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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

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!

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.

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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!

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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.

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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

In Pictures: The Two Moors Festival Young Musicians Competition

Last weekend, we held the first round of this year’s Two Moors Festival Young Musicians Platform Competition, an event on the calendar that all followers of UK classical music festivals look forward to with great anticipation.

As ever, the standard was exceptionally high – there really is so much classical music talent in the south-west of the UK, something that we here at the Two Moors Festival are always keen to promote… hence the competition!

We thought you’d like to have a look at some of this year’s contestants (although we’re not revealing who’s made it through to the next stage just yet), so have a quick flick through some of the pictures below.

The Two Moors Festival Young Musicians Platform Competition takes place each year, with four winners picked who then go on to take part in the festival’s main two-week event in October. It’s an amazing opportunity for young people who live or go to school in this part of the world to play alongside some of the best musicians in the world – a chance that doesn’t come around all that often – and the competition has helped to kickstart many young musicians’ careers.

If you’d like to apply for the 2016 competition, make sure that you keep a close eye on our blog and on the website so you can keep up to date with all the latest information so that you don’t miss out on the entry deadlines.

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What Does A Clever Cat Do When It’s Snowing?

It’s jolly cold down here in Devon at the moment, so much so in fact that it’s snowing. Not a lot, granted, but certainly enough to put the wind up Two Moors Festival cat Pip a little.

But luckily, he’s got more than his fair share of brains and has worked out exactly where to go when the snow is coming down – inside the bird house, of course!

We hope you like this little picture of our clever cat, Pip. Do you have any funny photos of your pets being a little bit silly? We’d love to see what they get up to so post some pictures in the comments below.

Funny cats

Q&A With Devon Photographer John Spurr

We here at the Two Moors Festival were perusing Twitter the other day and a beautiful photograph caught our eye of the sun setting over Saunton Sands. Taken by the very talented John Spurr, we wanted to find out more about the man behind the lens – and what we discovered was a true Devon fanatic who loves this part of the world just as much as we do, but who’s just so much better at capturing it on film than we are.

We caught up with him to find out just what it is about Devon that captures his imagination. Take a look at his photographs – we’re sure you’ll love them as much as we do.

2MF: Are you Devon born and bred?

JS: I grew up in Dorset, moving to North Devon with my parents in 1999 just as I finished school. Initially, in all honesty, I felt thoroughly annoyed at being uprooted to a rural village and landscape that made Dorset feel positively rushed. But as the months passed and I began to explore the area in between terms studying philosophy at university, I realised that Devon was a county with unique depth and beauty. Now my family live in Gloucestershire and I can’t be persuaded to leave Devon!

2MF: What appeals to you about this part of the world?

JS: It’s very quickly become something much deeper than a place to live. Being someone who likes to be outdoors, the Devon coast and its incredible surf to the north (especially in autumn) is a place for both adrenaline and reflection. As if that wasn’t enough, our two immensely varied and beautiful moors, changing dramatically in mood with the rhythmical rolling of the seasons, are an outdoor person’s dream, with or without a camera!

John Spurr 8
John Spurr 7
2MF: If you could live anywhere in the world where would it be and why?

JS: I’ve seen some incredible places on my travels abroad and love exploring new places, but I can’t imagine living anywhere other than among Devon’s rolling hills, sparkling green woodlands in spring and year-round stunning coastline. Nothing comes close that feeling of surfing beyond sunset as the first stars shimmer above Saunton Sands.

2MF: What’s so good about photographing Devon?

JS: Devon is such a vibrant and varied county, and the people are usually very friendly. The colours of Exmoor are enchanting through the year and, actually, across the county over each hill there is something unique to tempt a photographer. Certainly, the undulating terrain creates endless composition ideas for landscape photography, and the wide variety of wildlife in such a small area like, for example Exmoor, is in itself quite unique.

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2MF: What are your favourite subjects?

JS: A tricky question to answer! I love being outdoors so anything connected to nature will always have a massive draw. Capturing images of wild animals in their natural environment is such a thrill – something I’m finding increasingly addictive! I’ve recently photographed some newborn children with their mothers. The experience was really moving and inspiring. I’d love to do more of that.

2MF: What photography hotspots would you recommend for people to take their cameras to?

JS: I’d certainly recommend anywhere on Exmoor, especially in spring – wonderful colours and wildlife and birds everywhere! In South Devon, the South West Coast Path is always a good place to have a camera to hand – mine is usually with me in the car anywhere I go in Devon. Clovelly is also a really lovely place to photograph.

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2MF: Any photography tips to help people get the perfect picture?

JS: My best tip to getting photographs you’ll want to keep is to wait for the right light. It’s best to forget about taking outdoor photographs of anything when the sun is high in the sky – the light around dawn and the hour before sunset is just magical.  Secondly, keep things simple – don’t try to have too much in the picture. Lastly, some of my favourite shots have been completely unplanned – don’t forget to look around you for other opportunities!
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John Spurr 9Have you got any photos of Devon you’ve taken and would like to share? We’d love to see them, so post them in the comments below.