At this year’s Two Moors Festival main-two week event, taking place between October 15th-25th, we will be putting on a series of interesting talks as well as classical music, all relating to Devon – where the festival takes place every year.
This time around, we’re holding a talk on the history of the Exmoor pony at Dulverton’s Exmoor Pony Centre on October 19th with an outdoor tour of the centre (weather permitting, of course!). In case you’re unfamiliar with these beautiful creatures, they are one of the last native breeds of pony to be found roaming wild in Britain and, year after year, prove to be a big draw for people coming to the area. Everyone wants to see them on a holiday to Devon!
Make sure you keep your eyes well peeled for these majestic beasts as you travel from church to church in October, going to and from the different Two Moors Festival concerts, but if you’re in Exmoor before then you could also make sure you attend the Exmoor Pony Festival 2014.
Taking place between August 9th and 17th, the event includes herd open days, safaris, lovely long walks in the Devon countryside, shows and rides – so it’s the perfect opportunity to acquaint yourself with the Exmoor pony before coming along to our talk in October.
The Two Moors event is free (although you will need to reserve a ticket) and there will be a collection, with all donations going towards the festival’s education programme. We’d love to see you there, so do include the date in your diary.
If you’d like to find out more about this year’s Two Moors Festival programme and to order a brochure, please visit our website today.
We recently discovered The Multi-Story Orchestra, a programme of classical music events run by composer Kate Whitley and conductor Christopher Stark that aims to take concerts out of traditional venues and into more interesting spaces… like a car park in the heart of Peckham!
When we heard that, it reminded us of the concerts we here at the Two Moors Festival have started putting on in Tiverton Parkway railway station, so we got in touch with Kate (who’s also a music fellow at Rambert Dance Company and is currently writing a choral piece to support the campaign against female genital mutilation in the UK) to find out more about this interesting project.
2MF: Where did the idea come from?
KW: The idea behind Multi-Story is that classical music might be able to engage new audiences and escape the traditional associations of the art form by escaping the spaces that it normally inhabits. When I was a teenager I wanted to find a way to get my friends to listen to classical music.
2MF: Why Peckham Car Park?
KW: I was actually looking for a car park to do a concert in – they are big, functional public spaces, and seemed to me to be a perfect blank slate. I was living in Cambridge and had tried to use a car park there but Cambridge Council had placed a ban on live music in these spaces, so we gave up. Then someone mentioned to me that a car park in London was being used for art exhibitions and events, so we got in touch with them and ended up doing our first performance there in 2011.
2MF: How successful has the scheme been in encouraging an interest in classical music among schoolchildren?
KW: To raise awareness of the car park concerts and reach children in the area we’ve been packing our orchestra into a tour bus and driving around schools in Peckham to perform to school children for the last few years. It’s amazing that most of them have now seen us play two or three times, and know that we’re the orchestra who play in a car park. Bringing a full symphony orchestra to a school always gets an brilliant response, so I think the project has had a big impact on their ideas about classical music – who does it, what it is and where it can exist.
2MF: Where else have you taken classical music?
KW: We’ve done many performances in clubs and warehouses – we work in collaboration with Gabriel Prokofiev’s classical club night Nonclassical frequently. When I was a student I had three operas performed in strange places: in a zoology museum, in a bike-polo warehouse, and in a underground bar.
2MF: How important do you think it is to take classical music into different venues?
KW: Personally I don’t like going to traditional concert halls; I don’t like the performance conventions of classical music and I find traditional venues oppressive. Taking classical performances into new venues is a great way to remember what is so incredible about the art form, and try to share that with as many people as possible.
2MF: What’s your opinion of music education in schools?
KW: I think that generally there is very little importance given to classical music – and particularly live classical music – in education in this country. We’re always really struck by the discrepancy between primary schools – where children’s delight and awe at even just seeing the size of instruments like the double bass and tuba can be overwhelming! – and secondary schools, where students seem afraid of showing enthusiasm for fear of sticking out from their peers. I think trying to change that is one of the most valuable things we could do.
2MF: What could/should be done to improve it?
KW: Music education needs more funding! The campaign to save local authority funding for music services – and free instrumental lessons for every child – is hugely important and open until Thursday. You can register your support here.
To find out how we here at the Two Moors Festival supports music education in the south-west, visit our website today.
We recently revealed the winners of this year’s Two Moors Festival Young Musicians Platform competition (which comes with a top prize of £250 in cash and the chance to play alongside professional musicians in our main two-week event this October).
Now, we’re catching up with each of our four winners to find out more about them ahead of the autumn and to see how they’re preparing for this major concert. We recently featured interviews with our youngest-ever winner violinist Hannah Brooks-Hughes and cellist Willard Carter, and now it’s cellist Rebecca McNaught’s turn.
Rebecca really impressed us with her playing at the final in May, particularly her rendition of Shostakovich’s Sonata (which you can see a video of here).
2MF: What made you first pick up the cello? RM: There was a lot of music around when I was very tiny and my mum took me to baby music classes so music has long been a part of my life! I actually began with the piano but because my mum had played the cello there was one in the house and I began to beg to be allowed to play. My parents actually held off until I was six and I’ve never looked back since.
2MF: What was the hardest part about first learning to play? RM: I found learning the cello very frustrating to begin with, but in some respects that was a good thing because I put more work in. There’s so much to put in place and make correct but I was listening to recordings of professional cellists so I knew what it should sound like, and it just didn’t! I remember walking into my second lesson and asking how vibrato worked – my teacher had to tell me to wait until I was ready to start things like that!
I used to have massive tantrums, to the extent that my parents had to tell me to put the cello down and come back later. I would flat out refuse because I hadn’t yet got it right, so when I exchanged my first quarter-sized cello for a half, it was sent back with tear tracks all the way down it!
2MF: How much do you have to practice in order to reach your standard? RM: That’s a very tricky question… a lot, but not as much as I would like to because academic work sometimes gets in the way. When juggling music and school work, there are times when the school work is neglected for practising for a big concert and other times when the practice has to be sacrificed for exams – it’s all about time management! My ideal amount would be two hours a day during the week but three or four at weekends.
2MF: What’s your practising process like? RM: I always start with some simple exercises to warm up, for example some of the Feuillard studies and then (of course!) some scales. I think it’s then important to prioritise the pieces that need the most work and focus on the most challenging areas or those pieces, taking them in sections. When approaching a concert and all the pieces are on a similar level, I try to practise them in the order that I would perform them. This means that I am feeling tired when I start to practise the pieces at the end. Sometimes it’s also good to do a run through of a programme and get a feel for the level of stamina before working on the weaker sections.
2MF: Any tips for caring for your cello for young musicians just starting out? RM: I can’t talk, not with the tear tracks!! It’s very important to always know exactly where your cello is and whether or not you have put it in a safe place. I once had my cello kicked over at an orchestra rehearsal in the place I would usually leave it, but I now always put it back in the case during breaks. Make sure the strings are cleaned at the end of each rehearsal to prevent the rosin residue that builds up and that you have undone your bow properly to help the hair last longer.
2MF: What about any tips for first starting to learn? RM: Put in as much work as you like when you are young, especially if you love it! It stands you in good stead for disciplined practice in the future and means you have developed your technique from a young age. And try not to get too frustrated…
2MF: Did you expect to win the Two Moors competition? RM: This is the second year I had entered the competition, which meant I knew the system much better and felt very comfortable in the performance space. That said, I didn’t feel like I had played anywhere near my best in the final round of auditions and was therefore very disappointed coming out of the audition room so it was a big surprise to have won it.
2MF: How will you be preparing for the concert in October? RM: I’m currently in the process of choosing my repertoire. I have had a lot of concerts recently using the same or a similar programme so I’m looking forward to spending the summer learning some new pieces that I can use in October. It’s going to be a busy October, what with starting university, so I would like to be as prepared as possible before I leave home.
2MF: What do you plan to be when you leave university? RM: I think it’s important that I keep my options as open as possible at the moment, but music will always be there. Some options I have are to take a postgraduate degree in performance, but I am also very interested in teaching (especially primary school age) and arts administration.
2MF: Which pieces do you most enjoy playing and why? RM: The fast, furious and cheeky pieces are often a lot of fun to perform because you can really interact with the audience and play around with the interpretation. But some of my most enjoyable memories of performances have been playing slow and beautiful pieces, and attempting to keep the audience attention entirely focused so that there is a complete stillness and tranquillity in the room when you finish. Sometimes the ensuing silence is more important and more poignant than the music itself.
Last week was a brilliant one for the Two Moors Festival, as we had Australian pianist Jayson Gillham down here in Devon for one of our renowned classical music residencies, practising for the Montreal International Music Competition and giving a recital on Thursday.
His programme included Haydn’s Sonata in B minor, Chopin’s Etude in A minor, Schumann’s Symphonic Etudes and Ligeti’s Etude No 6, among others – so the audience were in for a treat indeed.
Our residencies are the perfect opportunity for musicians to get away from it all and come down to rehearse in the idyllic Devonshire countryside, with food and accommodation (and lots of wine!) provided in return for a concert at the end of the practice period.
Jayson had this to say about his time here with us last week: “I had a lovely time here – we enjoyed perfect weather and everywhere you turn is another stunning view! I slept a lot too, as it’s so peaceful. Apparently other guests have been a bit spooked by the dark and silent nights, but coming from country Australia, it suits me down to the ground.
“I’ve been preparing ‘the rounds’ for the Montreal International Music Competition and the Bosendorfer sounds particularly lovely in the Two Moors gallery – just perfect for my Haydn and Schumann. It also provided me with lots of inspiration for the mystical otherworldly sounds in my Scriabin Sonata.”
If you’d like to come down to Devon for one of our residencies, you can find more information about the Two Moors Festival scheme on our website.
All week we’ve had acclaimed Australian pianist Jayson Gillham down here at Two Moors Festival HQ for one of our famous residencies, where professional musicians come to rehearse undisturbed in the beautiful Devon countryside, whether they’re practising for a concerto, a debut recital or are studying new repertoire.
It would seem that he’s brought the Australian sun with him, as the weather has certainly picked up over the last couple of days and we’re now gearing up for his concert on Thursday (May 15th).
Jayson will be playing a programme of Haydn’s Sonata in C major, Chopin’s Etude in A minor and his Polonaise-Fantaisie in A flat major, Ligeti’s Etude No 6, Beethoven’s Sonata in A major and Liszt’s Funerailles.
Come back to the blog in a few days to find out how the concert went – but we’re expecting it to be an amazing evening of splendid classical music-making.
If you’d like to find out more about the possibilities of coming down to Devon for a residency, visit our website and get in touch today.
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.
I write this on Bank Holiday Monday two days after the Festival’s Final Round of Young Musicians Platform 2014 auditions. We selected the required four winners who this year did themselves proud. Their talent combined with natural musicianship and a fearless attitude to standing on the concert platform put them in a league of their own. There are exciting times ahead for these youngsters.
The mention of fright relating to performance on stage has prompted thoughts on this incredibly important part of being a professional musician – or actor for that matter. It’s absolutely vital to be comfortable and confident while standing in front of an audience. Yes, it can be terrifying and is sometimes easier if you can hide behind the glare of spotlights. The true performer, on the other hand, is someone who enjoys the combination of excitement, tension and above all, is able to communicate his/her art to an audience. The performance of a concerto is going to affect listeners in many different ways: provoke tears, laughter, anger, evoke memories, experience feelings of sadness and excitement, become critical, compare one interpretation with another, judge the acoustics of the surroundings and so on. The list is endless. The crucial thing is for the performance to have had some kind of impact on those who heard it.
This brings me to something else… It can be a lonely life playing a concerto. The adrenalin level is sky high while on the platform and the one thing an artist craves afterwards is a drink! He has finished his job, the conductor hasn’t. If there are no supporters present (and away from a big city, this is often the case), with whom, or where, do you have your drink? On the train? On the motorway – no! You arrive home shattered at 1am and after a mug of coffee roll into bed as the school run beckons a few hours later!
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.
Going to concerts is one of the vital things I, as artistic director, must do. It may sound luxurious and a wonderful part of the festival’s programming job, but I go to events with a very different frame of mind as I would to, say, the theatre or cinema. As readers can imagine, 90% of the recitals I attend focus on chamber music, but other genres are sometimes as important. If the poor artists knew I was going to criticise, listen to balance, cohesion of programme, communication with the audience, as well as technical brilliance (with the up-and-coming players), they would far rather I wasn’t there! I am always on the lookout for musicians who would fit into the Festival’s mould.
Most of the festival’s concerts take place in churches that aren’t always the easiest of venues in which artists have to work. They have to adapt to the acoustics and be prepared to play a Bösendorfer piano that has a very different touch to a Steinway. They may find that rehearsal time is limited, even though we endeavour to give artists the maximum possible. It is imperative, therefore, that they are flexible in their approach – and have a sense of humour and adventure! This applies to established artists at the top of the tree, as well as younger performers.
So going to concerts is not as pleasurable as it seems!
Find out about the latest news from the Two Moors Festival here!