April 2016 saw the first New Paths festival taking place – a feast of performances by some of the country’s finest young musicians at venues across Beverley. The festival immediately established itself as a major new event in the region, and indeed on the national musical map.
Excitement had been building rapidly since the highly enjoyable and successful ‘Come & Sing’ day in Beverley Minster in February organised by New Paths which saw 180 singers join for a performance of Fauré’s Requiem conducted by Ashley Grote, raising over £2,000 for Oundle for Organists.
There were 22 events during the four days of the festival, ranging from song and chamber music at St Mary’s, to organ recitals at the Minster, a Shakespeare celebration at the East Riding Theatre, and children’s events at Toll Gavel United Church. The town quickly took the performers to its heart, welcoming them in pubs and coffee shops throughout the town, and the new Premier Inn at Flemingate, as well as in the concert venues. Audiences blossomed, with over 1700 tickets taken and many people returning for event after event, as locals and visitors flocked to hear the vast array of outstanding music-making.
Audiences were treated to Schumann and Brahms at the Minster, a flavour of France at St Mary’s, talks by world experts, world premiere organ music, a moving war commemoration, and a celebration of Shakespeare featuring local actor Richard Avery, who brought his canine colleague onto the stage for ‘Launce and his Dog’! For many the highlight was Saturday’s Opera Gala, for which there was a waiting list.
Founder Roland Deller comments, “I knew the standard would be incredible, but I was blown away by the Opera Gala. We were so lucky to have such world-class singers singing for us, and to hear them so close-up. Everyone was ready for the celebration in the bar afterwards!”
He added, “It has been a privilege to organise this festival inspired by the memory of Alan Spedding, and we are proud to have contributed something new musically in a town where he devoted so many years to musical excellence and education.”
Taking its name from Schumann’s comments on Brahms’s music (‘Neue Bahnen’, or new paths), the festival featured many works by Robert and Clara Schumann and by Brahms: Mary Bevan explored songs by Clara Schumann, Marcus Farnsworth performed an outstanding Dichterliebe, festival chamber musicians played Schumann’s Piano Quartet, and Jamie Campbell and Cara Berridge joined Artistic Director Libby Burgess in Brahms’ B major Piano Trio.
The Germanic thread was also present in the organ recitals, featuring Richard Pinel and Simon Johnson, as well as visiting organ students Anthony Daly, Robbie Carol and Benjamin Newlove. The world premiere was given of the festival’s first commission, a setting by Grayston Ives of Es steh’n vor Gottes Thron (forming part of William Whitehead’s Orgelbüchlein Project), as part of a late-night reflective chorale prelude concert.
A capella group The Queen’s Six gave a further two late night performances: a service of Compline in the Minster, as a time of reflection after the profoundly moving war commemoration concert, and an evening of Barbershop Drinks, as a time of celebration after the Opera Gala (featuring David Butt Philip, Anna Huntley, Alexander Robin Baker and Mary Bevan).
Half of the events were free, and the performers got involved with many areas of the community. The first event of the festival was a packed musical morning for babies and toddlers at Toll Gavel United Church; performers visited Abbeyfield residential home; there were two in-depth masterclasses for music students from The University of Hull; a masterclass for the organ students at Hull City Hall; and a day of violin making at Peter Hall Violins.
Artistic Director Libby Burgess says, “We were over the moon with how well this first festival went. Beverley is a town known for its love of music, but launching a new event is always nerve-wracking, so we were delighted with the turn-out for all of our events: as well as the main daytime and evening concerts, there were over one hundred people at Compline in the Minster at 10pm, and so many people attending the Barbershop Drinks at the East Riding Theatre that we had to move from the bar into the theatre itself!
Our youngest audience member was only a few weeks old, and our eldest well into her 90s, which is exactly what we wanted with New Paths – to be really involved with the local community at all levels as well as producing music of the highest standard. Playing so many concerts in four days was quite a challenge, but the audiences were so warm and supportive that we were really buoyed by their enthusiasm.
Beverley is such a wonderful location for something like this; we were spoilt for choice with venues, and were so proud to show the town off to our artists and the audience who’d come specifically for the festival. Predictably, everyone fell in love with it!”
Plans are underway for next year’s New Paths festival. Please check back here, sign up to our mailing list, follow us on Twitter, like us on Facebook, and keep in touch with our plans!