Two Moors Festival goes ahead - with social distancing

PUBLISHED: 09:27 13 August 2020 | UPDATED: 16:08 21 August 2020

Cellist Laura van der Heijden will play Bach. PICTURE: CHRIS GOAG

Cellist Laura van der Heijden will play Bach. PICTURE: CHRIS GOAG

PICTURE: CHRIS GOAG

Live concerts with social distancing will be held in Dartmoor and Exmoor churches

Pianist Elisabeth Brauss. PICTURE: MONIKA LAWRENZPianist Elisabeth Brauss. PICTURE: MONIKA LAWRENZ

Violinist Tamsin Waley-Cohen was delighted to take on the role of creating the programme for the 2020 Two Moors Festival, especially as this is the 20th anniversary of the event. It was established by husband and wife team John and Penny Adie to help Exmoor and Dartmoor recover from the impact of Foot and Mouth Disease, so there is a certain irony in another disease disrupting this year’s proceedings.

Tamsin is an outstanding violinist who has played around the world with the Halle Orchestra, London Philharmonic, Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and Czech Philharmonic Orchestra. She is also a founding member of the Albion String Quartet. She says she feels connected to the festival through music and her love of the area.

“I played in the first ever year. I was 14, or something like that, and was one of the young musicians,” she recalls. “This is like a homecoming, for much of my childhood I spent a lot of time on Exmoor. John and Penny really wanted to give back and this was something I really wanted to do, to see what’s needed and what I could offer – my vision of what I could do for the festival. It was a simple decision for me and felt like the right thing to do.”

Tamsin has previous experience, curating her own event – Honeymead Festival - at the family’s 1,000-acre estate on Exmoor. But even that experience can’t have prepared her for the impact of Covid-19 on the Two Moors programme.

Tamsin Waley-Cohen, new artistic director of the Two Moors Festival. PICTURE: BEN RUSSELLTamsin Waley-Cohen, new artistic director of the Two Moors Festival. PICTURE: BEN RUSSELL

“It’s been a real baptism of fire,” admits Tamsin. “The festival couldn’t go ahead as it was so we are having concerts on Dartmoor and Exmoor with socially distanced audiences and things like no refreshments. It won’t be as I planned it but we are trying to be courageous.

“We felt it was so important to put on some live music. Not everyone will feel like they want to go out, so we will take every precaution possible for the audience and the musicians. I’ve been talking to artists about the music they really want to play, the music that strikes a chord with them – things they feel close to.

“We will do another little group of concerts in the new year and launch the full festival properly next spring. Hopefully singing will be allowed by then, which is important to our community programme. These are my hopes and dreams!”

Tamsin feels her connection with the area will help in programming the festival.

“There’s a wildness about this part of the world – very primal and very beautiful. A lot of the venues are intimate and set in wild landscapes. That’s a unique thing. The festival covers a huge amount of distance between venues.

“Penny, who established it, is a huge champion of chamber music and song festivals. We are hoping to build on that and bring world-class artists and young artists here. We also want to bring in a younger audience because young people think this music isn’t for them. We would like to work with as many schools as possible.”

Tamsin has been performing at the Two Moors from an early age and has often helped judge the Young Musicians Competition. She will continue the work Penny Adie started in encouraging young talent, she says.

“For a young musician, the most important thing is being able to go onto a stage and play. There is no substitute for getting out there and doing it. That’s the most valuable thing we can offer. To experience doing something is a big learning curve. It’s needed at a time when young people are finding their feet musically. They are finding out about what they enjoy on stage.”

Tamsin’s appointment will help grow the event, she says. “We want it to become a destination festival where people will come for a long weekend to soak up the music but also enjoy the landscape, the wildlife and the rich literary history. Next year will become a celebration festival because we will all be together.”

The programme has been adapted to take into account social distancing. There will be online talks from musicologist Katy Hamilton and Jessica Duchen, former classical music correspondent for The Independent, and some exclusive online musical content.

The live performances will happen twice, once in the afternoon and once in the evening, to allow more people to attend safely. 

The Dartmoor Weekend takes place in Widecombe when there will be concerts on Saturday 26 September by the Albion Quartet – performing Brahms’ Quartet in b flat major and Beethoven’s quartet opus 135, the last quartet he wrote. On the Sunday Laura van der Heijden plays Bach’s solo cello suites number 3, 4 and 5.

The Exmoor Weekend, takes place at Wiveliscombe Church. On Friday, 2 October, it’s a star of the jazz scene, Misha Mullov-Abbado and his group. The following day Elisabeth Brauss’s solo piano recital includes Scarlatti, Beethoven, Mendelssohn and Chopin with her programme chosen to celebrate the return of concerts after the lockdown.

The festival concludes on Sunday, 4 October when Scottish operatic tenor Nicky Spence and pianist Christopher Glynn perform Schubert’s Fair Maid in a new English translation by Jeremy Sams.

To book, visit the festival website or call 01772 439062

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