recital. Penny Adie approached us after the concert and talked about the residency programme. She said that if we had anything coming up for which we could use an intensive week of rehearsals to prepare, we should get in touch.

2MF: What do you think the appeal is?
NW: In the busy music world it is often extremely challenging to find a window of time to bring five musicians together to rehearse for concerts and learn new music. When it is possible it is often a couple of hours squeezed in between other rehearsals, concerts and teaching.

The residency offers musicians the luxury of having not just a few hours but a few days to intensively rehearse in a constructive, efficient and thorough manner. It also allows freedom to experiment with new ideas (in our case, performing from memory) without having to keep one eye on the clock.

2MF: Do you think coming down to such a part of the world helped your rehearsal process? 
NW: Definitely! Just as the length of the residency gave us freedom with time, so the picturesque views and tranquil surroundings allowed us all to relax with our music making and forget the stresses of everyday London life, which can subconsciously affect all of us.
At Barkham you are forced to disconnect from London life (partly due to the lack of phone signal!) and this allowed us to focus on our music more fully.

2MF: Do you feel refreshed as a group after spending a few days at Barkham?

NW: As individual members relax, it affects the dynamic of the whole group. We certainly felt a difference not only in our playing but also in our peace of mind, which sent us away with a renewed sense of creativity and confidence.

2MF: How did the concert go?
NW: You’ll have to ask the audience! From our point of view, we really enjoyed performing in the gallery, and it was fantastic to be able to showcase all that we had been working on over the week. We had focused a lot of our time on learning Carl Nielsen’s famous Wind Quintet, a core work of the repertoire, and it was a huge benefit to be able to consolidate our rehearsals so soon with a performance.

We had also aimed to experiment with learning some repertoire by heart over the course of the week, and so we played the first of Ibert’s Trois Pièces Brèves from memory as our encore – just dipping our toes into what is a new concept for us!
classical music concerts

2MF: How do you feel the gallery compares as a concert venue to others you’ve played in?
NW: It was absolutely beautiful! We commented during our stay how much we enjoyed the clarity and enhancing quality of the acoustic, and how the space captures the intimate feel of a 19th century chamber music salon. We also thought it would be very appropriate as a venue in which to record certain works, and wished we’d brought some equipment with us.

2MF: What would you recommend about the residency to other groups?
NW: The obvious benefit of the residency is having the undivided time to focus and rehearse as much as you need to. You are at liberty to spend the time however you feel most beneficial, and not feeling under the usual amount of pressure makes for much better-quality work.

It’s also an incredible part of the country where we could really relax as well as explore the surrounding nature. Another huge attraction of the residency is John and Penny themselves. Penny is caring, wise, genuinely interested and ever helpful – and an incredible cook! John is a hugely entertaining personality with a plethora of jokes and intriguing stories. We really were made to feel at home in their beautiful house, and came back to London with slightly tighter waistbands!

2MF: How much do you love Flora and Pip?
NW: So much! They’re amazing animals who were welcomed into most of our spare time during the residency. They have definitely made five new friends for life! We spent the last morning Googling ways of fitting a German Shepherd into a suitcase…

2MF: What else did you do apart from music-making?
NW: Apart from eat? Not much. No, we went for several walks in the beautiful Devon countryside. We were blessed with stunning weather for the week and took advantage of that during our rehearsal breaks, usually dragging Flora along with us! On one day Penny gave us some instructions on getting to a particular part of the moor, and an hour later was totally shocked to drive past us on the road going in completely the wrong direction. Who knows where we might have ended up had she not put us right!

Two Moors Festival: Notus Winds Residency

Not only is the the Two Moors Festival’s residency project serving its purpose, but it also creates an atmosphere of the utmost fun within the Adie household. This doesn’t mean to say that routine life is dull – far from it!

This week has seen Notus Winds, one of the most talented wind ensembles to burst onto the concert scene, rehearsing in our studio in preparation for the Nielsen competition held later in the year. As you can imagine, this quintet has been high on the agenda along with a diverse range of works that included the first movement of Ibert’s Trois Pièces which they decided to learn from memory.

classical music festivals

They imposed a punishing schedule upon themselves – three hours’ rehearsal each morning, building up a healthy appetite for lunch followed by more sessions over the rest of the day. How Carys Evans’s lip stayed the course, we shall never know – but that’s suffering for one’s art.

The beauty of our residencies is that artists are completely free to run their own timetables, rummage for food and help themselves to wine (although so far, no one has gone to those lengths first thing in the morning!). In the case of this group, because the weather was so glorious, they gulped vast quantities of unpolluted air whilst striding the across the moors in their self-imposed spare time.

classical music festivals

Exmoor has been at its finest this week proudly showing off its spectacular scenery, colours not to mention the first primroses appearing in the banks. I have to say that the ensemble’s interpretation of clear verbal directions differed from ours! As a result Flora, our dog, had so much exercise that she expressed no interest in going for a walk on the day the team left.

The pressures of city living are such that artists take a while to switch off. Invariably they feel the urge to practise the moment they get here thinking that they have a time limit on the availability of a hired studio. Life is very different here and it’s only after several glasses of wine and wholesome food that musicians begin to let go.

The fact that there is no payment involved (even expenses are covered) also takes a day to sink in. We notice a huge difference in the approach to work, the feeling of achievement following a constructive rehearsal, and a sense of well-being on discovering an improved level of playing. As a team, there is time to explore varied interpretations of a piece, a greater opportunity to listen to each other and to work on a better cohesive sound.

classical music festivals

There is no doubt that residencies here play their part in the structural development of a young group of artists. This ensemble has benefited in spade loads. Their concert on the final night was of a standard equal to any recital one might hear at the Wigmore Hall. Here’s to the future of Notus Winds – they deserve to do well!

Penny Adie