Two Moors, One Festival

PUBLISHED: 17:20 21 September 2007 | UPDATED: 14:52 20 February 2013

Tasmin Little

Tasmin Little

Linked with Classic FM, Devon's out-of-season music festival is giving audiences even more to look forward to this October. Started in 2001 as a one-off event to help regenerate the area following the devastating foot-and-mouth epidemic, the festi...

The whole world heard about the tragedy of the dropped Bosendorfer piano which affected the Two Moors Festival so badly last April. However, such is the upbeat nature of the working team behind this mainstream arts organisation that nothing was going to get in the way of plans for 2007, let alone mar the Festival's main event - the major series of concerts in October.

The Festival grows at an alarming rate and for the organisers, this can be hard to keep pace with. As many people know, HRH The Countess of Wessex became Patron in 2006 and for a festival as young as the Two Moors this is wonderful recognition of an event which is here to stay. The recent outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in the Home Counties is of course a reminder of how the Festival came about: to encourage people to return to Dartmoor, Exmoor and the area in between the moors, all of which had been so devastated by the disease in 2001.

It's also worth noting that this is how the Festival attracted the interest of Classic FM. The two-way partnership between the two organisations exists to this day, each helping the other where it can. Not only does the Festival put on up-market concerts in October across this 1,000-square-mile area, but it also has a Young Musicians Platform Competition, attracting entries from across the entire South-west, it has a Two Moors Festival Chorus, a Youth Choir with a growing reputation for excellence, an annual Garden Party and also arranges workshops in many primary schools. In the last three years, the workshops have become extremely popular and well over 2,000 children, who have little or sometimes no music in their schools, have benefited from the Festival's input.

This year's programme is varied and innovative. The main attraction is that of the BBC Radio 3 New Generation Artists - the Aronowitz Ensemble, who are doing a week's Residency at the Festival's headquarters on Exmoor prior to giving five concerts, four of which are with eminent guest artists. For those who don't know about the Aronowitz Ensemble, it is the brainchild of gifted violinist Magnus Johnston who set it up with his cellist brother, Guy, and other friends including pianist Tom Poster. In the last year they have leapt into the forefront with performances at Aldeburgh as well as at the Cheltenham Festival. Guest artists include Tasmin Little, Nicholas Daniel, James Gilchrist and Yvonne Howard. It's worth noting that Tasmin, always up for an adventure, is also giving a solo recital in England's smallest parish church, Culbone.

An interesting development of the Festival is its collaboration with Exeter Cathedral. Very much aware of the Cathedral's Third Millennium Campaign, the Festival's opening concert on 12 October is not only taking place in the Cathedral but it has a special aim that is to highlight and draw much more attention to the needs of the Cathedral. Devon is one of the largest counties in the UK and its cathedral needs as much care as it can get in the form of preserving the fabric, enhancing the music and guaranteeing the library and archives are preserved.

The Young Musicians Platform Competition 2007 hit a new high. The standard gets better as each year passes and this year's four winners were selected unanimously within two minutes by the panel of four adjudicators. Usually, there is considerable deliberation to decide on who the winners should be. The four lucky youngsters this year were chosen not only for their natural musicianship but also because they are confident performers who engage with their audience and who are able to play a broad repertoire of music. The competition, generously sponsored by Philip J Milton & Company plc, is now in its sixth year and previous winners have gone on to further training at various music colleges including the Royal Academy of Music, the Guildhall, the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama and a broad range of universities.

Two prominent schools feature in this year's festival programme. The Purcell School, one of the UK's leading specialist music schools, is giving a lunchtime concert on 20 October and the Festival ends with a show-stopper of a programme to be given by students from Eton College.

One aspect of the Festival worth mentioning is the fact that it is now drawing its audience from an increasingly large area. People come from London, Scotland, the USA, Switzerland, Canada, Ireland and France. Of course, this has a beneficial effect on the area as these visitors come over for several days, stay in B&Bs and hotels, visit places such as RHS Rosemoor and the Eden Project, go walking on the moors and turn up to several concerts. The boost to the local economy in an out-of-season period of the year has to be good news!

One cannot write an article on the 2MF without mentioning its latest and perhaps most ambitious project to date. This is to have a Festival Garden at the Chelsea Flower Show in 2009. You could be forgiven for wondering what this has to do with a music festival and the answer is, quite a lot. People who love gardens and gardening invariably love classical music and vice versa. The number of composers inspired by gardens, flowers and the countryside is considerable - think of Schubert songs, the Pastoral Symphony and the Hebrides Overture, to name just three. The Festival's garden is being designed by Christina Williams who won a major award for her Walled Garden at Coughton Court in Warwickshire. The project is already attracting major interest but inevitably is going to cost an arm and a leg to stage. The Festival is inviting people to open their gardens next year in aid of the Project. If anyone is interested, do please get in touch with the 2MF organisers.

As you can see, the Festival is not sitting back doing nothing. It's all go in the Adies' Aga-fired office.

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