The town of Beverley, nestled in the East Riding of Yorkshire, is a place that many have never heard of, yet those who have the good fortune to know it find that it gets under their skin: an out-of-the-way gem of architectural beauty and warmth of character, once seen it is never forgotten.
Twenty years apart, two different Beverley boys – both former string players in the East Riding Youth Orchestra – felt an urge to ‘give back’ to this town which had captured their hearts growing up there and had provided them with a life-changing musical education.
James Brown, then a violist in the London Philharmonic Orchestra, founded the now major international artist management agency Hazard Chase in 1990. One of his earliest members of staff was Richard Purkiss, another ERYO and Beverley Grammar School alumnus, and one of the first artists on their books was pianist Martin Roscoe. During a fateful car journey together (where many of life’s great decisions are made!) the three of them hatched a plan to establish the Beverley Chamber Music Festival, which duly began in 1993, with the help of countless people from the local musical community and beyond. Throughout its history, initially with Hazard Chase, and then from 2001 under the management of a dedicated local committee, it has presented the crème de la crème of national and international chamber musicians, all under the Artistic Directorship of Martin.
Roland Deller went on from life as a Minster chorister and a lay clerk in cathedral choirs around the country to pursue a career in international finance – and brought his partner, pianist Libby Burgess, to Beverley in 2014. Walking through the town, exploring its magnificent churches, and drinking in the atmosphere (amongst other things) in Nellie’s, they too decided to begin a festival here. Paying particular homage to the late Alan Spedding, who was for 42 years Director of Music at Beverley Minster, New Paths was born in 2016, its spring festival quickly developing a reputation for creativity and energy.
When the committee of BCMF approached New Paths, asking them to take on the running of that older festival from 2018, a new chapter was born. Libby is Artistic Director of New Paths; she and Martin are Co-Artistic Directors of BCMF. Roland is Chairman of New Paths, while James and the former committee provide much-valued support from afar.
And so the tales of these two musical organisations have become entwined, the remarkable parallels making sense of a hugely satisfying new collaboration. Both festivals exist, their identities distinct, but their ethos shared. Both were born of a spirit of collaboration, a passion for music of the highest quality, and a love of Beverley itself. Here’s to the future!