Latest newsletter: The festival pilgrimage to Beverley has begun

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The festival begins this Thursday!

As the primroses unfurl on the Yorkshire Wolds, we are reminded that the month of May is on the horizon and it will soon be time to celebrate the feast day of St. John of Beverley. For centuries pilgrims have made their way to Beverley to visit the shrine of this kindly saint in Beverley Minster. The wonderful musicians of the first New Paths festival in Beverley – the country’s leading young professional musicians – have already started to arrive in town, journeying to be here from all corners of the British Isles. In the coming days they will be joined by festival-goers coming from even further afield, all eager to enjoy the spectacular array of concerts and events taking place from Thursday until Sunday and to explore the region.

We are delighted that the first stop on our pilgrimage this Thursday is the stunning Beverley Minster. At the opening concert in the atmospheric South Transept of the Minster we are treated to a lavish combination of chamber music and song, including Brahms’s Violin Sonata in D minor, Robert Schumann’s Piano Quartet in Eb major, songs by Schubert and Clara Schumann, and a performance by Nick Pritchard of Beethoven’s An die ferne Geliebte. It is pleasing that in this, the first ever song cycle written 200 years ago in April 1816, poet and composer use the tender image of primroses sleeping to capture a sense of tranquillity in nature.

On the other hand, Clara Schuman’s virtuosic song, Er ist gekommen in Sturm und Regen, to be sung by Mary Bevan, brilliantly paints a picture of a woman waiting for her lover making a turbulent journey through storm and rain. We wish you all a smooth journey: you can be sure of a warm welcome and some terrific music.

The Easter Bunny!

The final stop on our festival pilgrimage through Beverley this weekend is the glorious St. Mary’s Church, with its famous Pilgrim Hare, said to be the inspiration for the White Rabbit in Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland! The closing concert on Sunday night brings together the winners of the 2009 Wigmore Hall Song Competion, our artistic director and pianist Libby Burgess and baritone Marcus Farnsworth, one of the great song singers of his generation, for a special performance of Robert Schumann’s Dichterliebe. Schumann’s song cycle is a devastating masterpiece, beginning with an awakening of love in the month of May and ending with a piano postlude of utter genius, bringing about an extraordinary closure to the bittersweet journey.

It is fitting that in a building with an enviable reputation as a chamber music venue, our closing concert – under the starry ceiling of St. Mary’s – is another potent mixture of song and chamber music. It includes a performance by violinist Jamie Campbell, cellist Cara Berridge and pianist Libby Burgess of Brahms’s Piano Trio in B Major, a ravishing work packed with passion and beautiful melodies.

In days of old, pilgrims often carried triptychs on their journies (the form allowed for ease of transport). So we are pleased to present below a triptych of three outstanding festival artists – Anna Huntley, Mary Bevan and Libby Burgess (all ‘on the sofa’) – to inspire you on your way.

We look forward to seeing you soon for a wonderful long weekend of music in Beverley. Tickets are still available so be sure not to miss out.

Best wishes,

Roland and Libby

PS Please note that under-18s gain free entry to all festival concerts.

Latest newsletter: The mood I’m in …

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Dear supporters,

The mood I’m in …

In a fortnight, beginning on 7th April, Beverley hosts one of the most exciting new music festivals in the country. We are proud to be celebrating these new beginnings by presenting TWO world premières of new pieces commissioned by the festival from British composers:

The first will be during the atmospheric late-night organ recital of chorale preludes, Little Organ Book, on our opening night in Beverley Minster. Grayston Ives – known to many from his time with the King’s Singers with whom he recorded and performed worldwide – is making the latest contribution to the Orgelbüchlein Project, a major global composition project.

This very special recital is dedicated to Alan Spedding and is being given jointly by FIVE organists. Richard Pinel, Assistant Organist of St. George’s Chapel Windsor Castle, who earlier today played for HM The Queen at the Royal Maundy service in the castle, heads the line-up which includes international virtuoso organist Simon Johnson (Organist of St. Paul’s Cathedral), plus organ students Robbie Carrol, Anthony Daly and Benjamin Newlove – all exceptional young organists (two of whom have received bursaries from the Alan Spedding Memorial Fund). Richard will perform Bill’s new composition, Es steh’n vor Gottes Thron, plus two existing entries from the Orgelbüchlein Project. The rest of the programme is entirely Bach and Brahms. View the full programme here.

The second commission is Stephen Carleston’s fantastic new arrangement of the upbeat jazz standard, The mood I’m in, which will be performed by outstanding male voice a capella ensemble, the Queen’s Six, at their barbershop drinks gig in the bar of the East Riding Theatre on Saturday 9th April. An incredible opportunity to hear for free this fine vocal ensemble, who, like Richard Pinel, live and work in Windsor Castle. For a taste of the treat in store for audiences, listen to the group’s stunning performance of Stephen’s arrangement of When I fall in love here.

The rest is silence

The Little Organ Book concert is also poignant for it includes the last piece ever written by Brahms, O Welt, ich muss dich Lassen (‘O world, I must leave thee’), “a uniquely personal testament to his craft … and his passionate belief in the spiritual value of his art”*. The genius and beauty of Brahms’s music is laid bare throughout the festival – there is the Violin Sonata in D minor in the opening concert, a selection of songs in the coffee concert on Saturday, and the Piano Trio in B Major in the closing concert.

Another extraordinary last work is being performed during the festival. Poulenc’s elegiac and deeply spiritual Oboe Sonata was his swansong and receives a special performance from James Turnbull in the Friday lunchtime concert, Dejeuner à Paris, at St. Mary’s. James is an oboist cherished by audiences around the country, who has worked tirelessly to promote the instrument and the writing of new music for it. For the performance of this ravishing piece, we are delighted that James is joined by the festival’s artistic director, pianist Libby Burgess, with whom he recorded the disc, The English Oboe: Rediscovered, released in 2013 to critical acclaim.

Brahms was greatly inspired by Bach, and turned to Bach in the loneliness of his last years. In Dejeuner à Paris, mezzo-soprano Anna Huntley will sing the exquisite song, À Chloris, by Hahn which is based on Bach’s timeless ‘Air on a G String’ – the tune made famous in the 1960s by the Hamlet adverts. If you love Bach and/or maybe find yourself in a mellow mood on 8th April then be sure not to miss this incredible concert.

Dreaming of Easter

We wish you all a blessed and peaceful Easter.

If you’re in Beverley on Easter Sunday then why not listen to the Minster choir singing joyous Easter anthems in the morning from atop the great North West tower of the Minster? This glorious Beverley tradition goes back some time.

It is, perhaps, not as famous as the May Day tradition of the choir of Magdalen College Oxford singing from atop its tower. (Festival composer Grayston Ives was for many years the director of the choir at Magdalen.) But the towers of Beverley Minster are considerably taller and, dare we say, more elegant than the tower of Magdalen College.

Then again, height isn’t everything, is it? We offer here, in jest, a vintage clip of Grayston singing a classic song with the King’s Singers which explores, in good humour, notions of the merits of physical stature. Grayston is the least tall of the singers and, as you can hear, had a golden voice.

Best wishes,

Roland and Libby

To avoid disappointment, book your tickets as soon as possible during the next two weeks through the box office of the East Riding Theatre.

Latest newsletter: What’s the difference between a violin and a viola?*

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Dear supporters,

The viola, with its velvet tone, is many people’s favourite instrument. Mozart played the viola and was fond of writing for it. Beverley has produced a number of fine viola players over the years, not least due to the inspiration of the late David Atkinson, himself a Beverley man, who taught generations of youngsters and tutored the viola section of the East Riding Youth Orchestra.

We are therefore delighted to be showcasing this beautiful instrument at several key moments in the festival. Outstanding violist, Simon Tandree, will give a rare performance with artistic director Libby Burgess of Benjamin Britten’s short masterpiece, Lachrymae for viola and piano, in our Sunday matinee Shakespeare celebration at East Riding Theatre.

Other viola highlights include Duruflé’s evocative Prélude, récitatif et variations in Friday’s lunchtime concert at St. Mary’s in which Simon and Libby will be joined by local flautist Ian Denley, and Brahms’ Two songs for alto, viola and piano in the Saturday coffee concert at St. Mary’s in which Simon and Libby will team-up with mezzo-soprano Anna Huntley for a performance of these gorgeous songs.

Come along to any of these incredible concerts to discover for yourself the rich and mellow sound of the viola.

David Atkinson enjoyed the occasional pint at Nellie’s (aka the White Horse), one of Beverley’s classic pubs. Why not pop into Nellie’s during the festival and raise a glass to David?

Celebrating local craftsmanship

We are pleased to announce that Beverley violin maker, Peter Hall, is joining in the New Paths festivities by opening his workshop to the public on Saturday 9th April. Members of the public will be given the special opportunity to see this craftsman at work.

Peter will be joined by his students from the Yorkshire Stringed Instrument Fellowship in Harrogate who will demonstrate the centuries old art of violin making. Festival artists will be giving short informal performances throughout the day at Peter’s studio.

Visit Peter Hall Violins on Norwood between 10am and 4pm to learn more about the craft of violin making and to enjoy some fun pop-up performances by festival artists.

“Those long uneven lines…”

By coincidence, Beverley has another fascinating connection with the viola. For Viola was the name given to a trawler built in 1906 on the banks of the River Hull at a shipyard in Beverley, which went on be an unsung heroine of the First World War. Viola was one of hundreds like her made for fishing duties in the North Sea. But at the outbreak of the war, this little ship was requisitioned by the Admiralty and spent almost the entire conflict at sea, patrolling for mines and submarines.

Viola has survived to this day, but lies rusting at Grytviken, a deserted whaling station in Cumberland Bay on the remote South Atlantic island of South Georgia. Read her remarkable story here and here. During the Festival, take a stroll along Beverley Beck, reflect and enjoy some stunning views of the Minster.

Lest we forget will be a moving war commemoration concert, featuring some of the greatest chamber music of the twentieth century. In the Edwardian setting of the East Riding Theatre, this Friday night concert includes Elgar’s passionate Violin Sonata played by Alexandra Reid, some poignant songs of Ivor Gurney sung by Alexander Robin Baker and Shostakovich’s powerful String Quartet No. 8 dedicated to the victims of fascism and war. See the full programme here.

Best regards,

Roland and Libby

*A viola burns longer. Viola jokes have been around for a while. A selection of them can be found here and here. The British Viola Society publishes a selection of violin jokes here.

Latest newsletter: The sap is rising…

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Dear supporters,

The clocks ‘spring forward’ on Easter Day this year which means that the splendid stately homes of the East Riding of Yorkshire will be open by the time of the festival. Whether you’re a visitor or a local, make the most of the festival weekend with a springtime* visit to one or all of the three gems of the county – Burton Agnes Hall, Sledmere House, and Burton Constable – all on the doorstep of Beverley.

The festival includes some beautiful examples of the pastoral in music. In the opening concert we are treated to a performance by tenor Nick Pritchard of Beethoven’s joyous An die ferne Geliebte, full of imagery of love through nature, and generally recognised as the first ever song cycle (celebrating its 200th anniversary in April). At the coffee concert on Saturday we hear Schubert’s effervescent Shepherd on the Rock, in which soprano Mary Bevan is joined by clarinettist John Slack, as shepherd and echo converse across the valley.

If thoughts turn to romantic love in the spring then our incredible opera gala in the East Riding Theatre must not be missed. The evening includes one of the greatest 12-minute stretches in all music, the ultimate boy meets girl: the Act 1 finale of Puccini’s La Bohème. A cocktail of meetings and partings, the gala also features extracts from Don Giovanni, La Traviata, and Giulio Cesare. All of this is sung by phenomenally talented young superstars of the country’s opera stages. We’re thrilled to announce the full programme here.

The chamber music of the festival is similarly full of passion and romance. In the opening concert alone we hear two works with particularly beautiful slow movements. The melody of the Andante of Schumann’s great piano quartet is an exquisite love song between the instruments, and the slow movement of Brahms’ violin sonata in D minor offers a moment of sublime tenderness and peace in this otherwise tempestuous piece.

Katy Hamilton’s talk before this concert, “Of romance, role-models and … hedgehogs? Johannes Brahms meets the Schumanns”, will give an insight into the complex musical and personal relationships between the Schumanns and Brahms. Join us to learn more about the festival’s cornerstone composers from this distinguished Brahms scholar, over a glass of wine.

Remember to book your tickets now through the East Riding Theatre.

See you in one month’s time for a glorious spring* weekend of music-making!

With all best wishes,

Roland and Libby

* We can’t guarantee the weather!

Latest newsletter: Next stop: April!

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Dear supporters,

Our first event took place on Saturday and was a resounding success! 180 singers from around the region and far beyond gathered in Beverley Minster to spend the day rehearsing Fauré’s Requiem, under the baton of Ashley Grote. The Minster was packed for the performance and in total the day raised well over £2,000 for the Alan Spedding Memorial Fund, creating bursaries for talented teenagers to attend the life-changing summer schools of Oundle For Organists. The day was a wonderful memorial to Alan Spedding, and a great celebration of signing and song – an amazing launch for New Paths. Have a look at our picture montage here, which gives a sense of the incredible buzz of the day!

We now look forward with excitement to our main festival, in a little over a month. Having been captivated by Katherine Crompton and Edward Grint’s stunning song singing on Saturday, we know our audiences will be inspired to explore the concerts featuring song in April. Song has been enjoying a remarkable renaissance in the UK over the last decade, with festivals such as Oxford Lieder and Leeds Lieder flourishing. We are thrilled to be putting Beverley on that map, with such celebrated song singers as Anna Huntley and Marcus Farnsworth visiting the town. From the ravishing beauty of Schumann’s Dichterliebe, to the suave charm of Hahn and Fauré, the war-torn tragedy of Butterworth’s A Shropshire Lad to the radiance of Beethoven’s An die ferne Geliebte, song is a mainstay of New Paths.

We were also treated to the first-class organ playing of Tim Harper on Saturday, and this sets up the dazzling organ strand of the festival. Our full-page spread in the latest edition of Organists’ Review reveals the top quality of our organ events. Simon Johnson (Organist at St Paul’s Cathedral) and Richard Pinel (Assistant Organist at St George’s, Windsor Castle) will each be giving organ recitals on the Minster’s fine organ, and will be leading a showcase of the mighty Hull City Hall organ. They will be joined by three outstanding organ students all with connections to Beverley or the Alan Spedding Memorial Fund. This really will be an organ extravaganza.

Remember, the festival also contains children’s events, barbershop, opera, chamber music, compline, talks and masterclasses…. Have a browse through and book your tickets now from the East Riding Theatre.

It was a joy to meet so many of you on Saturday and we cannot wait for April.

With all best wishes,

Roland and Libby

Call for volunteers!

Would you like to help us make the inaugural New Paths festival a roaring success?

We need:

help distributing posters and brochures;
practical help with errands and front-of-house shifts during the festival;
private and corporate sponsorship for the festival.
Please email if you can help.

Every little helps; you don’t need much time or resource available to make a significant impact!

Latest newsletter: The countdown begins

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Dear supporters,

As the daffodils flower on the Westwood*, our thoughts turn to spring, and to the inaugural New Paths festival, now a little over six weeks away! A major new musical event in the East Riding of Yorkshire, the festival features a spectacular array of chamber music, song, organ music, opera, a capella, talks, children’s events, masterclasses for local young musicians, and a community programme taking music to those who are not normally able to hear it.

Click here to view our beautiful festival brochure.

Remember to book your tickets or passes through the East Riding Theatre box office.

Meanwhile, our first New Paths Music event is this week! Saturday will see over 150 singers gathering in Beverley Minster for an intensive day of singing under the baton of the inspirational Ashley Grote. This Come & Sing performance of Fauré’s Requiem is being held in memory of the late Alan Spedding MBE, a major musical figure both in the area and nationally. If you have signed up to sing, you will have received an email with details for the day.

Come and hear the results of the singers’ work at 5pm! Everyone is welcome, and entry is free. The performance will last just over an hour and will include a short set of solo items by our fabulous soloists, Katherine Crompton and Edward Grint. A day not to be missed!

We are tremendously excited about all that lies in the weeks ahead and look forward to seeing you in Beverley soon.

With all best wishes,

Libby and Roland

*For the ‘out-of-towners’ among you, the Westwood is a large open pasture overlooking Beverley, affording some fantastic views of the town. Perfect for a stretch of the legs between concerts!