North York Moors chamber festival: Focusing on the music

- 25 July 2013

The North York Moors Chamber Music Festival returns for a fifth season this year, running 11-24 August. Set up in 2009 after a series of sell out concerts in the area, the festival exists with the primary aim to bring ‘high quality chamber music to the region at affordable prices so as to encourage culture in the community and break down elitist boundaries,’ says festival founder Jamie Walton.

St Mary’s Church, Lastingham, by festival artist in residence Carol Tyler

St Mary’s Church, Lastingham, by festival artist in residence Carol Tyler

Each year new groups are formed from a roster of 35-40 invited musicians, who this year will include cellist Guy Johnston, violinist Jack Liebeck, lutenist Matthew Wadsworth and pianist Katya Apekisheva: ‘The audience are in possession of a brochure which details each and every musician, the programmes, the histories of the churches and region, photography and art to enhance the experience,’ says Walton, ‘but they aren’t certain which combination of musicians they are going to hear until they arrive at each concert.

‘The music is the key and the motivation is to make that one’s focus, trusting that the performances will be excellent anyway.  It also encourages a kind of informality. Each year the festival is based on a theme and so the fortnight does unfold a ‘story’, a narrative.’

This year’s theme is A Time There Was, celebrating the centenary of Benjamin Britten, his influences and contemporaries and over two weeks, performances will take place across the North York Moors National Park. ‘The area boasts some extraordinary historical venues, mainly along the coast from Scarborough to Whitby, including some gems within the heart of the moors themselves, such as a stunning church with an Anglo-Saxon crypt and vaulted ceiling with wide spaces, ideal for acoustics,’ says Walton.

A particular highlight is set to be the appearance of Sir Peter Maxwell Davies who will be taking up the position of composer-in-residence from 17 August. As part of his residency, he will introduce and discuss his works, giving a talk before the screening of Max, a documentary about his life by Paul Joyce, on 19 August.

The festival also welcomes painter Carol Tyler and photographer Frank Harrison as artists-in-residence who will both capture the visual landscape of the Moors during the course of the festival.

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