Heart’s Haven: the festival comes home

‘It’s April!’, tenor Alessandro Fisher sang (… in Italian… or Neapolitan dialect really…) in the opening concert, as part of his Tosti song selection that had the audience swooning in their seats. And he’s right: New Paths is at last back in its rightful home, the spring!

Beverley is magical at this time of year. The flowers are peeping out on the Westwood, the light on the two great medieval churches takes on a shimmering quality, and the skies are magnificent. But it’s also a special time of year for us as people: we, too, emerge from long, grey winters, and gather together, feeling alive, seeking nourishment, and entertainment, and company. Audience and performers alike talked of the festival offering inspiration, hope, comfort, catharsis, soul food, laughter, joy, community.

Time and again the compliment came – ‘we LOVE hearing so much music we’ve never encountered before.’ One seasoned concertgoer from London was delighted to tick pieces off his tick list here in Beverley that he’s never heard in the big smoke. Programmes were packed with music by Dranishnikova, Mayer, Bacewicz, Boulanger, Clarke, Dodgson and Joubert, or by current composers Frances-Hoad, Witter-Johnson, Feery, Finnis, MacMillan, Mills, Sutton and Venables. Alongside this of course were pieces famous for good reason – Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet, Beethoven’s Op 132 Quartet, Brahms’ Piano Quintet – and pieces guaranteed to raise a smile, like the ‘Lone Ranger’ tune in Rossini’s William Tell Overture.

Music took over the whole town: the festival’s home may have been St Mary’s, but events also took place in the Minster, the East Riding Theatre, Toll Gavel United Church, St John of Beverley RC Church, the Quaker Meeting House, and more. Rehearsals took place in homes and halls across the town, and many passers-by stopped to ask what the sound was (in a good way, we trust!). Young people remained at the heart of the festival: the baby and toddler concert was a joyous occasion, and two outstanding local teenagers performed to cheers from the audience in the Voyager Performance Platforms on Saturday. New to the programme this year were Festival Yoga, with live music, and the Westwood Walk, where even April Showers couldn’t dampen spirits, as well as our first event Upstairs at the Monks, at Sunday brunchtime.

A highlight for many was the final of the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire’s Dame Gillian Weir Messiaen Prize in the Minster, deservingly won by Godfrey Leung, alongside a wide-ranging talk by Dame Gillian herself about her life and work. We welcomed Martin Roscoe back with open arms in his new role as Honorary Associate Artist. Breakfast concerts at 9am were astonishingly popular, and our late-night concerts continue to be an atmospheric way to close the day. Many of our brilliant musicians performed multiple concerts per day, collaborating and sharing with incredible generosity and skill: others were with us more briefly, but each added their own colour to the kaleidoscope of musical activity that is a New Paths festival.

New Paths is utterly indebted to its generous circle of financial supporters, without whom none of these activities would be possible; to the kind teams at all of our venues; to a great number of individuals locally and further afield who contribute in a whole range of vital ways to making the festival happen; and to our own outstanding, tireless and unfeasibly brilliant logistics team. Above all, we owe a huge amount to our musicians and audience, who bring so much of themselves to create something so special. We can’t wait to see you next spring.