Full steam ahead for the Two Moors Festival, October 11-21.

United KingdomUnited Kingdom Full steam ahead for the Two Moors Festival, October 11-21.

“The train now approaching Platform 3 is the Bach Express”. Don’t be surprised to hear announcements of this kind if you are passing through Tiverton Parkway Railway Station in October. The station is the unlikely venue for five of the Two Moors Festival’s thirty concerts taking place between 11th and 21st October. It’s not so whacky a location as one might think, as the Ticket Office boasts excellent acoustics and particularly so for unaccompanied Bach. Between the 11.38 to London Paddington and the next train, a partita or two will fit very nicely with the odd gigue thrown in for good measure.

The festival has always boasted an adventurous nature and whilst a station, a canal and the top of Exmoor have been targeted as ‘must have’ places in which to hear Beethoven or bagpipes, one mustn’t forget the more obvious places in which to hold concerts. Churches across both Exmoor and Dartmoor are the more common, and no less so this year. Performers of the calibre of Katarina Karnéus, John Williams, Ashley Wass, Martin Roscoe, Cédric Tiberghien, Donald Maxwell, Tai Murray and Kathryn Thomas as well as the Orchestra of the Swan, Brodsky Quartet, Quintessence Brass Ensemble and others will be heading southwestwards – by train or road – to participate in this Festival which will celebrate the anniversaries of Kathleen Ferrier, Charles Dickens, Robert Browning, the sinking of the Titanic and the 1662 Book of Common Prayer.

Suiting the concert to the church can be quite a problem and everyone would agree that trying to fit a jumbo-sized Bösendorfer into Culbone (the smallest church in England) would be daft, and there are many other churches also into which it does not fit – Chulmlelgh, for example. Another problem is the size of the working area. It’s surprising how much space is taken up by a string quartet, and of course you can’t sit too close to a trumpet or your ears will be blasted! All these things have to be factored in when arranging the programme so it’s no surprise that the 18 players involved in Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde will be taking place on the 13th October in Ashburton’s capacious church. The 4 Girls/4 Harps – whose harps take up a huge amount of space – will be in North Molton on 20th where there’s a sizeable platform. The concert celebrating the 350th Anniversary of the Book of Common Prayer concert is taking place at St Peter’s, Tiverton which boasts one of the best organs anywhere.

Cosy moorland churches are wonderful for chamber music, and Dunster is just the right place to hear Beethoven’s Septet. Likewise, the pretty church in Witheridge will open its doors to the phenomenally gifted violinist, Hyeyoon Park for her lunchtime recital on 17th in which she plays Beethoven’s Spring Sonata. If you want something jazzy, then Barnstaple’s St Peter’s Church couldn’t be better for the celebrated guitarists, John Williams and John Etheridge on the 20th.

No one can deny that the Festival has boosted business in an off-season period of the year by the spade load. It has had a profound influence on raising the cultural awareness of the south-west and persuaded many a tourist to venture into the area when all the buckets and spades have gone home. Musically speaking, artists at the highest and most eminent level are finding themselves on a ‘waiting list’ – and at the up-and-coming end of the scale, the standard of the Young Musicians Plarform competition has not only risen dramatically but also attracts entries from across the entire region.

Ticket sales have risen significantly and several concerts have already sold out – another sign of success. It’s said that people need cheering up when times are hard and it looks as if the festival is certainly ticking that box. For further information and booking view the website www.thetwomoorsfestival.com or phone 01643 831006.

Penny Adie