Tag Archives: classical music

2MF residency reviewed

Last Friday (May 25th), we welcomed eager audiences to the gallery at Barkham in the very heart of the peaceful Devonshire countryside to hear a group of professional musicians – none of whom knew each other at the start of the week – perform an evening of Beethoven and Strauss as part of the Two Moors Festival’s first residency of 2012.

After a few days of practice, with the sun beating down all week, professional instrumentalists Ben Birtle (cello), Francesca Moore-Bridger (horn), Sophie Roper (double bass), Sinead Frost (bassoon), Arnaud Ghillebaert (viola), Max Welford (clarinet) and Chihiro Ono (violin) gave an inspiring performance of Strauss’ Till Eulenspiegel Lustige Streiche and Beethoven’s Septet in E flat major Op.20.

The standard of the evening was particularly high, although the Strauss performance was better than the Beethoven, which is fiendishly difficult and a truly awesome work to tackle. Regardless, the audience loved every second of it, reflected in the thunderous applause that nearly lifted the gallery roof off afterwards and the incessant chatter over the dinner table, nigh-on bending under the weight of copious amounts of food provided by artistic director Penny Adie. (Think cold roast turkey and ham, cream cheese quiche, pasta salad, garlic bread, cheese, chocolate cake, meringue…the list goes on and on!)

“This residency instantly proved the need for this project and why we have set it up. It has given young professional players the chance to come together to work on repertoire seldom performed, to rehearse at leisure, to get to the depths of the piece and, above all, reinforce the need to listen to each other while playing. The fact that the weather was glorious added to the package, prompting animated games of croquet and plenty of Pimms,” Penny said.

If you had fun on Friday night and can’t wait for the next instalment, or were unlucky enough not to make it this time round, the next Two Moors Festival residency concert is on August 17th in the gallery. It will be an entirely new group of musicians, with just cellist Ben Birtle returning to Barkham. The musical programme consists of Dvorak’s Nocturne in B major Op.40 and the Double Bass Quintet in G major Op.77, and Mozart’s String Quartet in B flat K.458 The Hunt, so it promises to be an brilliant evening indeed.

Although we don’t charge for these concerts, we do ask for donations, with a suggested minimum of £15 a ticket.

To book, please call (01643 831370) or email adie.exmoor@btinternet.com

What did you think of Friday night’s entertainment?

2MF residency concert on tonight

Tonight’s the night! The Two Moors Festival’s first residency of the year has been going on this week, with seven excellent instrumentalists coming down to Devon to make lots of music, enjoy delicious food and make the most of being deep in the countryside for a few days – with the added bonus of amazing weather this time around!

At 19:00 this evening (May 25th), horn player Francesca Moore-Bridger, double bass player Sophie Roper, cellist Ben Birtle, violist Arnaud Ghillebaert, violinist Chihiro Ono, bassoonist Sinead Frost and clarinettist Max Welford will all take centre stage in the gallery at Barkham and treat the audience to a night of Beethoven and Strauss.

The programme includes Strauss’ Till Eulenspiegel Lustige Streiche – the tale of a troublesome German peasant who’s eventually executed by the authorities – and Beethoven’s Septet in Eb major Op.20, dedicated to the Empress Maria Theresa.

Part of the appeal of the residency series is that musicians can come and rehearse in a beautiful setting, away from the hustle and bustle of big cities, and have a bit of a holiday even while they’re working. “Barkham is one of the most peaceful, calm, beautiful places I’ve ever been, especially in the sunshine,” Francesca says. “This is very different to a normal week in central London. No tubes, no noise, no pollution, no frantic tube journeys to last-minute rehearsals, no waiting for phone calls, checking messages and hoping the diary will get busy next month. It’s been idyllic!”

If you can’t make it to tonight’s concert, don’t worry – these seven players will be joining forces with other instrumentalists for the festival’s main two-week event in October, performing Mahler’s Das Lied von Erde on the 13th.

For tickets for tonight, call 01643 831370.

Are you going to have a listen tonight? Let us know what you think of the performance!

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

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?

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.

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

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.

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