Tag Archives: four of the best

4 of the best: Devon gardens

The summer’s arrived and the sun is shining, so we here at the Two Moors Festival are trying to spend as much time as possible outside – not always easy when you’re busy running a classical music festival! It seems like others are having more luck than us with getting some fresh air, with a new survey on behalf of the National Gardens Scheme revealing that 4.8 million people went to see some of the charming gardens we have down here in the south-west in the last year. Certainly can’t say we blame them – just take a look at these four Devon-based gardens and you’ll see just what the appeal is.

1) Dicot, Chardstock

If you’re looking for a secret garden, Dicot ticks all the boxes. It’s nestled in an East Devon valley, with three beautiful acres chock-full of exotic, unusual and rare plants for you to discover as you make your way through. Fans of rhododendrons, camellias and azaleas will be in their element, but there really are surprises every way you turn, with a charming little stream, greenhouse, vegetable garden, fruit cage and Japanese-style garden awaiting you. There’s a Woodland Walk, built in 1999, in the North Garden and a huge gunnera, ferns, astilbes and hostas in the East Garden.

Recommended as a garden to visit in Devon Country Gardener magazine, Dicot is open to the public on July 28th and 29th between 14:00 and 17:00. Admission fee: £3.

2) Cliffe, Ilfracombe

In need of a bit of sea air? Then you should definitely make your way to the garden of Cliffe in Ilfracombe, North Devon. Found just outside this little seaside town, this is a cliff-side terraced garden with some of the best views of the sea you’ll get in Devon. Summer is probably the best time to go and have a look – although it’s open from April to September and spring is always a lovely time to have an explore – since this is when the  herbaceous borders are at their best and most colourful. Keep your eyes peeled for salvias, canna and hedychiums in autumn and azaleas and camellias in springtime.

Featured in Devon Life, this lovely garden is open from 09:00 to 16:00 between April 1st and September 30th, with £3 admission. Visits can also be made by appointment.

3) Squirrels, Barton Road, Torquay

For a taste of the exotic, you really must make your way to Squirrels in Torquay, South Devon. Owned by Graham and Carol Starkie, this garden is home to a seven-foot waterfall, lots of small ponds and several interlinked areas, including tropical, Japanese and Italianate. If you like fruit, you’ll love it here – there are peaches, bananas, kiwi and figs, as well as tender plants including tree fern, brugmansia, oleanders and lantanas. Other plants include bougainvillea, abutilons and fuchsias and you should also keep a lookout for the many nesting boxes and ducks to be found. Squirrels also boasts disguised compost heaps, self-sufficient rain water storage and homemade solar hot water panels.

Winner of a Torbay in Bloom Superclass Gold medal, Squirrels is open on July 29th and August 4th and 5th, with admission costing £3. Visits can also be made by appointment.

4) Bickham Gardens, Kenn, North Devon

Located just six miles south of Exeter, Bickham Gardens has a lot to offer green-thumbed enthusiasts out there. The seven-acre grounds boast a formal parterre with a lily pond, a croquet lawn, beautiful trees including one giant tulip tree, a fernery and water garden, a one-acre walled garden with flowers and vegetables and a palm tree avenue leading to the summerhouse. And that’s all without even taking in Bickham Cottage, where you’ll find hedge banks, old stone walls, South African plants and bulbs, a stream garden, lawn with borders of eucomis and agapanthus and glasshouses with nerines and tulbaghias. There’s also a pond with koi carp in it and a print-making studio that’s open in September.

This garden was featured on BBC Spotlight and Radio Devon and is open on August 12th, 14th and 15th, September 2nd, 4th and 5th and October 145th between 14:00 and 17:00. Admission costs £4.50.

Which Devon garden would you recommend to visit?

Four of the best: Classical music club nights

You may have noticed a surprising new trend springing up in the classical music world. The new way to sit through a concert is with a pint in your hand and your shoes sticking to the floor, with an increasing number of performers keen to put Beethoven through his paces at nightclubs more used to mosh pits than Mendelssohn. Here are four of the best classical music nightclubs around.

1) Nonclassical, London

Founded by Gabriel Prokofiev in 2003, Nonclassical prides itself on inviting “innovative and virtuosic” classical musicians to come and play at the Macbeth in Hoxton, East London. Groups play through the venue’s PA, alcohol abounds and DJs play throughout the night – so it’s not quite your average classical concert at the Wigmore Hall. Artists to have taken to the stage include Tansy Davies, the Juice Voice Ensemble, the Elysian Quartet and the Azalea Ensemble.

Nonclassical says: “Even the most sceptical visitors to the club can’t help but be stimulated by being so close to the high-quality musicianship presented. Classical music can be part of everyone’s lives and this night is part of rediscovering its relevance.”

2) Limelight, London

Limelight at the 100 Club was established in 2009, dedicated to hosting live classical music in a true-blue rock ‘n’ roll setting. The entertainment is all programmed by a classically-trained musician who now puts together European tours for artists and orchestras on behalf of a global management company – so you know you’re in good hands. Thus far, the likes of Danielle De Niese, Milos Karadaglic, Emily Andrews, 2CELLOS and The Bozza Ensemble have come to the 100 Club to play.

Limelight says: “We present live classical music in a rock ‘n’ roll setting, throwing light on both new and established artists. Our regular events take place at the 100 Club, with grand piano, café tables and bar.”

3) The Night Shift, London

Organised by the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, The Night Shift, which takes place between four and five times a year, is one of the coolest, most relaxed ways to experience classical music in the UK right now. The typical format includes an hour-long classical concert as the main event, flanked by DJs and other live performances. Concerts have taken place at the Roundhouse, the Southbank Centre and Village Underground, with a series of pub gigs taking place this year.

The Night Shift says: “The Night Shift is a unique classical night, brought to you by the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment. Running since 2006, it puts great classical music in a different context – late-night, laid-back and contemporary.”

4) Classical Revolution, global

Classical Revolution was started in 2006 in the Mission District of San Francisco by a group of visionaries dedicated to bringing chamber music to a new group of people. Since its inception, the Classical Revolution has gone global, with almost 30 active chapters in cities in Europe, Canada and the US. You can catch artists outside the regular concert halls in Manchester, London, Paris, Berlin, Amsterdam and all over North America.

Classical revolution says: “In the past five years, we’ve presented over 700 chamber music events in more than 90 Bay Area venues, with the goal of bringing live chamber music to our neighbourhoods, making it an open, accessible, and fun musical experience for the community.”

What do you think? Should classical music be taken out of the concert hall and into nightclubs?

4 of the best: Weird classical music venues

Quirky concerts are always included on the billing for the main Two Moors Festival event in October – we love to take classical music out of the traditional venues of old and prove that its stilted, elitist reputation is entirely unfounded. This year, we’re putting on a series of gigs in the waiting room at Tiverton Parkway station, which is already shaping up to be one of the most popular on the 2012 programme. Classical music is not, repeat not, stuffy – and these four amazing concert venues prove it.

1) Roll up, roll up: The Great Yarmouth Hippodrome

The Hippodrome in Great Yarmouth is the only surviving complete circus building in Britain, constructed in 1903 by showman George Gilbert. It’s played host to a dazzling array of diverse and interesting stars, from Lily Langtry and Houdini to Max Miller, Little Titch and possibly even Charlie Chaplin. Although it’s primarily used for clowning around, the venue isn’t known as East Anglia’s mini Albert Hall for nothing and it also attracts the best of the best in the classical music world. Back in 2009, the Russian State Philharmonic Orchestra took to the stage, with Julian Lloyd Webber as soloist, playing Elgar’s cello concerto. Two years before that, in 2007, the Armonico Consort Touring Opera’s put on a production of Purcell’s Fairy Queen. You might want to pick and choose when you go, though – Zombie Prom, the musical may not be up your cup of tea.

Top tip: Check out the circus museum before you leave – there’s over a century of memorabilia to discover, including a clown head collection. Creepy, much?

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2) Wings of a bird: Concorde Hangar, National Museum of Flight

In 2010, the Lammermuir Festival (which is held in numerous locations around East Lothian) decided to take to the skies and hold a concert in the Concorde Hangar of the National Museum of Flight, with the programme including Reich’s Electric Counterpoint and Gabrieli’s Music for Brass – all in the presence of the massive plane itself. The festival also held events in an old 16th-century schoolhouse and the ancestral home of the Duke of Hamilton.

Top tip: Pack some good walking shoes, as the countryside around East Lothian definitely deserves an explore.

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3) Art and alcohol: Le Poisson Rouge, Greenwich Village, New York

It’s increasingly trendy to hold classical concerts in pubs, bar and clubs and Le Poisson Rouge is one of the coolest places on the planet to enjoy a bit of Beethoven. It was established by musicians on the site of the legendary Historic Gate and is dedicated to fusing popular and art cultures in fine art, dance, film, theatre and music. Artists to have graced the stage include the Calder String Quartet, the Moritz von Oswald Trio, NYC Winter Jazzfest and Mono & The Wordless Music Orchestra. Perfect for classical music with a difference!

Top tip: Go with an empty tummy. There’s all sorts of tasty treats on the menu, like truffled macaroni and cheese.

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4) Strike!: Petersham Bowling Club, Sydney, Australia

The Ensemble Offspring is being applauded across Australia for opening the eyes of an entirely new generation of people to the joys of classical music – all through its choices of venues and compositions. In July and August, the group will be tuning up at the Petersham Bowling Club in Sydney for some “avante-garde contemporary classics mashed up with pop music, early music, late music  and eye-boggling theatrical wonders, all dished up in a casual and cosy Sunday arvo setting”. The club itself was built in 1896 and is one of the oldest in New South Wales, surviving property development proposals, board members leaving en masse and lack of interest from the public to become a great venue with a new lease of life.

Top tip: Remember your bowling shoes! There may be time for a game after the concert.

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So – where’s the weirdest place you’ve ever been to a classical concert?

Don’t forget to come to our Season Ticket for Bach series of concerts in October, on between the 15th & 19th. Call (01643) 831 370 for more information.

4 of the best: Outdoor concert venues

We’re getting very excited here at the Two Moors Festival, because it’s only a matter of two short, short weeks until our garden party gets under way – one of the most eagerly-anticipated spots on the Two Moors calendar (apart from our main two-week event in October, obviously). On June 23rd and 24th, lots of musicians will be coming down to Barkham for two days of classical fun and frolics in the sunshine (hopefully), giving impromptu performances to audiences on the croquet lawn and in the apple orchard.

To celebrate, we’ve compiled a list of four of the best outdoor concert venues around the world. Take a look!

1) Burghley House, Lincolnshire

This Elizabethan house was built and designed between 1555 and 1587 by William Cecil, lord high treasurer to Queen Elizabeth I and is the perfect place for outdoor performances of all kinds. Nestled in beautiful parkland, Burghley House is home to several gardens, a deer park and a sculpture garden, so whether you’re interested in art, classical music or architecture and history, this is the estate for you. You might even recognise the grounds as they’ve certainly had more than their fair share of Hollywood moments, being used in Pride and Prejudice, The Da Vinci Code and Elizabeth: The Golden Age.

What’s on: The Battle Proms, July 7th. A programme of Massenet, Beethoven and Tchaikovsky – played by the New English Concert Orchestra – is being put on. The mounted cavalry, the Blades Aerobatic Team and lots of fireworks will also wow crowds.

2) Red Rocks Park, Colorado

An outdoor concert at Red Rocks is really like no other – a completely unforgettable experience. This geologically-formed amphitheatre has no one to thank for its existence but Mother Nature, with the design consisting of Ship Rock and Creation Rock – two 300-ft monoliths that provide the perfect acoustics for any classical concert. In fact, at 6,450 ft above sea level, the amphitheatre is the only naturally-occurring acoustically perfect one of its kind in the world. Not only will you be able to enjoy your favourite classical pieces, you’ll also be able to indulge any historical interests you may have, since dinosaur tracks and fossil fragments of plesiousaurs, flying reptiles and the Mosasaurus can all be seen here. After you’ve got to grips with music and history, you can head off into the surrounding 868 acres of countryside, exploring the prairies and discovering the plants, bids and animals that can be found in both the Great Plains and the Rocky Mountains. Could there be anything better?

What’s on: Symphony on the Rocks – The Music of John Williams, July 8th. The Colorado Symphony will play the music of American composer John Williams, featuring the scores from films including Harry Potter, ET, Indiana Jones and Star Wars.

3) The Gendarmenmarkt, Berlin

Many believe that Berlin’s Gendarmenmarkt – home to the French and German cathedral, as well as the Concert House – is the most beautiful place to be found in Germany and, indeed, the whole of Europe. Originally called Lindenmarkt, it was built in 1688 and was later used to house the military and its horses, when it became known as the Gendarmenmarkt. The Concert House itself was built as a replacement for the National Theatre, but was later destroyed during World War II. It was initially preserved and restoration work was started in 1979.

What’s on: Classic Open Air, July 5th-9th. This festival has been running since 1992 and features some of the best modern, popular and classic pieces.

4) The Minack Theatre, Cornwall

If you’re looking for an outdoor concert venue that’s a breed apart from the typical park of a stately home, then the Minack Theatre in Cornwall should be right up your street. This world-famous open-air theatre was carved out of the granite cliffside in Porthcuno around 80 years ago, all thanks to one very determined woman – Rowena Cade. After the first world war, she built a house for herself and her family in Cornwall, which became the setting for various productions and performances. This helped form the idea of an open-air theatre in Rowena’s mind and in 1932 – after a lot of building work – the first performance at the Minack Theatre (Shakespeare’s The Tempest) was put on.

What’s on: Die Fledermaus, July 16th-20th. Surrey Opera returns to the Minack for the eighth time, bringing a new production by Alexander Hargreaves of Strauss’s Die Fledermaus, with a contemporary twist.

Which is your favourite outdoor concert venue?

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?