Festival Visitor

Editor of BBC MUsic Magazine visits the Festival

  • 5 June 2015
  • Author: Janet
  • Number of views: 5221
Festival Visitor

Swaledale Festival was delighted to have as its guest for two days, Oliver Condy, Editor of BBC Music Magazine. This prestigious publication is read all over the world and is the most widely read magazine dealing with classical music.

Swaledale remains a relatively little known area of the UK – even by some who live within a very short distance of it – and so what the Festival was able to show him of the area was something quite new to him. The visit began with the journey from Darlington railway station to Arkengarthdale via the A66 and the road over The Stang. The wide open views and apparent emptiness had an immediate impression. On arrival at St Mary’s, Arkengarthdale he met some of the Festival team before we got into the building as Tim Slater, the Events Manager and Malcolm Creese, Artistic Director were both sorting out last minute tasks yet were still delighted to pause and welcome him.

The concert was not what had originally been expected as the violist, Rosalind Ventris who was to have played as a duo with cellist Pau Codina, had injured her hand and had to cancel her performance less than 24 hours previously. However, Pau Codina gave a virtuosic solo recital and Mr Condy was surprised that he had not heard of such a talented musician but will, no doubt, look out for him in the future.

On the drive from Arkengarthdale to Reeth where the Burgoyne Hotel had generously provided accommodation as part of their Festival sponsorship, there was a chance to see more of the magnificent Swaledale scenery. As a keen walker, Oliver expressed an interest in returning sometime to try out some of the routes over the fells as it was an area he had never previously visited or knew anything about.

That evening was spent in the Georgian Theatre Royal in Richmond where the Society of Strange and Ancient Instruments gave an excellent performance of Nine Daies Wonder the story of Will Kemp’s dance from London to Norwich in 1600. Will Kemp was an actor in Shakespeare’s company and also something of a self-publicist, it would appear. Stephen Player who took the part of Will Kemp was a quite extraordinary dancer and the intimate atmosphere of the Georgian Theatre provided the perfect venue for it and a unique experience for our visitor. In case this description makes it sound rather serious and pompous, it has huge elements of farce and is very amusing.

Friday began with a drive to Masham with Artistic Director Malcolm Creese, where Simon Theakston, the Festival’s longest sponsor had agreed to give us a tour of the brewery, this being a particular interest of Oliver Condy – though not directly a part of his editorial job. It was both enjoyable and interesting involving a lot of stair/ladder climbing as the brewery process starts at the top of the building and flows downwards. There was, of course, an opportunity to sample the results before setting off for lunch.

Lunch was at the premises of another Festival sponsor, Tennants of Leyburn who have several major exhibitions on at present that have a Festival collection – though by coincidence rather than design. There were paintings by Miles Davis, better known as a jazz trumpeter, and prints by John Lennon who apart from being a Beatle, was also both a talented artist and a poet. There was also an exhibition by children from local schools of art work about the Dales rivers produced under the guidance of local artist Norah Yates and organised by the Festival and the Dales Rivers Trust. This exhibition was associated with a work that was being given its premiere performance by Black Dyke Band the following evening. Lunch in Tennants’ restaurant was delicious and came with a glass of burgundy to celebrate a fine wine sale that was also being held the following day.

From Leyburn Mr Condy was driven over the tops and on to Low Row where young classical guitarist and BBC New Generation Artist, Sean Shibe was giving a recital. More glorious scenery (though rather showery) and impressive playing. Friday also happened to be the day of the combined Friends and Chairman’s Receptions which was a great opportunity to meet and chat with Festival organisers and visitors.

Friday evening saw the King’s Singers in St Andrew's Church, Grinton as always, on top form with a varied programme of music from the sixteenth to the twenty-first century. Afterwards there was some good socialising in the Bridge Inn, another good sponsor before Oliver Condy was returned to the Burgoyne.

The following morning it was up early to be taken to Darlington station by Festival Chairman Peter Denison-Edson for a train to London. This was a most enjoyable two days for both Oliver and the Festival. Oliver says he intends to come up with his family and sample the walking in the area as well (we hope) as the music. We really enjoyed the opportunity to show off what, where and who we are. There should be a feature article on Swaledale Festival in BBC Music Magazine early in the new year and any month it is worth a read and there is always an excellent CD to listen to.


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