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Souvenirs de Cheltenham

This photo expresses one of my most cherished impressions of Cheltenham Music Festival; arriving earlyish in the morning at the deserted Pump Room for a pre-concert rehearsal (the grand daily chamber concert series always begins at 11am) calmly taking in the view over nearby lawns and hills before the musical bustle starts. Many people in the town and far beyond will be missing the Festival this year, as I am. It’s some consolation that music programmer Camilla King has assembled a nifty online site of memories from previous years.

I was overjoyed to find my own 2019 commission here – a flute quartet called The Prelude, written for Phillipa Davies and the Nash Ensemble. Even though I know we’re all punch-drunk from podcasts and YouTube, I’d strongly recommend spending some time exploring the whole collection on this Replay site. Two discussions about new music start with really interesting talks by Thea Musgrave and James Murphy respectively, and are followed by some good composer talk, mostly from younger people in the business.

Camilla has created this retrospective because of the responsibility she feels as a producer to give subsequent performances and attention to Cheltenham world premieres, of which there have been so many. I am not going to argue with her about that. But for me, it’s even more vital and unusual to see a festival taking stock, and being rightly proud of what they have already achieved. In my days as a festival director, we had no sooner attended the last concert for the year, and stacked up the last seat, than we had to start again right at the beginning, thinking about next year, particularly where fundraising was concerned. I sincerely hope that all my favourite festivals, after an enforced year of silence, will rise again well-rested and better than ever.




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