Tag Archives: music festivals

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


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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Two Moors Festival Young Musicians Competition Rnd 1

The first round of the Two Moors Festival’s Young Musicians Platform competition took place this weekend. A total of 47 candidates aged 18 and under entered at a standard of ABRSM Grade 7 and above. This could be any instrument plus voice and they were asked to prepare two contrasting pieces of their choice.

The competition is unique in several ways. The first is that we look for four outstanding players and not just one. The emphasis is on performance and ability to share an innate love of music with an audience. The audition atmosphere is unlike any other in that we chat in a fun way to each candidate from the moment they walk through the door and we also give a mini masterclass if there’s time. Each of the winners receives £250 plus an opportunity to share a recital in the main festival.

Judging from the feedback, all participants feel encouraged, inspired and above all retain their joy at being involved in playing classical music. In one instance, a young singer said he had been singing music theatre until recently. He then heard songs by Richard Strauss (nothing could be more different) as a result of which he was hooked on Lieder!

The way in which our competition operates begs the question – should all competitions be run along similar lines? Or does this imply that Bach’s B Minor Mass is something to be taken lightly? Does this prepare aspiring young musicians to enter the profession with rose-tinted spectacles when they should be aware of the arduous work and fierce competition that lie ahead? Does this give them a false impression that all competitions are going to be staged in a similar manner?

In an age when competitions abound and spring up like mushrooms, I believe the more encouragement one can give school-age youngsters the better. They need to be inspired, their sheer joy of being involved in classical music requires fostering as much as possible and nowadays, where there are so many competitions, to have one that does these in spade loads says a lot.

It’s instantly noticeable if the music comes from within a musician who plays from the soul. Likewise the opposite where the playing is automatic and the delivery forced. Dare I say it, but some of the performers from specialist music schools display this. There is always the expectation that these youngsters are bound to be brilliant but we’re often disappointed.

With all this in mind, this is where the Festival’s own competition comes into its own. The environment that is provided gives each entrant such stimulus that nerves are frequently dispensed with so that they can play with such expression that technical limitations don’t matter. Their overall love of music-making in a performance is all that matters regardless of whether they enter the profession or not and that the inspiration we give them will help them in later life.

Penny Adie

When Things Go Slightly Wrong…

Readers might like to know that artistic directors and chief executives are not immune to domestic trials and tribulations. They always say things go in threes, don’t they!

Firstly, our well dried up. Now, you may think this is impossible bearing in mind the time of year and also the fact that Exmoor, where we live, is one of the wettest parts of the country. However, as dry as a bone, it was. After much archaeological digging at a five foot depth, and across our large lawn (moss really as grass is too grand a word for it), it turned out that there was a leak in the feeder pipe. Once repaired the mounds of soil, now looking like prehistoric mole hills, had to be shovelled back into place leaving a trail of thick semi-frozen mud. So that was issue number one.

On to the next hiatus. Did you know that if you keep a fridge freezer with a thermostat in the fridge compartment, in a very cold environment such as a garage, the thermostat will automatically switch off thereby causing the freezer to defrost? Our freezer, as it happens was not in a garage but in one of our cottages where without heating switched on, had become so very cold as for this to happen. Well, you’ve guessed – the freezer ceased to work leading to loss of lasagne, cakes, Tarte Amandine (times two), brownies, apple pie, chicken pie and much more besides. Hey, ho, at least I’ve got the bowls back!

Now for the collapse of the third gadget – this time our new dishwasher which decided to go on strike through lack of water pressure. Apparently, most models work on high pressure and although there are some that operate on a slow inflow, there is nothing in the literature to say which. Would anyone like an almost-new Bosch dishwasher? It looks as if we shall be washing up by hand for the forseeable future which means going through many pairs of Marigolds! The Festival’s Artistic Director never wanted perfect nails so that’s okay.

On a more serious note, the Friends’ Newsletter is ready to go to print. The programme for October is taking shape (famous last words?) and my wonderful husband has submitted over 50 funding applications to trusts in hopes of obtaining much needed financial support. I should add that these applications don’t mean churning out the same letter but require individual attention, research and several phone conversations before putting pen to paper.

We’ll keep you posted!

Happy New Year From Penny Adie

Happy New Year to all readers of this blog and let’s hope more and more of you will be tempted to read them as the year goes on.

It seems a very long time has passed since my last feature and much has happened, not least Christmas. Mind you, that was a lot of fun with many carols sung, mince pies consumed and with our kitchen filled with two very little people bringing bibs and bottles with them, not to say the odd accompanying adult who had napkins, nibbles and vast quantities of plonk instead.

As far as the festival is concerned, life went on – to a certain extent – with the concerts in Tiverton Parkway’s Ticket Office giving rise to a spring in the step of travellers passing by. For those who don’t know, these events take place at one of First Great Western’s smartest stations and very popular they are too! The last event to take place was given by a brilliant pair of young flautists, Emma Halnan and Katy Ovens, whose splendid mix of ‘O come all ye faithfuls’ with Mozart and Bach was beautifully played with flair and polish.

Writing Christmas cards takes forever longer these days with many festival supporters to include. Some people would criticise us for continuing to send real cards in the post but we would rather do so because money goes to charity and perhaps more importantly in our case, every stamp we purchase helps to keep our local post office in business. Woe betide the day if it were to close, since the nearest GPO would then be nine miles away!

So what will the new year bring, I wonder? The first thing to remember is to change the date on everything to 2015. I still find 2014 creeps into some written text which is rather a bore. For my husband (who does all the fundraising for the festival), life doesn’t alter since he was, is and will be making applications to trusts for the rest of time. He has become very good at it and has certainly won a medal for his expertise on VAT. My first action however, is to draft the text for the Newsletter that goes out to the Friends of the Festival in a month’s time. I hope I haven’t made it too long.

From then on, it’s sorting out the programme content for October. This, for me, is an exciting thing to do as not only does it mean I can be as creative as the budget will allow but also it’s so unpredictable that whatever ideas I have at the outset, usually end up by being completely different. By the time I have accepted change of dates for some artists, or forgotten that the piano won’t get into a church venue or having to say no to a potentially super recital because the fee structure doesn’t work out or because the repertoire doesn’t fit the bill, I could give up but something seems to keep me hard at it – maybe a strong G&T helps.

So that’s where we stand at the moment. Will it become more exciting? Yes, probably…


Over For Another Year…

Artistic director Penny Adie writes:

After 33 concerts in ten days, I am not sure whether to be relieved that the whole lot has been and gone without too many blips, or grateful to be able to catch up on some much needed sleep. One thing is for certain and that is being ecstatic about the astounding level of artistry at this year’s Two Moors – as the many followers of UK classical music festivals who attended will surely attest to.

The most important thing of all, I think, is that the audience, regardless of age and musical knowledge, went home on a high as a result of listening to music played at the highest possible level. In fact, it could not have been more so. The standard of performance could not have been surpassed anywhere and people in the south-west were privileged to hear such sublime playing.

The artists, without doubt, were inspired to give their best. They were given outstanding TLC, with many commenting on how much difference it made to be looked after as people as opposed to being taken for granted as employees. We think it is most important that performers are offered hot food plus anything else that they might require, whether it be a hot water bottle or a toothbrush.

An overriding comment this year has been the unique atmosphere to be found at a Two Moors Festival concert. This came in the form of attentiveness of the audience together with the silence that was apparent at the end of a work or the performance itself. The artists, right across the board, remarked on this as well, saying that this reaction was true inspiration for their performance.

On to more light-hearted things that happened this year: the Artistic Director got locked in the loo in Dunster, two artists tapped in the wrong postcode and finally arrived at their destination 25 minutes before the starting time of their concert, the handles fell off the back door thus making it impossible to get into the house, the shock absorbers went on the car, the heating broke down in one church so it was so cold that you see your breath – and so on. It would be extraordinary if there weren’t things that went wrong.

One crucial thing to say is a BIG thank you to all those valiant volunteers who gave so much support. Without them, the festival would not have operated. Thank you also to all those wonderful artists who, by their performances, brought much joy to their listeners. Thank you to all the super people who came to the concerts – your rapturous applause after each concert said it all!

So to next year – our 15th anniversary. The dates are 15th – 25th October 2015. We hope to see you there! Visit our website for further information and follow the blog for updates.

The Two Moors Festival 2014: In Pictures

So that’s it for another year! The Two Moors Festival 2014 is done and dusted, but what a resounding success it was! If you’re missing it already, have a look at some of the photos from this year’s event. We’d love to see any pictures you took as well, so please do share in the comments below.

Alternatively, you can get in touch with us over on Facebook or Twitter. Don’t forget to follow the blog if you want to be kept up to date with all the Two Moors Festival news and to find out more about what’s taking place in 2015. It’s our 15-year anniversary, so you can bet there will be lots of even more amazing concerts being put on.

Jeremy Pound On Two Moors Festival Train Station Concerts

If you follow us and other UK classical music festivals, then you’ll likely have heard of our innovative concert series that take place each year in the waiting room of Tiverton Parkway station. And if you haven’t, then chances are you will soon as they are catching the attention of music journalists around the UK, including BBC Music Magazine’s Jeremy Pound.

He came along to hear Two Moors Festival Young Musicians Platform Competition winner Andy Wingham play the cornet and had this to say about the event: ” I am told by Penny Adie, artistic director of the Two Moors Festival and the person whose brainchild this series is, the ticket office’s sound is absolutely ideal too – she tells me how it was hearing the wheels of a suitcase running across the floor that alerted her to the acoustic potential of the place (only festival artistic directors would notice this sort of thing…).”

You can read about his experience at the concert on the BBC Music Magazine website. We’re hoping to put on some more concerts come Christmas time, so if you missed our autumn series don’t worry. Follow us on Twitter or keep an eye on the blog for further announcements.

To find out more about the Two Moors Festival, visit our website today.

Devon In Autumn

If you follow UK classical music festivals closely, then chances are you’ll have come down to Devon in October to hear some of the amazing concerts that we here at the Two Moors Festival puts on each and every year.

This part of the world is beautiful at all times of the year (we are really lucky to have been able to base the festival’s headquarters in the very heart of Exmoor!), but we do think it’s at its best during the autumn, when the leaves are turning and the light is absolutely stunning.

To show you just what we mean, we thought we’d round up some of our favourite pictures of Devon in autumn from around the internet. If you’ve got any pictures of the county looking lovely at this time of year, do share with us. And we hope to you at this year’s festival, taking place between October 15th and 25th.

Photos by: Allson Day, James Archibald, Amy Backhouse, Lou Hedderly

To find out more about The Two Moors Festival, visit our website today.

An Interview With: Pianist Harvey Davies

As many UK classical music festival fans will know, on October 20th, there’s a very special event taking place at this year’s Two Moors Festival (15th-25th October) – a Mozart Marathon played by Harvey Davies on piano and violinist Sarah Ewins at All Saints’ Church in Dulverton.

A total of 18 of Mozart’s sonatas will be performed throughout the day and evening, which is a massive undertaking and is certainly one of the highlights of this year’s festival. We caught up with Harvey Davies to find out just how he’s been preparing for this marathon to end all marathons.

Harvey Davies interview

Harvey Davies2MF: Which sonatas are you playing? Any favourites?

HD: Sarah and I will play fully 18 piano and violin sonatas by Mozart and a set of variations while I trace their composition and Mozart’s life through contemporary letters, reviews and anecdotes.

We are playing sonatas from the earliest part of his compositional life (aged seven!) through to the final sonata which he wrote in 1788 when he was the grand old age of 32 and had but three more years to live. We both have many favourites! Of course, it is impossible to leave out the mature works from the 1780s from any list of favourites but in truth there isn’t a weak piece even from when the guy was seven. The music is always imaginative, varied, progressive and beautiful.

2MF: Any you’re dreading?

HD: “Dreading” is perhaps not the word I would use, although there are a few which are simply very technically and musically challenging (K. 526 in A, K. 481 in Eb, K. 380 in Eb etc, etc) and so will undoubtedly cause a frisson of anticipation before we play them! No… they’re all too wonderful to dread!

2MF: Have you ever regretted the decision to do it?

HD: No,  although there was a moment when we were both questioning whether we’d have the mental and physical stamina for it. That was resolved by a trial run at the beginning of September, which left us drained but happy!

2MF: Tell us more about your trial run. Were you worried you wouldn’t be able to do it?

HD: We only played the music and didn’t include the talking and it was also shoehorned into a shorter space of time than it will be on the day so was mentally and physically even tougher. After the first couple of concerts I had the gentlest of doubts about whether it was going to be possible but we proved that it was.

2MF: How many hours of piano playing is it?

HD: It will be nearly six hours of actual playing time which perhaps doesn’t sound too bad but then you have to factor in the fact that these are all performances which invariably take a lot more energy and a different sort of concentration that can’t be reproduced in the practice room. Also if it was six hours’ playing the same programme three times that would be one thing but this is five concerts of completely different repertoire and no repetition – it’s just a mammoth quantity of information to hold in our heads and fingers!

2MF: How do you plan to keep your stamina up?

HD: I reckon there will be lots of small meals that day, bananas and high carbohydrate foods with slow, regular release to try and keep blood sugar levels even. It’s not good to have spikes and dips as it can profoundly affect concentration. Not much caffeine as stimulants tend to give you a short term boost but that boost has to be accounted for further down the line! Rest in between concerts will also be critical, not so much for physical reasons but mental ones.

Physically it will also be a challenge, so it’s crucial that heating and lighting are good and that the piano stool is at the correct height and distance from the keyboard – standard technical issues that always come into play for pianists but are likely to be heightened with such a lot of concentration needed.

2MF: Do you think you’ll ever play Mozart again after it?

HD: This has made us want to play even more Mozart – I can never get enough of his music, I’m pretty sure Sarah feels the same. It is a total joy to perform on every level I can think of. He really is the consummate master.

2MF: Any tips for anyone planning to tackle one of his sonatas?

HD: This is a difficult question with no easy answers as inevitably different people will find different things difficult depending on any number of things from their technical ability to their musical intuition.

Slow practice is essential from a technical point of view as perhaps the four absolute necessities when playing Mozart are ensuring that it is always played with the greatest beauty of sound, perfection of phrasing, utter understanding of harmony and texture and complete control of passagework (so not too hard eh?). Therefore continuing to work at comfortable, easy technique is (as with all music to be honest) the most emancipating factor and that which enables the performer to have the most control and should enable a perfect blend of Mozart’s music and the performer’s ideas.

It perhaps should go without saying that there is also no substitute for living with a composer’s music for a long time and knowing it inside out as this also gives many insights which may not be printed on the page and which may separate a very good performance from an inspirational one.

2MF: What other Two Moors events are you looking forward to this year?

HD: Unfortunately neither Sarah or I can be around for any other event as we both have to be back in Manchester – Sarah is on with the Halle the day after our concert and I have to lecture at the RNCM! However it is, as always, an imaginative and lovely programme with great musicians and great music – a tribute as always to both John and Penny Adie without whose extraordinary energies Devon would be a poorer place!