An autumnal birthday feast: BCMF 2022

Autumn has always been the home of the Beverley Chamber Music Festival, but this week seemed to flit through all the seasons – from torrential downpours and conkers denting car roofs as they fell, to radiant sunshine and bright blue skies on market day.

A similar range of mood swept through the festival’s music – from the profundity of JS Bach’s keyboard music and the ravishing elegance of Josef Haydn’s quartets, to deeply poignant war songs by Cheryl Frances-Hoad and little-known Irish songs by Joan Trimble; from the baroque splendours of Heinrich Schütz and the mellifluous sounds of Maurice Ravel or Claude Debussy to the biting virtuosity of Béla Bartók.

A main focus of the festival was thanking Martin Roscoe as he steps down from his role of Artistic Director of the Beverley Chamber Music Festival – a position he has held since the festival’s very inception. When New Paths took on the BCMF in 2018, Martin and Libby became Co-Artistic Directors for five years, and at a special reception on Saturday each spoke of the happiness of this collaboration. Although Martin will no longer have a formal role we are delighted to report he has agreed to come back and play in Beverley as often as possible! Martin’s contribution to the cultural life of the East Riding over the last three decades has been extraordinary and his musicianship is quite simply of the highest quality. Thank you, Martin, for everything.

To mark the 30th BCMF, Martin gave a candlelit performance of the thirty Goldberg Variations; at the other end of the day, Libby played the Well-Tempered Clavier Book 1 across a series of packed breakfast concerts (in honour of the 300th anniversary of its publication).

Two world premieres featured: our latest commission, David Matthews’ String Quartet No 16 in memory of Hugh Wood, was given a stylish performance by the Salomé Quartet, while Richard Allain’s delightful new songs, Five Musings, were introduced to the world by Aoife Miskelly and Libby Burgess. David joined Lucy Walker in a ‘Composer in Conversation’ session, and Katy Hamilton gave a fantastic guided tour of some of the less-known repertoire in the festival.

The Maxwell Quartet were in residence throughout the festival, collaborating with other festival artists memorably in Dohnányi’s Piano Quintet (with Martin), in Vaughan Williams’ On Wenlock Edge (with Libby and Alessandro Fisher), and in Mendelssohn’s Octet (with the Salomés) – a euphoric end to day 1. They also presented music of their own repertoire, from Haydn and Dvořák to Purcell and toe-tapping Scottish folk.

Two further groups joined us: Trio Anima played in the atmospheric St John of Beverley Roman Catholic Church, in a very popular programme of Debussy, Beamish, Dowland and Bax; and Endelienta Baroque joined with David de Winter in a wonderfully evocative and stylish performance of Schütz and his contemporaries, in the unforgettable setting of the Minster Choir.

Saturday saw us using not one but two Steinways in St Mary’s. Martin was joined by Peter Donohoe (who played in the first ever BCMF in 1993) for an exhilarating concert from eloquent Mozart to virtuosic Rachmaninoff that almost blew the roof off. That evening, Libby reprised her collaboration with Chris Hopkins (their memorable Rite of Spring was a highlight last year): they joined forces with baritone Johnny Herford for Joan Trimble’s beautiful cycle County Mayo and with Mick Doran and Simon Carrington for Bartok’s breathtaking Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion. The Jamaican Rumba to finish sent everyone home with a smile!

Many festival events were sold out, and we were delighted to welcome lots of Golden Ticket holders – our scheme giving free entry to under-18s. We were particularly impressed with the stamina of the school group who came to all five concerts on Friday, starting at 9am and finishing at almost 11pm!

A fantastic team of student volunteers from the University of Hull and Bishop Burton College kept the logistics on track, looking after our audience and performers alike.

It can be hard to articulate the magic of our festivals to those who don’t know them, but the feedback we receive over and over is that the range of music – some famous, lots less well-known, some ancient, plenty recent – and the diverse beauty of our many venues are key ingredients. But above all it is the people – the warmth of our audience, and the commitment, skill and generosity of our musicians – that make these festivals what they are. Thank you to everyone who was a part of that! We look forward to seeing you next year.