Tag Archives: venues

Introducing… The Ice Orchestra!

There are many reasons to visit Sweden – the skiing, the northern lights and husky rides across beautiful countryside to name just three – but now there’s one more to add to the list: The Ice Orchestra.

Credit: Graeme Richardson
Credit: Graeme Richardson

This innovative group celebrates the winter spirit by playing on instruments made of ice, playing in a giant igloo of a cosmic hall. Now, if you’re looking for an unusual concert venue, that really does have to tick all the boxes. (Although this does of course mean that audience members are encouraged to wear lots of layers as the igloo has a temperature of -5 degrees C!)

Credit: Karin Aberg
Credit: Karin Aberg

We think this would make the perfect outing for a holiday in Sweden but if you’d like to go in 2014 you need to book tickets quickly as the Ice Music concerts start in December and end in April.

Credit: Graeme Richardson
Credit: Graeme Richardson

An interview with: Bassoonatics

At this year’s Two Moors Festival main two-week event in October, we’ve got a particularly entertaining concert for all you classical music lovers – A Bit of Light Relief with Bassoonatics, playing a programme that includes Ridout’s Pigs and Addison’s Four Miniatures in a rather interesting venue… the shop Mole Valley Farmers in South Molton! To find out more, we caught up with Jo Stark, one of the quartet’s members, to see just what audiences can expect on October 22nd.

Jostark2MF: What can you tell us about your programme at the 2MF this year?

JS: We’re really excited about coming down and playing at the Mole Valley Farm Shop! It’s great to get the chance to play to a wide variety of people who will probably have never heard a solo bassoon, let alone four together. With this in mind, we’ve tried to pick things that show all the colours, ranges and possibilities of the bassoon, that will also get our audience’s feet tapping!

2MF: How did you go about picking the pieces?

JS: We tried to pick a variety of things that would demonstrate the whole spectrum of bassoon quartet repertoire, while hopefully keeping it fun and fairly light. As we know we’re playing in a farm shop we didn’t choose anything that was too quiet or too long – we wanted to choose fun things that would grab listeners’ attention. We also had to pick Alan Ridout’s Pigs as we are playing in a farm shop!

2MF: Which do you think the audience will enjoy the most?

JS: We would like to think that there’s something for everyone, but Tico Tico always gets audiences going, and Danny Boy is always a popular nostalgic tune.

2MF: And your personal favourite to play?

JS: Maybe Danny Boy for all the hidden extra tunes in it – and Prokofiev’s Scherzo is really well written for the instrument.

2MF: What do you think of the festival’s theme of light?

JS: It’s a great idea that can be adapted in so many ways. Unfortunately, the bassoon quartet repertoire is a bit limited, so we only have the tenuous link that we are one of the heaviest instruments playing some of the lightest tunes!

2MF: Have you ever played in a shop before?

JS: Never!

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

JS: As the bassoon quartet, probably here! But as individuals we have played in groups in all sorts of different venues, including on top of the 37th floor of the Willis Building in London and in someone’s very small sitting room on Valentine’s Day!

2MF: Which festival concerts are you hoping to see?

JS: Sadly none as we are just having a flying visit down from London this year – but in previous years both Sinead and myself have played in the Two Moors Residencies, so we have enjoyed being around for longer during the festival. The small concerts in unusual venues are always highlights!

2MF: Where can people hear you all play after the festival?

JS: In different recitals around the London area – or in their own sitting room if they desire!

What do you like most about playing the bassoon?

JS: That it’s such good fun! You have to have a sense of humour.

2MF: Any tips for beginners?

JS: Try to play every day on any instrument – and as a bassoon player eat lots of eggs to make yourself strong enough to carry it around!

Entry to this concert is free, so just pop into Mole Valley Farmers on October 22nd just before 3pm to have a listen.

Stephen Hough on classical music in churches

Photo: Christian Steiner
Photo: Christian Steiner

As you all know, the Two Moors Festival main two-week event in October takes place in churches all across Exmoor and Dartmoor, bringing some of the best musicians in the world to the south-west for 14 days of brilliant classical music-making.

Of course, as these venues aren’t dedicated concert halls, putting on productions under their roofs can certainly be a challenge – as Stephen Hough, concert pianist and blogger for the Daily Telegraph, observes in a very interesting post on the paper’s website.

He’s playing a concert in Wendover’s St Mary’s Church (a building that dates back to the 13th century!) and says that even though churches haven’t been designed for musical productions there’s “something magical” about borrowing them for this purpose. He’s absolutely right! We love being able to put on concerts in these old and mystical buildings, even though the acoustics (lovely for choral singing of centuries ago but other than that, generally awful) can prove problematic.

Stephen’s anecdote about the noise that can be made in churches is rather amusing: “I did play once (with the bishop’s permission) over the tomb of St. Nicholas in Bari … yes, Santa Claus himself. It was the Liszt sonata at a crushingly slow tempo due to the extreme resonant echo of the ancient stone space. It’s a strange experience to hear bar 35 still ringing in the air when your fingers are already playing bar 42.”

Despite this, for the Two Moors Festival taking concerts out of the traditional concert halls and putting the best musicians in front of audiences who might never see them live for themselves – at least not without going to London and paying a pretty penny into the bargain – is a must.

And it might even be good for the musicians themselves. Stephen goes on to say, “perhaps it’s easier to lose the heavy weight of the ego in a building where what you are doing is encouraged and appreciated, but not essential to its life. A kind of ‘bringing down to earth’ as the music itself soars to heaven”.

What do you think?

Cordelia Williams chats about Cafe Muse


Last week, we wrote a piece about Cordelia Williams’ latest venture Cafe Muse, a series of events that takes classical music out of the traditional concert hall and into more relaxed social settings like bars and pubs. Here she is, telling us more!

What inspired you to start Cafe Muse?

Well, I grew up in a house where we all played to each other, among friends and
family, quite often – it was more focused on sharing whatever music we were learning
than ‘performing’ it formally. I loved that relaxed atmosphere and I knew that many years ago performances were often more informal than they are now, for example at parties and musical salons, so I thought I would try to recreate that.

What is its aim?

It’s to take live classical music into more relaxed, sociable venues, where people can have a drink and some food and meet up with friends, as well as listening to music. I suppose I want to create an evening out that will attract a younger audience to classical music, as well as people who are already regular concert-goers.

Why is it so important to take classical music out of the traditional concert halls?

I love playing in wonderful concert halls, with the acoustics, glamour and all those special
rituals and traditions we’ve inherited. But I think there needs to be more than one way
of listening to live music, more than one atmosphere, and a wider variety of audience.
Otherwise classical music will cease to be the vibrant, relevant and fluid art form that it
should be.

How did the first event go?

I was absolutely thrilled. Lots of friends came along to support and there was the most
wonderful vibe of excitement, friendliness and ‘newness’. People really threw themselves
into the idea of relaxing with a bottle of wine but also listening to some music! I played with
some friends in a piano quartet and people loved hearing the different musicians talking about
the pieces.

What sort of reactions do you get from traditional concert-goers?

I’ve been really pleased because so far everyone’s been totally positive. They typically say
what a lovely change it is from normal concerts, especially being closer to the musicians and
able to talk with them. They also particularly comment on the introductions to the music and
how much they like learning more about the composer’s context and inspiration.

How does it work, being in such a social setting? Do you find people forget to listen,

It’s different in different venues, but normally I find that while I’m playing people feel
comfortable eating and drinking, and maybe asking their neighbour to pass the salt, but
generally they want to listen. They have plenty of time to chat in the breaks anyway – there
are normally two or three breaks of 10-15 minutes each for ordering drinks or just milling around.

What’s the oddest place you’ve ever played in?

Once I did an event in a pub where the piano was positioned right next to the bar and the
barman kept making cocktails! Playing Schumann with the cocktail shaker rattling right by
my ear was a new experience for me.

If you could play in any venue anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?

I would love to do a Cafe Muse event in a beautiful Italian piazza, with the piano outside in
the sun and people gathered around drinking coffee or rosé. It wouldn’t be very practical in
the English weather though!

What’s next for Cafe Muse?

I’m really excited about starting a regular Cafe Muse series at the Theatre Royal Bar in
Nottingham. The first event there last week was packed out and so we’ll be continuing the
series over the coming months. They have a great tapas menu there! Dates will be going up
on the Cafe Muse website.

And what do you have planned for the future as a solo musician?

I’m just about to travel to Norway for a recital, so I’m especially looking forward to that. And in
July my first CD (of Schubert’s Impromptus) will be released – you can find out more about that on
my personal website. Later in the year I’ll be preparing for a recital tour in the South of France
and several performances of Messiaen’s Vingt Regards, which is a huge project. It’s a fun year I

Handel House – a great day out!

Handel House 1In London in April and wondering what classical music concerts to go to? Well, we think you should make your way to Handel House for Hip Hip Hooray for Handel on the 21st, a family concert with all sorts of Baroque musical treats.

Suitable for children over seven (who must be accompanied by an adult at all times!), the programme includes a whole host of interesting stories about the pieces, which will be played live by musicians from Salterello. You’ll also get the opportunity to play fancy dress in gorgeous Georgian costumes and try your hand at music-making on percussion instruments from the handling collection. What fun!

We love the idea of going to hear a concert celebrating one of the great composers in the very house in which he used to live. 25 Brook Street was where Handel called home from 1723 until his death in 1759 and where he wrote some of his best works, including Zadok the Priest, Messiah and Music for the Royal Fireworks.

Now a museum, you’ll find portraits of the composer himself, as well as his contemporaries, weekly music rehearsals, concerts and special music events. It was the first private home that Handel had lived in in London, previously relying on his patrons to put a roof over his head.

If you really want to immerse yourself in the classical music world and feel that little bit closer to the man who gave us some of the most loved pieces of music ever, then you really can’t do better than Handel House!

St George’s Church, Dunster

During the Two Moors Festival’s main two-week event in October, a host of wonderful concerts are put on in churches across Dartmoor and Exmoor – truly brilliant venues with amazing acoustics that are always so welcoming to us and the musicians who come through their doors.

One of these is St George’s Church in Dunster, a building that has a very rich history indeed. It can be dated back to 1097, although lots of changes have been made to it in the centuries between then and now. A chapel was added in the 13th century and the height of the tower was raised to its present level in the 15th century, with north and south aisles also being constructed.

The town still has a very lively worshipping community these days and it is always a pleasure to bring our concerts down to Dunster. There’s a wonderful choir and children’s choir, bellringers are always welcome from all four corners of the UK, handmade cards can be bought at the Church Bookstall and the church has a very strong association with Petauke Parish in Zambia.

This involves letter writing, supporting each other through prayer, supporting education, care support for HIV and clean water, and the building of a new church – all extremely worthwhile causes.

Over the last ten years, we’ve held many lovely concerts in St George’s Church but we do, of course, have our favourites. The very first concert of all in 2011 with Julius Drake and the Yggdrasil Quartet (sadly no more) will always be remembered, as will Cedric Tiberghien’s piano recital last year, which saw the church completely packed out. It’s a great venue for piano recitals, actually, as the working area is just right for the piano and the acoustics are very, very good. It’s very beautiful and a good size, and warden Laurie Hambrook is delightful, always welcoming us and looking after us in the best way possible.

He actually left us a little message on our ‘about’ page the other day, saying: “St George’s Church, Dunster, has been a venue for 2MF concerts from the very beginning. It is an association that we in Dunster greatly appreciate and we look forward each year to hosting the next fine concert/recital given by talented musicians. Music has always been an integral part of church worship, from plainsong to anthems, canticles, psalmody and, of course, humnody. It is difficult to imagine a church without music, whether it be liturgical or secular and it always a pleasure to entertain the 2MF and other festival organisers who make our ancient stones thrill with the sound of beautiful music, giving pleasure to so many.”


Our favourite flash mob: Carmina Burana in Vienna

Flash mobs with a classical music twist are an ever-increasing phenomenon, which is just fantastic! We’ve come across so many in the last year that it’s hard to decide which is our favourite, but we have to say that we just love this little get-together in Vienna’s Westbahnhof.

The looks on some of the passengers’ faces are just so lovely – and keep an eye out for the tumbling train conductors. If only they did that in real life!