Final destination on the New Paths ‘roadshow’: East Yorkshire – home!

One hundred of New Paths’ local supporters, volunteers and partners gathered at Sledmere House on 7th February 2018 to celebrate the launch of the festival as a registered charity in the presence of Her Majesty’s Lord-Lieutenant of the East Riding, the Hon. Mrs. Susan Cunliffe-Lister.  The special event was the culmination of the charity’s ‘roadshow’ which started in London in January.

Click thumbnails to view gallery. Images by Just Beverley.

The evening began in the Main Hall where New Paths’ chairman, Roland Deller, stood on the impressive staircase and told of how the music-making he experienced during his childhood in the East Riding – as a chorister in Beverley Minster and a viola player in the East Riding Youth Orchestra – transformed his life.

“I was surrounded by an abundance of musical mentors who gave so much to so many children in the area. I was a real beneficiary of the rich musical heritage of this place, which has been sustained for a long time by many brilliant people. Not least my choirmaster, the late Alan Spedding MBE, to whom the festival is dedicated. Alan was a distinguished musician who served as Director of Music at Beverley Minster for over 40 years and nurtured generations of choristers – thousands of lives enriched through his kindness, wisdom and patience.”

Mr Deller gave examples of how the county’s musical heritage lives on today. As for New Paths’ recent entrance onto the scene, he said: “We wanted to play our part in ensuring that music in the county flourishes – to help fan the flames of creative endeavour in the area. Because in all of the regions of the UK today, the arts and in particular music face headwinds.”

Mr Deller said that, despite the challenges faced by the arts, “there is nothing inevitable about the decline of music and we do not take the status quo for granted.” Amplifying the message in New Paths’ manifesto (which can be viewed here), he said “We are on a mission to make a positive contribution to the cultural life of the East Riding through the festival”.

Alan Spedding was a fine organist and organ playing is a vital strand of New Paths work. The crowd was treated to a promenade performance on the House’s organ (with its pipes high up in the dome above the Hall) by Christian Wilson. To begin, Christian was joined by Icelandic violinist Eva Thorarinsdottir for a performance of William Lloyd Webber’s beautiful Benedictus. Guests then made their way up to the magnificent Library whilst Christian played the joyous Sinfonia from Bach’s Cantata No. 29.

The full programme for the evening can be viewed here.

Libby Burgess, Artist Director of New Paths, had curated the programme with the artists to showcase the inventive programming of the festival, combining as it does chamber music, song and organ music. In the Library, Libby was first joined by tenor Nicholas Mulroy for a set of songs exploring a journey through the year.

Miss Burgess then spoke of her first encounter of Beverley in 2013 as ‘love at first sight’ and of her passion for making music of the highest quality in the area. She outlined some key aspects of the 2018 festival.

“We are enormously proud of and excited about this year’s festival programme. It contains an array of wonderful, and not necessarily mainstream, repertoire.”  “I have no interest in dumbing down in our choice of music; I believe that good music and quality performance speak for themselves. However, I am hugely interested in presenting that music in fresh ways.”

Miss Burgess highlighted the festival’s flagship ‘Viking Invasion’ theme. “This gives us the opportunity to explore the connections between Yorkshire and the Nordic countries. Viking place names are inescapable around here: Selby, Whitby, Skidby, Wetwang, Kelleythorpe, Lowthorpe, Wilsthorpe, Fraisthorpe, Keldgate, Willerby, Kirk Ella … and that’s without even turning the page of the map. Other connections exist too. The sculpture called ‘Voyage’, by The Deep in Hull, has a partner sculpture in Iceland called ‘For’, in the fishing village of Vik. These mark thousands of years of trade between the two countries; the numbers of Hull trawler-men who’ve headed out into the Humber Estuary and round to Iceland to fish must number in the thousands. And so, in the festival, we have a range of Scandinavian music – Grieg, Sibelius, Halvorsen, Nielsen, and Stenhammar – and we are joined by four wonderful Nordic artists, including Eva.”

She also touched on three other key themes – Folk, Poets’ Corner, and the Musical Takeover of Beverley – explaining that the festival was a celebration of the place it is proud to call home.

Observing the volume of living composers represented in the programme, Miss Burgess said: “Given yesterday’s anniversary of women being given the vote, it seems appropriate particularly to draw attention to the women composers who are taking part in our ‘Conversations with Composers event’: Diana Burrell – who is writing us a brand new piece for the festival – Cheryl Frances-Hoad, and Nicola LeFanu.”  The Burrell commission has been possible thanks to a generous grant from the arts organisation, Finzi Friends, a number of whose members will join festivalgoers in Beverley in the spring.

Eva then played a set of pieces representing a ‘journey through Europe’ – taking its inspiration from the New Paths name. She stunned the audience with her dazzling playing of Solo by contemporary Finnish composer Kalevi Aho.

Mr Deller thanked all of the many partner organisations with whom New Paths is collaborating to present the 2018 festival. He said that one of the highlights of Viking Invasion will be the project in Freddie’s school in Hull for disabled children with profound and multiple special needs. This will see New Paths artists working with the children on a piece which the festival has commissioned from Hollywood film composer, David Buckley, especially for the project. The piece will be performed in the festival, as part of the Musical Takeover of the Beverley, by the children alongside festival artists.

Mr Deller explained that such a project is only economically possible in the context of a festival where the team of musicians has already been fixed.

“The same is true of the free daytime concerts we stage for children and families. We don’t field a ‘B-Team’ for these wonderful educational events. Our main festival artists perform in them and love to do so. Each year we reach hundreds of families in Beverley through these joyous performances.”

He then appealed for help and support with the funds which the charity needs to raise to present the festival (a total of £50,000). “At this early stage we need your help to build up the festival into something we believe will be the envy of other parts of the UK and will attract significant national interest.”

For further information about supporting New Paths please see here.

The performances in the Library closed with a set of music featuring all of the artists. The final piece in the set was the sublime Morgen by Strauss which reduced more than a few members of the audience to tears. As everyone made their way back down to the Main Hall, Christian and Libby played an extract from the William Tell Overture arranged for organ and piano, which raised many a smile!

The registered charity number of New Paths Music Limited is 1176545.

The programme for the 2018 New Paths festival, which opens in two months, can be viewed here.

No charity funds have been spent on any of the launch events.