Tag Archives: singing

Tiverton Parkway Christmas Concerts 2014

UK classical music festivals

Avid followers of UK classical music festivals will no doubt have heard of our concert series that takes place in Tiverton Parkway train station down here in Devon – and we’re pleased to announce that it’s back once again this December for a very festive set of recitals.

On December 8th, between 18:00 and 19:00, The Barle Singers will be taking centre stage at the train station, directed by Stephen Pugsley, singing all sorts of lovely carols… the perfect way to kick start the festive season, we’re sure you’ll agree.

And then on December 15th, the award-winning Oxford University Duo will be putting on a programme From Bach to Carols between the 11:38 and 12:09 trains, and then once again between 18:00 and 19:00.

Finally, on December 22nd, a festive programme with carols will be put on by virtuoso flautists Emma Halnan and Katy Ovens between the 11:38 and 12:09 trains, and later in the evening between 18:00 and 19:00.

These concerts have proven so popular over the years so if you can make it to one – or all – of them, please do. All three are free and unticketed so even if you don’t have a train to catch, pop on down to Tiverton Parkway if you’re in the area to really get yourself in the yuletide spirit.

If you do go, we’d love to hear what you thought and if you take any photos, please do share them with us over on Twitter or Facebook. Merry Christmas, everyone!

For even more information about what the Two Moors Festival does, visit our website today.


Gillian Keith At The Two Moors Festival

Those of you who follow UK classical music festivals closely will have heard that we here at the Two Moors Festival have a very exciting concert taking place at this year’s ten-day event – acclaimed soprano Gillian Keith is coming down to Devon!

The singer will be at St Andrew’s Church in Ashburton from 19:30 tonight (October 16th) and the concert is already proving to be one of the best-sellers at this year’s festival – not surprising given the sheer calibre of the artist involved.

Keith will be joined by tenor Tom Randle and pianist Gary Matthewman to play a programme consisting of Bernstein, Arne, Handel and Rossini, among many others – so you can be assured of a very varied recital that will inspire, entertain and seriously impress. We recently featured an interview with both Gillian and Keith on the blog, so have a read if you’d like to find out more about tonight’s concert.

Tickets are still available, although they’re selling very quickly, so if you’d like to see Gillian in action make sure you book. You may be able to buy tickets on the door but it’s definitely more advisable to book. Call (01643) 831 370 to reserve your tickets.

An interview with: soprano Gillian Keith

This year’s Two Moors Festival (October 15th-25th) is going to be a very exciting one indeed, with a very special series of classical music concerts put on over two weeks with some of the most eminent performers coming to the south-west to take part.

On October 16th, soprano Gillian Keith will be joined at St Andrew’s Church in Ashburton for an evening concert by tenor Tom Randle and pianist Gary Mathewman, with the programme including Bernstein, Handel, Rossini and many more.

We caught up with Gillian and Tom to find out more about this particular concert.

Q&A Gillian Keith

Gillian KeithTom Randle2MF: How did you come up with your programme for the festival?

GK: Choosing a programme to open the Two Moors is in parts an easy task and in other ways a big responsibility. A Gala concert should be fizzy and celebratory, but we wanted to steer clear of clichés, or ‘opera lollipops’, as artistic director Penny put it! We have chosen a programme of duets from Baroque to Broadway, all of them expressing, in one way or another, the delights and joys of love and companionship – romance throughout the ages.

2MF: What will the audience think? Which pieces will they respond to best?

GK: Audiences love a story and for this reason I think people will really respond to our scenes from Carmen and Candide, as well as the fiery Romantic duets by Schumann and Rossini. These pieces will really allow us to get into character and play truly engaging scenes, even within these short excerpts.

2MF: Which is your favourite piece on the programme?

GK: It’s very difficult for us to choose a favourite from our selection, but if pressed, I would have to say Glitter And Be Gay from Candide, because it’s just so much fun to perform. There’s no choice but to dive straight into the melodrama of this aria and, as Cunegonde’s laughing hysteria mounts towards the end of the piece, both the singer and the audience are inevitably swept away.

2MF: How does Bernstein’s West Side Story fit in with the other pieces?

TR: Our programme finishes in the glow of the glittering lights of Broadway. We recently went to see West Side Story on the big screen and were humming along to all the wonderful tunes, and we weren’t alone! Bernstein’s crowd-pleasing, yet incredibly sophisticated music is a brilliant way to round off an evening of great music.

2MF: Have you ever played in such a rural setting before?

GK: I remember my recital of Schumann songs at the 2006 Two Moors Festival, but for Tom this will be his first appearance. We were in Devon two summers ago and spent a glorious day walking on the moors before driving on to Cornwall to explore the Lost Gardens of Helligan. We’re looking forward to the beauty and peace of the rural setting of Ashburton and we imagine that the tranquility of the place will help bring real focus to our performance.

2MF: What’s the oddest place you’ve ever performed?

TR: The most out-of-the way location I have ever sung was the deck of a large cruise ship floating in the middle of the Mediterranean when I was shooting the film version of John Adam’s The Death of Klinghoffer.

GK: My most rural singing experience was in a tiny theatre in a very small, coastal Norwegian village singing Pergolesi for an audience of 25!

2MF: What’s next for you after the Two Moors Festival?

TR: I will be singing Wozzeck with the BBC Scottish Symphony in concert at the end of October, and in November will be at the opera in Toulouse for performances of Britten’s Owen Wingrave.

GK: I will next be singing Mozart’s ‘C Minor Mass’ with the Royal Northern Sinfonia in Sheffield Town Hall.

Fancy a seat at this wonderful concert? Head to our website to order your brochure, or call the Box Office on (01643) 831 370.

The Nine Cutest Things That Ever Happened

If you’re having a hard week (even though it’s only Tuesday!), this amazing YouTube video should put a massive smile on your face.

It’s by The Australian Voices, the producer and composer of which stumbled across Buzzfeed’s The 50 Cutest Things That Ever Happened article and decided to base a new piece and video of their own around it.

Cute really is just the word – our favourite is the basset hounds. What’s yours?

The 350th anniversary of the Book of Common Prayer

Last year as part of our main two-week event in October, we staged a concert dedicated to celebrating the 350th anniversary of the Book of Common Prayer, put together by soprano Emily Armour. Here, she talks about how she went about organising such a programme.

emilyarmour5I was delighted to be asked to put together a concert for the Two Moors Festival celebrating the 350th anniversary of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer. I accepted with alacrity, booked some other singers and roped in an organist friend of mine to accompany us. So far, so good. Then I had to think about what music to programme. Panic!! I realised that while I may have sung lots of settings of texts from the Book of Common Prayer, I knew next to nothing about its history. I’m not a priest or a historian. I’m only a singer, and a soprano at that (apparently we have resonating chambers instead of brains). PANIC!!! What would we do without Google?!

I had a fascinating time finding out about how the Book of Common Prayer came into being (way earlier than 1662 by the way). I learnt all about the Civil War.  That may have involved a rather embarrassing call to my father with lots of splutterings about “well, what on earth do they teach you in these fancy schools then?”). I discovered that so many phrases that we use all the time come from the Book, such as ‘dust to dust, ashes to ashes’ and all sorts of other things like ‘sheep going astray’ and so on. You should see the list of people at the back of the Book saying who you aren’t allowed to marry.

I wanted to avoid the concert sounding like a church service, while nonetheless celebrating a religious text.  That was an interesting balance to strike. I hope we managed it. The other thing that proved slightly difficult was having to remind myself that we couldn’t do massive Victorian choral works with just four singers, even if there are only four parts. With one exception, all of our repertoire was in English, which at least made communication with the audience easier. I also wanted to mix up the different types of sounds. We had some chant and some solo items, some cheery Handel and lots of verse anthems to allow each of us a chance to shine. We even let Martin do an organ piece on his own.

I’m not very used to creating programmes, especially themed ones. While stressful at times (panic!), this was a fascinating adventure and ultimately a pretty successful one. As someone who spends an awful lot of time singing chorally in churches, I am glad I now know so much more about the context of the music I am singing, both liturgically and historically. I hope others feel their appreciation of the Book of Common Prayer has been enriched too.

Who’s heard of the all-new baby opera?

While we’re slightly disappointed that it’s not an opera starring babies, we at the Two Moors Festival are very pleased to hear that an all-new production composed by Norwegian Maja Ratkje will be making its debut in the UK at the end of November, with performances in London, Yorkshire and Northern Ireland.

According to the Guardian, Chorale Choral, a 20-minute opera composed specifically for children under the age of three, has had lots of positive reviews in Norway and takes place in a shell-shaped tent, with the audience sat in a circle around two performers who crawl about on the floor, sing arias in a very animated way and play made-up instruments (like a glass chime jellyfish and a sea horse harp).

It’ll be on in Huddersfield on November 24th, Dewsbury on the 25th, Belfast between the 27th and 28th and London between the 30th November and 2nd December.

We think this sounds like an absolutely brilliant production – and love the fact that Maja is writing works for such young children. It’s never too early to get into opera and classical music!

How old were you when you first fell in love with classical music?

50 Shades of Classical Music

You may have heard of a little book called 50 Shades of Grey that’s currently causing something of a stir on a global scale. Written by E L James, the novel – about the relationship between a literature student and a young entrepreneur – has been the topic of much debate since it exploded onto the book scene, with people everywhere discussing its literary merit and salacious content.

But what does this all have to do with classical music, we hear you ask? Well, not a huge amount – except sales of the book have also been driving sales of Tallis’s 40-part motet Spem in alium, which features within its pages.

So many people have been buying the track from iTunes that it’s now reached number seven in the UK Classical Singles Chart, rising from 20. There is now a campaign organised by The Tallis Scholars to get it to reach number one.

“I haven’t read 50 Shades of Grey but I am most grateful to the author for introducing so many new listeners to the musical sensation that is Thomas Tallis’s Spem in alium. Written during the reign of the first Queen Elizabeth it features 40 individual voices singing in Latin that combine to a thrilling climax for the words “respice humilitatem nostram” (be mindful of our humiliation). Please buy The Tallis Scholars recording today from iTunes and we might just replace Nessun Dorma at the top of the Classical Singles Chart!” founder and director of the Tallis Scholars Peter Phillips remarked.

Who will win the race to number one? Find out on Monday!

A Cottage on Dartmoor

This year, it’s been silent movies versus the talkies, with recently released film The Artist winning five Oscars and proving that sometimes, words really can be surplus to requirements – even today, in our information-overloaded society.

Wordquest Devon – a project set up to encourage people to explore Devon’s literary past and present – is joining in the fun by screening Anthony Asquith’s A Cottage on Dartmoor, one of the last silent movies to be made before the talkies came along and revolutionised cinema.

Set on the wilds of Dartmoor, the film tells the tale of prison escapes, jealousy, love and revenge – and Wordquest has arranged for the Seat of the Pants Orchestra to provide a live sound score.

The orchestra itself takes its singers and instrumentalists from a wide range of genres, from urban pop and the West End to jazz, classical and community music. Although the group is based in the south-west, it has provided the accompaniment to many a silent film both at home and internationally. It has played at the Lincoln Centre in New York, at London’s Covent Garden Opera, psychiatric hospitals, prisons and Debenhams, travelling from South Korea to South Africa.


July 21st, Church House, Widecombe. 19:00.

August 21st, Barnstaple Library. 19:00.

September 7th, Exeter Library Music Room. 19:30.

iTunes Festival goes classical

What does opera legend Andrea Bocelli have in common with pop and rock acts JLS, One Direction, Jack White and Usher? They’re all playing at this year’s iTunes Festival in September, of course!

It’s great to see a classical artist taking centre stage in front of audiences more taken with mainstream popular music, so soon after Alfie Boe, Renee Fleming and pianist Lang Lang played to the Queen at the Diamond Jubilee concert.

At the Two Moors Festival, we’re very pleased that a different demographic of people is being exposed to classical music and we hope that the reception Bocelli receives is a good one. We weren’t overly impressed with how the Jubilee audience outside Buckingham Palace reacted to the classical artists on the billing, but maybe the iTunes gig-goers will be more open-minded. Bocelli will be hitting up the Roundhouse stage in Camden on September 18th, saying: “The iTunes Festival is one of the most exciting digital music events in the world. It is great to introduce classical music to new audiences, who will be given the opportunity to experience it live wherever they are.”

Tickets to the festival are free and allocated by a ballot, so you’ve got as much chance as anyone else of seeing Andrea in action. It’s Time to Say Hello!

We’d love to hear from you if you do go. Let us know how if people enjoy the Bocelli masterclass.

Classical music at the Diamond Jubilee

Here at the Two Moors Festival, we had a brilliant time up in London to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee last weekend. Not only did we quaff champagne and eat lots of cake at a Notting Hill street party, but we were lucky enough to be one of the 12,000 people in attendance at the concert outside Buckingham Palace on June 4th.

It really was wonderful to see some musical legends – Paul McCartney, Stevie Wonder, Elton John, Grace Jones, Shirley Bassey and Tom Jones – take to the stage, but we were rather disappointed with the lack of representation from the classical music world, and the reactions from the crowd to the few classical artists who did make it onto the billing. And given that the concert was meant to be a celebration of the Queen’s 60 years, it may have been wiser to focus more on music that she would enjoy. A bit of Brahms, perhaps?

Alfie Boe, pianist Lang Lang and soprano Renee Fleming did their very best but they couldn’t really hold their own when playing to a crowd who, firstly, had never heard of them and, secondly, were far more interested in Cheryl Cole, Robbie Williams and Jessie J. Of course, everybody has different tastes and the audience can’t be faulted for not having come across these artists before but Gary Barlow would have served the classical music-lovers in attendance and watching it at home much better if he had perhaps selected classical artists that were better known – or even just English, given how much talent we have in our little island.

As soon as the evening turned a little classical, the audience’s attention was immediately diverted. When Renee Fleming – who has an undeniably amazing voice but received less attention from the crowd than Cheryl Cole, who sang spectacularly out of tune – came on stage, the people to the left-hand side of the stage were far more interested in playing keepie-uppie with a big red beach ball than hearing her sing. They even let out an incredibly audible ‘awwwww’ when the ball fell to the ground halfway through her number.

Sadly, this is a sign of our times. People seem to place good looks and clever marketing above actual talent – and classical music definitely has a rough trot of things where the masses are concerned. Regardless of the efforts of people immersed in the classical world to rid the genre of its elitist, ‘uncool’ image, it seems modern audiences still aren’t that receptive. Perhaps transient pop artists who flood the market and won’t be remembered in 25 years, let alone 100, will always be the flavour of the month.

What did you think of the classical music in the Jubilee concert?