Venus Rising from the Sea: Festival surfaces in two months

2nd February 2020

The fifth New Paths Spring Festival is only two months away.  Be in Beverley this spring for a long weekend of life-affirming music … with a certain je ne sais quoi.  At the heart of the programme are works by an array of women composers, spanning centuries of female creativity.  In this newsletter we focus on the concerts in the festival which feature that music.  It is also a call to take a holiday getaway in this hidden gem of a county:  bounded by the North Sea to the east and the Humber Estuary to the South, the East Riding of Yorkshire is the perfect off-the-beaten-track destination to bask in four days of music-making (2nd – 5th April) by our exceptional artists.

L’invitation au voyage

The concert on the opening night of the festival ‘The Monk and the Rascal’ celebrates Frances Poulenc and his circle, including Germaine Tailleferre – one of ‘Les Six’ – whose serene Arabesque for clarinet and piano is just one of the works on the programme that showcases our outstanding woodwind team. Another such piece is Chabrier’s ravishing setting for soprano, bassoon and piano of Baudelaire’s luscious L’invitation au voyage – the chorus of which is almost ubiquitous in French culture:

Là, tout n’est qu’ordre et beauté,
Luxe, calme et volupté!

There – nothing but order and beauty dwell,
Abundance, calm, and sensuous delight.

(translation: Richard Stokes)

Experience such bliss in Beverley this April: book your tickets today.

The programme also includes Satie’s hypnotic Gymnopédie No. 1*, performed by harpist Olivia Jageurs, who makes her debut at the festival this year.  We’re delighted to be welcoming Olivia to Beverley for the first time.

Daydreaming

The Friday night concert ‘People Look East’ explores diverse Asian influences on western music, from the Far East to Jewish prayers and Arabian legends.  It includes Judith Weir’s Natural History, a setting of four ancient Chinese philosophical texts, sung by soprano Aoife Miskelly, and Brahms’ dark and beautiful Nine Songs Op. 32, sung by baritone Johnny Herford.  Both are accompanied by our artistic director, pianist Libby Burgess.

The concert ends with an arrangement of Debussy’s famous Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune.  Considered by some to mark the birth of modern music, and tinged with exoticism, this is one of the great works of reverie.  Join us and take a flight of fantasy in Beverley this spring!

Venus Anadyomene

The image with which we began this newsletter is Titian’s Venus Rising from the Sea of c.1520, located in the Scottish National Gallery in Edinburgh.  We look north to the Highlands, and to the other Celtic corners of the UK, in our free afternoon concert, ‘Celtic Rush-Hour’.  The programme includes Scottish folk-inspired music, the second ever performance of Cheryl Frances-Hoad’s clarinet quintet Tales of the Invisible (inspired by the borders between England and Wales), and songs by Morfydd Owen, Joan Trimble and Dilys Elwyn-Edwards.

During your time at the festival immerse yourself in our Celtic celebrations and visit the splendid Beverley Art Gallery to take a look at its two evocative Highland scenes on display in the historic collection: Strathspey, a watercolour by Wycliffe Egginton, and Braemar, a watercolour by George Fripp.

Opus Alpha

To conclude this voyage through some of the festival’s music written by women, we turn to our opening coffee concert ‘Opus Alpha’.  This delightful morning programme explores the ‘Opus 1’ compositions of an eclectic range of composers, including Beethoven’s first piano trio, Elgar’s Romance for violin and piano, and charming songs by Fanny Mendelssohn and Amy Beach.  The lovely, light surroundings of Toll Gavel United Church make a beautiful place to start the day.

Restoring St Mary’s, and remarkable women of Beverley

We are presenting more concerts than before in Toll Gavel United Church and at other venues around town, because this year scaffolding is up inside the nave of St Mary’s as the restoration of its magnificent but crumbling stonework proceeds.  Whilst Titian was painting his masterpiece Venus Anadyomene five hundred years ago, the Tudor rebuilding of St Mary’s Church was underway, following the dramatic collapse of its tower.  That vigorous rebuild was concluded in a mere 10 years.  And so the current generation of renovators take inspiration from their industrious Tudor forerunners.

Beverley has always been a town of pioneering people,- and especially of extraordinary women, including Mary Wollstonecraft (writer and advocate of women’s rights), Elizabeth Lambert (organist of St Mary’s in the early nineteenth century) and Nellie Collinson (the former landlady of the legendary gaslit White Horse Inn, known as Nellie’s) – to name just three.  Read more about the town and its history on our website.  With its quirky pubs and quaint coffee shops, its independent retailers and renowned market, this is a treat of a town to visit.

Snowdrops -> daffodils -> RPO -> go!

In the fortnight since our last bulletin, the East Riding has become carpeted with snowdrops, and before too long the Westwood (the common pastureland which surrounds Beverley) will be covered in daffodils – which means the festival is not far away! If between now and then you are in the area and want something cultural to do, look no further than the Royal Philharmonic Concert at Hull City Hall on Thursday 12th March.  New Paths is presenting the pre-concert talk for this event: Libby will be joined by New Paths artists for a lecture-recital delving into Brahms’ world around the time he was writing the first symphony, which features on the programme.

Hull City Hall is a magnificent example of Edwardian civic architecture, crowned with a copper dome that is surrounded by four hand-carved female figures, each representing one of the arts.  We look forward to being back there again in the festival, for our organ masterclass ‘Pipe Up’!

We are very proud to be partnering with the RPO and would love to welcome our audience to the special event in Hull on 12th March.

Bright as a button

We’re hugely grateful to the Ambache Charitable Trust for supporting the performance of works by female composers in the festival.  We were thrilled to be awarded a grant by that trust last month.

If you would like to support our young musical charity in its mission to increase public access to high-quality music, then please become a Friend or a Patron, or make a donation, which can be done securely online via the donate button on the support page of our website.

*Footnote: A life less ordinary

The most eccentric Frenchman on the playbill this year is Poulenc’s friend and mentor, Eric Satie, who claimed only to eat white food and purchased seven identical, grey velvet corduroy suits which he wore with no variation, for 10 years!  Read more about the composer and his idiosyncrasies here.  Experience something extraordinaire in the East Riding this April!

The featured image of this news post is Paddle Steamers ‘Rob Roy’, ‘Emperor’ and ‘Queen of Scotland’ by William Griffin (1800–1883) in the collection of Hull Maritime Museum (opposite Hull City Hall) – well worth a visit.