Thanks to the Brixworth Music Festival, I’ve just spent most of the weekend in the largest Anglo-Saxon church in England, dating from the 7th Century. Inside, it has an even older feel – that of an early Christian basilica, arches lined with brickwork purloined from nearby Roman villas. Spacious and airy, the acoustic is excellent, a boon for this lively 10-day musical event.
I visited thanks to Gwion Thomas, an exceptional opera singer colleague, who moved here when his wife the Revd. Chloe Willson-Thomas, also a singer, took over the parish. Also living part-time in the village was Vivienne Olive, a York and Freiburg-trained composer who for many years has been a professor of composition in Nuremberg. (I was agog with admiration at Vivienne’s ability to do this very technical job in German, when I frequently find it defeats my own powers of English).
With true synergy at work in a small community, the Festival was born. The concerts I heard (by amongst others Northampton Chamber Orchestra, the John Clare Wind Quintet and Swarbrick Singers) stood out for their skillful mix of old and new, their healthy attendances and their communicative presentation. Vivienne, from a partly non-British perspective found it remarkable that professional standard ensembles kept turning up for expenses-level pay. I gained the impression that Northamptonshire is still active at county music level – many performers were teaching locally, and a talented teenage bassoon soloist in the orchestral concert had mastered her instrument via the county music route. All is not lost (yet).