Tag Archives: young musicians

Penny Adie writes…

Each week, Two Moors Festival artistic director Penny Adie will be here on the blog, letting you all know just what’s been going on down at Festival HQ in Devon.

We’re half way through March and, so far, this is proving to be a quieter week. Famous last words, I am sure!

The first round reports will be received by the candidates who entered the Young Musicians Platform competition. Readers might like to know that we have a reputation for being one of the friendliest and inviting of its type. Feedback suggests that entrants feel at ease on entering the studio where there is a small invited audience in addition to the panel. There are plenty of smiles and comments such as ‘what a pretty dress’. There is often quiet chit-chat while they are preparing to play and once the performance has finished, we have a light-hearted conversation which is often a mini-masterclass. With sweets on offer as they depart, they all feel good with a renewed air of confidence no matter how small their musical offering might have been.

We feel this is a crucial part of the competition. No young artist is going to perform well in a rigid atmosphere especially if playing in public for the first time. The other thing that is unusual is that the artists’ reports are condensed from those of the four-team panel by the Festival’s administrator so that ultimately each candidate receives one that is kind and constructive as well as having praise and criticism.

With this formula, it’s hardly surprising the competition is gaining popularity each year.

Orchestra audiences ‘on the rise’

Courtesy of The Orchestra of the SwanAudiences for orchestras in Britain have increased, a new report has found, rising by 16% since 2010 despite cuts to public funding, with over 4.5 million people seeing live orchestras play in the UK every year.

Furthermore, over 660,000 children, young people and communities are reached annually in education and outreach programmes, the study by the Association of British Orchestras (ABO) revealed.

“Britain’s orchestras are doing better than expected in difficult circumstances. They are reaching a growing number of people in concerts and performances, and taking music to hundreds of thousands of children and others in the community,” chief executive of the Liverpool Philharmonic and chair of the ABO Michael Eakin said.

“But funding cuts and falling income from tickets and hires are making it harder and harder for our orchestras to protect their core product: their world-leading artistic excellence. So far, they have succeeded in increasing donations and sponsorship to partly plug the hole, and most have been able to keep their head above water for another year. But this leaves orchestras ever more vulnerable. Donations and sponsorship are more often tied to be spent on a particular building project or education programme, so there is less to go round for the rest of what orchestras do. Without the guarantee of public funding, we will see more orchestras struggling to maintain the quality of their work.”

It was also found that over 2,000 musicians have regular or full-time positions with orchestras in the UK, with British orchestras touring to 35 countries outside the country last year.

RNCM breaks Guinness World Record

cropped-music-notes1.jpgThe Guinness world record for the largest number of people playing the piano at the same time has been broken by a group of students from the Royal Northern College of Music (RNCM), with 16 students gathering around the keyboard to play a five-minute piece composed especially for the event.

Prior to this, the record was held by by a group of 15 musicians from Vallouise in France, who broke it in 2004. Postgraduate student at the RNCM Tom Harrold wrote his piece, Ticcatoccatina, to ensure that at any one time there would be up to 32 hands on the keyboard. “I am really excited to be attempting to break this world record. The sound of 16 people playing a single piano at one time should be really intriguing, and I am really looking forward to (hopefully) breaking a world record,” he said before the successful attempt.

 

Good music education ‘only reaching minority of pupils’

Some of 2013's winners

Followers of the Two Moors Festival will know how much work we do with pupils in schools across the south-west of the UK, putting on workshops with professional musicians and giving them the opportunity to take part in the festival every year, so it was with interest that we read of a new Ofsted report stating that a quality music education only reaches a minority of students.

Although it was found that the 120 music hubs set up as part of the government’s Music Plan to reorganise music support services had brought “vitality” and “energy” to teaching, very little was too often expected of pupils and only a handful of students were benefiting.

Michael Cladingbowl, director of schools policy at Ofsted, said: “Music is a demanding academic discipline, developed through exciting practical musical activity. However, the vast majority of the schools visited shied away from teaching pupils about fundamental aspects of music as they thought it too difficult. All children, not just the privileged few, should enjoy a good music education.”

How do you think this can be tackled? What would you like to see the festival doing, alongside our workshops?

The Two Moors Festival Fundraising Recital

The Busch EnsembleFollowing on from this year’s Two Moors Festival main two-week event in October, the festival is holding a fundraising recital to help boost the charity’s finances ahead of next year’s programme (which is due to take place between October 16th and 25th), with drinks, canapes and music provided by the wonderful Busch Ensemble.

The concert is in aid of the festival’s Residency Project, which offers musicians at any stage of their career the opportunity to rehearse completely undisturbed in the beautiful surroundings of the Devon countryside at Barkham, the festival headquarters – which, aside from amazing views and lots of peace and quiet, boasts a studio with unrivalled acoustics and a Bosendorfer Imperial Grand.

The recital – taking place on January 21st next year – will be put on in the London home of Bob Boas, who is passionate about the arts and music. Following the death of his son, Bob set up a trust to help young musicians just starting out, with concerts taking place at his home raising funds for the Nicholas Boas Charitable Trust first and outside organisations second.

Tickets for the January 21st event cost £25 and tickets can be booked by emailing boas22m@btinternet.com or over the phone on 020 7436 0344.

If you’re unable to make it to the concert but would like to make a donation to the Festival, please make cheques payable to The Two Moors Festival and send them to:

Barkham, Sandyway, South Molton, North Devon, EX36 3LU

4 Girls 4 Harps at Christmas

575928_10152688812635052_1955176419_nIf you’re looking for a good classical music-inspired Christmas present for friends and family, you might like to think about getting a copy of 4 Girls 4 Harps at Christmas – a brilliant CD just brought out by the quartet, who have really gone from strength to strength this year.

It includes traditional choral anthems cleverly mixed with jazz and folk and won rave reviews from BBC Music Direct, which described it thus:

“This will blow away the cobwebs – sparklingly energetic arrangements for four harps of favourite carols. The 4 Girls … do the arranging themselves, with versatility and imagination. Ensemble is watertight and there’s a real rhythmic elan to the playing which keeps you listening.”

It’s due to be released on December 2nd and you can pre-order your copy from Amazon now.

Two Moors Festival Young Musicians Platform competition now open

Some of 2013's winners
Some of 2013’s winners

If you’re a young musician  aged 18 and under on January 1st 2014 with a minimum of grade 7 on your chosen instrument living or at school in the south-west (covering Gloucestershire, Bristol, Wiltshire, Dorset, Somerset, Cornwall and Devon) and wish to further your career, you may be interested to hear that the Two Moors Festival Young Musicians Platform competition is now open for entries.

The deadline for entrants is 31st January 2014 and there’s a maximum number of 60 entries this year on a first come, first served basis, so if you’re keen to take part it’s vital that you get your form sent in as soon as possible.

The first round of auditions is due to take place at the Festival headquarters in North Devon between 8th-9th March 2014, with candidates required to play or sing two contrasting pieces lasting no longer than ten minutes in total. The competition is open to strings, brass and woodwind players, percussionists, pianists and singers.

Click here for the entry form.

Marimba player Alexandra Smith, one of the winners of 2013’s competition, had this to say about taking part: “There was a certain magic to the venue which was truly in the middle of nowhere! The wild beauty of the surroundings also added to the experience. I loved the venue hall… the fact that the adjudicators were seated around a big wooden table on beautiful old mismatched chairs gave a cosy and comforting homely feel to the auditions which certainly made me feel more confident. I don’t know if any of the adjudicators were famous, but they definitely put me at ease; it felt as if you were amongst friends – kindly aunts or uncles who had come around for afternoon tea! I felt that they really listened to my playing. I got a little cheer and clap from them at the end of each piece that I played which made me feel wonderful inside. I found the adjudicators’ comments so helpful. I actually had to look up some of the musical terms on Google!”

800 people stand for Noye’s Fludde!

At rehearsal
At rehearsal

How often do 800 people acknowledge a performance with a standing ovation? In last month’s Two Moors Festival production of Britten’s masterpiece, Exeter Cathedral’s capacity audience did just that. They stood up in recognition of one of the finest performances of Britten’s masterpiece ever to be seen and heard. With no exaggeration, this will remain in the minds of everyone involved for generations to come. Over 170 children from all corners of Devon came together to take part; ‘animals’ sprawled the nave; musicians filled the large stage and to cap it all, and much to everyone’s astonishment, an impressively tall ship’s mast rose from the bowls of the Ark in preparation for the impending storm.

Directed by The Royal Opera House’s Thomas Guthrie and conducted by Greg Pearson, guest presenter on BBC Radio 3’s ‘The Choir’, this was a production at the highest level.

It is hard to describe it in a way to convince the millions in the UK that it was worthy of performance in one of London’s great churches or cathedrals (Britten made it clear that it was never to be performed in a theatre). If it had been lucky enough to have had the critics present, reviews would have been at least 4* without hesitation. Of course, BBC 2’s Proms presenter, Petroc Trelawny as ‘God’ was, so to speak, the icing on the cake.

It was a privileged few who saw Noye. Whether parents, festival supporters, or sponsors, the experience will remain with them forever. For the children, the impeccable production, guidance and involvement in this project will have given them confidence, inspiration and a lasting memory of something they can relate to their grandchildren. I am sure too, that the Festival’s remarkably supportive Patron, HRH The Countess of Wessex will have gone home having been moved almost to tears.

What a triumph this was! It wasn’t local, it wasn’t even regional. Here was something produced ina area of the UK not normally associated with the arts at international level. ‘Noye’ flew the British flag for inspirational music-making, as a showcase for Benjamin Britten in his anniversary year, involvement of children in an age where music is absent from schools and it attracted an audience not used to classical music or attending church. One thing’s for sure, the audience sang the hymns in a way that put Christmas carols in the shade.

I wish you had been there…

Penny Adie, artistic director

St Peter’s and St Mary Magdalene’s Church, Barnstaple

BPC-SpringThe start of this year’s Two Moors Festival main two-week event in October is very nearly upon us. The first concert to take place in 2013 is Beginning to See the Light, a charity concert we’re putting on in aid of the Calvert Trust, Barnstaple Samaritans and our own work in schools in rural areas.

The programme includes pieces by composers like Lockrane, Duke Wellington, Gavita, Count Basie, Gershwin and Bernstein, and will be held from 19:30 in St Peter’s and St Mary Magdalene’s Church in Barnstaple. The church itself has been around since about the 12th century, but so many changes have been seen since then that there are precious few traces left of the original building.

Lots happened to the church in the 18th and 19th centuries, with the spire being badly damaged by fire in 1793 and the weathercock being completely melted after it was hit by lightening in a freak thunderstorm back in 1810. This wasn’t the worst thing to happen to the church, however, and in 1860 a survey was undertaken and it was found that the entire building was structurally unsound. Restoration in 1823 had had an effect on the structure, with walls beginning to bulge, the roof sagging and the spire threatening to collapse. It was thought it would all have to be pulled down but luckily it was saved after designs from the 13th and 14th centuries were referred to.

We’re very much looking forward to the start of the festival and are very happy that the first concert will be held at St Peter’s. If you’d like tickets for the event, contact the festival box office on (01643) 831 006 to book.

Tickets are by donation, from between £15 and £28.

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.