For the latest amateur classical music listings in and around Portsmouth, including Fareham, Petersfield, Chichester, Havant and Hayling Island

Petersfield Musical Festival online retrospective 8: recollecting 2019

This is the last of our 2011-2019 retrospectives. We hope you’ve enjoyed revisiting some of the Festival’s activities over the past decade.

Thank you for your interest and support and we look forward to welcoming you to Festival events in the future.

All being well, we shall be announcing a choral workshop for Saturday 25 September and a full-scale Festival in March 2022.

Click on the year below to open our last email of the series with articles, anecdotes, reviews, photographs and links to websites about the Festival’s music and performers.

In this issue:

Plastikes Karekles

George Dyson: The Canterbury Pilgrims

Brahms: Requiem

Claire Martin and Ray Gelato with the Dave Newton Trio

Trumpeter Jonathan Mitra, pianist Rosie Sheppard and saxophonist Victoria Puttock

Petersfield Brass

Petersfield Orchestra: Rachmaninov’s Symphony no. 2.

Youth Concerts

Family Concert

Choral workshop with Ben Parry & Mark Dancer

Please click on the link below to read more.

Background to this series.

Petersfield Musical Festival online retrospective 7: recollecting 2016

AChoired Taste / Hampshire Guitar Orchestra

The Rio Grande and Carmina Burana

Mark Dancer

Family Concert

Festival of Young Composers

2015-16 saw the fourth biennial Festival of Young Composers, run in conjunction with the Festival’s Michael Hurd Memorial Fund.

Composers are invited to submit scores, which they perform to a panel of three adjudicators and other listeners. The adjudicating panel in January 2016 comprised Festival president, Jonathan Willcocks, the noted composer Roxanna Panufnik and Festival chairman, Philip Young.

A cross between a celebration and a competition, the event has three age classes, with prizes for the winners and runners-up to spend on furthering their musical development. The outstanding compositions of the year were played again at the Youth Concerts in March: ‘Stormy Seas’ by Shoshana Yugin-Power, aged only nine, ‘Love Passing By’, by singer and guitarist Bethany Magennis-Prior, and ’See You Soon’ by Joel Knee, an A level student who brought an eight-piece jazz band to play his complex and beautifully scored piece.

Shoshana returned to the Youth Concerts in 2019 with her piece ’Three Little Pigs’, for narrator and ensemble. In October last year, she was one of 15 young composers to win the BBC ’30- second Composition Challenge’ as part of the ‘Proms at Home’ season.

Trombonist Joel went on to study at the Royal Academy of Music and to become a member of the National Youth Jazz Orchestra.

The theme for the choral items in the Youth Concerts 2016 was Shakespeare’s quatercentenary – interpreted broadly enough to include sixteenth-century songs, conducted by Ben Harlan, choruses from West Side Story conducted by Hamish Newport, and 60s rock and roll from Return to the Forbidden Planet! conducted by Edward Williamson with an instrumental ensemble led by Darren Reeves.

Lunchtime Recital with Sara Deborah and Richard Pearce

Mendelssohn, Schubert and Weber

If the Festival’s first choral concert shook things up, the second brought us back to the familiar home territory of the early Romantics.

A workshop a couple of years earlier had introduced the choirs to Mendelssohn’s beautiful Verleih’ uns Frieden and reminded them that his ‘Hear my Prayer’ is more than ‘O for the wings of a Dove’ – beautifully sung in the concert, as in the workshop, by the young soprano and Petersfield resident Olivia Brett.

Weber’s Mass in E flat is not often performed, and ‘one can perhaps see why’, wrote David Francombe, confessing himself ‘strangely underwhelmed’ as a whole, in spite of some excellent choral singing by Fernhurst and Petersfield choral societies and Midhurst Music Society.

The heart of the programme, as it turned out, was Schubert’s ‘Unfinished’ Symphony, in which Paul Spicer relished the opportunity to work with the musicians of Southern Pro Musica. His meticulous direction, wrote David, ‘lovingly shaped and crafted this much-loved piece’.

Weber’s penchant for operatic drama and instrumental brilliance were on show – rather more than they were in the Mass – in his Concertino for Clarinet in E flat, played by Keir Rowe with every nuance from magical pianissimo to brilliant virtuosity.

Please click on the link below to read more.

Background to this series.

Petersfield Musical Festival online retrospective 6: recollecting 2013

Froxfield Choir – African Sanctus

Under their founding director, Elizabeth Gotto (who retired from the Festival Committee last year after many years as Soloists’ Secretary) Froxfield Choir took part in the Festival’s choral concerts between 1997 and 2004.

Conducted by Elizabeth’s successor, Richard Smith, the choir gave a series of ambitious and memorable concerts in High Cross and Privett, including a spectacular performance of David Fanshawe’s African Sanctus in Privett Church in 2011. The Festival invited the choir to bring its performance to the Festival Hall to open the 2013 Festival. Joined by Churcher’s College Junior Chamber Choir, accompanied by the brilliant Backbeat Percussion Quartet, and with technical support from Jane Fanshawe, the choir gave its packed audience an evening of unforgettable colour and excitement, enhanced by the lighting effects of Simon Auty and the Green “A” Team.

Benjamin Britten’s Centenary – Britten: St Nicholas

Both of the 2013 Festival’s Saturday concerts commemorated the centenary of Britten’s birth on St Cecilia’s Day, 22 November 1913.

On the first Saturday, the choirs coupled Britten’s St Nicolas with the Ode on St Cecilia’s Day (1692) by Britten’s great forbear and inspiration, Henry Purcell. Britten achieved in St Nicolas a combination of accessibility and expressive power that is rare among twentieth-century choral works and which has made it a lasting favourite of choral societies.

The performance under Paul Spicer’s direction in 2013 was the third in Petersfield; the Festival performed it first in 1973 under Richard Seal and again in 1987 with Mark Deller conducting.

Britten: Four Sea Interludes from Peter Grimes

Basingstoke Symphony Orchestra’s association with the Festival began with an all-Beethoven concert in 2008, followed by Mozart’s Requiem in 2009 and Vaughan Williams’ A Sea Symphony in 2011. Alongside the choral music, the programmes have included a variety of orchestral works conducted by the orchestra’s permanent conductor, Stephen Scotchmer – including Stephen’s own Fantasy for Orchestra.

Petersfield Orchestra

What a programme! Petersfield Orchestra‘s Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto no. 2 was of course enough to fill the hall with devotees who had heard it many times. But Piers Burton-Page’s programme note reminded us to listen to it afresh, quoting Hans Keller’s dictum that ‘there are no such things as hackneyed works, but only tired ears’.

The concert opened with a beautiful but less familiar work, the warmly coloured Symphonic Variations by Dvořák.

Young Musicians – Youth and Lunchtime concerts

The 2013 Youth Concerts opened with a selection from Jonathan Willcocks’ Musical Pie. The children enjoyed these snappy songs with their sound effects and question and answer exchanges. However, a group of songs from the very popular show Wicked proved unexpectedly challenging to learn. TPS and Churcher’s College filled the stage with their combined wind band and swing band, and the concert ended with Churcher’s College orchestra playing the Finale of SaintSaëns Organ Symphony and (enthusiastically joined by the choir) Beethoven’s Ode to Joy.

John Tams and Barry Coope

The Festival has not often programmed a full evening of folk music, but in booking John Tams and Barry Coope in 2013 they went straight to the top!

John Tams’ work has spanned five decades in every performance medium. He is a recognised authority on vernacular music and a seven-times winner of the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards. At the National Theatre he has worked as an actor and musical director/composer on over 30 productions including Lark Rise to Candleford.

Please click on the link below to read more.

Background to this series.

Petersfield Musical Festival online retrospective 6: recollecting 2018

Rock choir

Bach: St John Passion

Mozart Requiem with Hampshire County Youth Chamber Orchestra

Kit and McConnel

Angela Zanders

Youth Concerts

Tim Ravalde

Please click on the link below to read more.

Background to this series.

Petersfield Musical Festival online retrospective 5: recollecting 2012


Organ recital with Carlo Curley

Petersfield Orchestra

Petersfield Orchestra seized the chance of using the Allen organ to programme Saint-Saëns glorious ‘Organ Symphony’, with Richard Barnes as the organ soloist and Hiroko Banks and David Groves playing the piano duet.

Reviewing the concert, Elizabeth Gotto wrote that the orchestra ‘launched into the first item (Dvořák’s overture Carnival) with strength and enthusiasm, giving the concert a rousing start, led by their leader, Helen Purchase’.

In Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake suite, Elizabeth noted that the young Lucy Humphris (now a fine professional trumpeter) ’played with confidence and panache in the ‘Neapolitan Dance’’. ‘Strong strings, wind, brass and percussion’, Elizabeth wrote, ‘all joined together to make the Saint-Saëns symphony an unforgettable experience. The Adagio, with its organ part, gave a feeling of spiritual peace and serenity’.

Supporting young players and composers Petersfield Orchestra welcomes talented young players into its ranks, providing invaluable experience of the excitement and discipline of rehearsing and performing with a full orchestra.

As well as Lucy Humphris, several other young musicians over the past decade have benefited from having this opportunity on their doorstep, including composer George Venner, who has been a regular attender at rehearsals.

Some years ago, recalls conductor Robin Browning, the orchestra ran two workshop rehearsals with some of George’s early orchestrations. Between the rehearsals, George revised his score in the light of the issues the first session had brought to light, and on the second occasion ‘we were adeptly able to turn it into orchestral sound right off the bat’.

George’s Three Paronomasias for two clarinets and piano four hands were recorded last year by Rob Blanken (principal clarinet of Petersfield Orchestra) and Emma Alexandra, with pianists Nic Saunders and Matthew Cooke.

Helen Purchase has been leader of Petersfield Orchestra since 2002.

Helen studied at Colchester Institute and Middlesex university before taking up a post at Churcher’s College, initially as a teacher in charge of strings.

She became Director of Music there in 2012, and Head of Performing Arts in 2016. Festival week is always a busy time for Helen, since as well as leading the orchestra in its Thursday concert she coordinates the College’s contribution to the Youth Concerts and conducts the combined jazz bands of Churcher’s and TPS in the two performances.

Outside music, as the orchestra’s website tells us, Helen keeps fit with climbing (Mont Blanc), long distance running, skiing and more.

Mass for Chorus, Brass and Organ for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee with Petersfield Chamber Choir

Ann Pinhey (read a 2020 profile of her on Music in Portsmouth)

Cabaret Evening with Michael Mates and William Godfree

Verdi Requiem – open workshop day led by conductor Paul Spicer

Youth Concerts celebrated the Olympics

Please click on the link below to read more.

Background to this series.

Petersfield Musical Festival online retrospective 4: recollecting 2015

Jonathan Willcocks: A Great and Glorious Victory

In October 2012 Jonathan Willcocks led an inspiring Festival workshop on his choral work A Great and Glorious Victory, timed to coincide with preparations for singers from several UK choirs to join an international choir in Carnegie Hall, New York, in early 2013.

The Festival’s own performance of A Great and Glorious Victory, conducted by Paul Spicer with Peter Aisher as soloist, followed in 2015. The work both inspired and challenged the combined Fernhurst and Petersfield choral societies and Midhurst Music Society, with its complex rhythms, explosive depictions of battle and storm, and powerful emotional range from conflict to resolution.

Trafalgar was not the only battle being fought – David Francombe described the drama of the chorus ‘battling valiantly against a huge volume of sound from the orchestra’.

The work memorably involves the audience singing the great hymns ‘Eternal Father, strong to save‘ and, in conclusion, ‘The day Thou gavest, Lord is ended’. The closing bars, said David, with the offstage soloist singing the word ‘Victory!, Victory!’ were ‘pure magic!’

Also: Hampshire Police Male Voice Choir with Quintessential Brass

National celebrations of the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta – new short cantata with words and music by Philip Young

The Parnassian Ensemble – Their programme for the Festival, subtitled ‘Cross-currents’, included twentieth-century music by Bohuslav Martinù and Ryohei Hirose as well as one of their own commissions, Flourishes and Dances by Steve Marshall, who was in the audience. ‘I hope he was delighted with tonight’s engaging performance, full of jazz rhythms and occasional dissonances,’ wrote Ann Pinhey. Of the whole programme, Ann wrote, ‘Everything was elegant, polished and performed with virtuosity and assurance. Wonderful!’

Petersfield Orchestra – Beethoven’s ‘Egmont’ overture received ‘an impressive performance, full of warmth and drama’, wrote Ann Pinhey. In Bizet’s Symphony in C, ‘Robin Browning galvanised his players, giving a polished, energetic reading.

Gerald Finzi: Intimations of Immortality is a big and challenging work, so who better to prepare a performance than Paul Spicer, a trustee of the Finzi Society and foremost exponent of the British choral music of the period, who named his own chamber choir the Finzi Singers?

Please click on the link below to read more.

Background to this series.

Petersfield Musical Festival online retrospective 3: recollecting 2017

Edward Thomas Centenary Concert

From time to time the Festival puts on a ‘Petersfield special’ – a unique concert relating to the music and community in this part of the world, such as the gala concert of Petersfield Musicians and Composers at the Festival’s centenary in 2001, the memorial concert for Michael Hurd in 2007 and the Rogate Choral Society centenary concert in 2008.

The latest in this series, and the broadest in scope, was the 2017 Edward Thomas Centenary Concert. In order to represent the nature of Thomas’s association with the area, and with Steep in particular, the Festival invited Petersfield Photographic Society to mount an exhibition of photographs inspired by the poetry. Petersfield Museum was also invited to put on a display drawing on the substantial collection of Edward Thomas material held there. The Museum’s trustees and staff, who include members of the Edward Thomas Fellowship, provided invaluable advice and support. The programme of choral and solo vocal and instrumental music was researched and devised by members of the Festival committee and performed by a variety of groups and individuals with local connections, to a capacity audience that included the Lord Lieutenant of Hampshire, Nigel Atkinson, and East Hampshire MP Damian Hinds.

The first half of the concert focused on Thomas’s family, friends and literary contacts, with music he wrote about and settings of poems by his contemporaries. The second half introduced settings of Thomas’s own poetry – many of them little known, but strongly evocative in the context of his life and work, described by Philip Young in a linking narrative.

Most of the choral works were sung by Vox Cantab, the professional chamber choir set up by former Churcher’s College student Louisa Denby, conducted by Jonathan Willcocks and accompanied by Richard Pearce.

A Romantic Choral Feast

Petersfield Orchestra

Johnny Mansfield’s Elftet

Sara Deborah Timossi

Sara Deborah Timossi first performed in Petersfield, as Sara Deborah Struntz, with Petersfield Orchestra in 2009, when she gave a memorable performance of Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto. Her biography for that concert already hinted at her breadth of interests and sympathies: “Aware that every talent bears a responsibility, Sara Deborah strives to bring music’s message and beauty to life to reach her listeners’ hearts; therefore she also performs in hospitals, prisons and care homes.”

In October 2017, she won the First Prize and Audience Prize at the International Baroque Violin Competition Premio Bonporti in Rovereto, Italy, awarded for only the second time since 2003.

Since moving to Liss, Sara Deborah has combined her artistic career with family life and involvement as an environmental activist. She founded the string orchestra SouthDowns Camerata to promote classical music to wide audiences and to support young string players, and leads the Spirit of Music Festival in Liss and Petersfield.

With pianist Richard Pearce, Sara Deborah gave an acclaimed lunchtime recital at the 2016 Festival. She was due to return wearing two hats in 2020 – with SouthDowns Camerata in a concert of eighteenth century choral music, and with the SOS Choir, who were preparing to perform Dorry Macaulay’s song ’SOS from the Kids’ with the combined schools choir at the Youth Concerts. The SOS Choir went on to reach the semi-finals of Britain’s Got Talent in September last year.

Please click on the link below to read more.

Background to this series.

Petersfield Musical Festival online retrospective 2: recollecting 2014 + David Francombe remembered

David Francombe remembered:

It was just a year ago, on the first Saturday of the 2020 Festival, during rehearsals for a concert that David Francombe was due to attend as reviewer, that we received the sad and sudden news that he had passed away.

David came to Petersfield with his first wife, Miriam, in 1965, and quickly established a place as a leading member of the town’s arts activities and the congregation at St Peter’s Church. His first involvement was with the Lion and Unicorn Players, but by 1976 he had started a five-year stint as conductor of Harting Choral Society, which brought him in contact with the Festival. He joined the Festival committee, serving on it until 1985 and then again as vice-chairman from 1998 to 2004.

Familiar with the technical side of Petersfield Festival Hall, David masterminded the Festival’s lighting for many years. Later, he showed his versatility and readiness to help by looking after the Festival Friends for two years, editing and designing the programmes for three Festivals, reviewing concerts, providing liaison with St Peter’s for the Festival’s lunchtime and evening recitals, and latterly managing the priority postal bookings.

All this time, the Festival benefited from his intimate knowledge of the town and his wisdom as an organiser. After Miriam’s premature death in 1976, David devoted himself to the work of a single dad, striking up a companionship with Jillie Booth at a Festival meeting in 1983; this further cemented his Festival connections, since Jillie’s mother, Kay McLeod was Festival secretary. David and Jillie married in 1997 and together they enjoyed twenty-three years of happy and exceptionally busy retirement.

In the reviews of the choral concerts that he wrote between 2012 and 2019, which we shall often be quoting in these recollections, David brought a wide knowledge of choral repertoire and a discriminating ear, together with an appreciation, born of experience, of all that is involved when amateur musicians embark on such big enterprises.

Please click on the link below to read more.

Background to this series.

Petersfield Musical Festival online retrospective 1: Castaway’s Choice with Piers Burton-Page & Paul Spicer

Piers Burton-Page interviews composer, conductor and music writer Paul Spicer about his life, work and 8 favourite pieces of music. Produced by Phillip Young Edited by Chris Bartholomew-Fox

Please click on the link below.

Background to this series.

Ensemble Reza emerge confident from pandemic

Mid-Sussex based Ensemble Reza – regulars at the Festival of Chichester – are in a remarkably strong position.

They can confidently say their year of lockdown and pandemic has been a thoroughly good one.

“We have had an exciting year,” says Ensemble Reza managing director Hannah Carter, “and we have got an exciting future.”

In fact, on Tuesday, March 16, they will notch up their 50th virtual Ensemble Reza Midday Music Concert – a weekly commitment which has been a key way the ensemble has navigated all the challenges of 2020 and into 2021.

Read more at the link below.

Petersfield Musical Festival moves to online retrospectives in 2021

Petersfield Musical Festival online retrospective 1: Castaway’s Choice with Piers Burton-Page & Paul Spicer
Petersfield Musical Festival online retrospective 2: recollecting 2014 + David Francombe remembered

This time last year, preparations for the 2020 Festival’s ten concerts were in full swing and ticket sales were building by the day.

But the news was becoming threatening, and we were only three concerts into the Festival when the curtain suddenly had to come down.

Since then music-lovers have been sadly starved of live performances and musicians have struggled to make ends meet.

Donate to support musicians.

Festival online 12-20 March

Open a daily email to revisit the Festival’s mix of classical and popular music, old friends and new discoveries, inspirational professionals, dedicated local amateurs
and keen, talented youngsters.

PMF’s online retrospectives will feature many of the 73 Festival concerts presented in the Festival Hall and St Peter’s Church between 2011 and 2019.

These are not recordings of the concerts, but expect articles, anecdotes, reviews, photographs and links to websites where you can hear and see more about each year’s music and performers.

They won’t be in chronological order, so discover the featured year when you log in.

Join us from Friday 12 to Saturday 20 March for a daily reminder of the variety and excitement of nine different Festivals!

Donate to Petersfield Musical Festival

Festival of Chichester eyes up summer possibilities with major IT upgrade

The Festival of Chichester is planning confidently for the future with a major IT investment – thanks to generous grant support from Chichester District Council.

CDC is giving the festival a grant of £1,600 towards the cost of a new website and a new vastly-improved event registration system.

Festival chairman Phil Hewitt said: “This is brilliant news for the festival in such an uncertain year – and we are hugely grateful to the district council for recognising the importance of what we do, not just in Chichester but in the wider district. The new systems have been masterminded by our committee member Simon O’Hea who has done a wonderful job in envisaging just how much more efficient we really ought to be… and are now going to be!”

Read more at the link below.

Welcome to Ports Fest

After 20 years of being Portsmouth Festivities, we are rebranding the cultural festival to Ports Fest. With the festival’s ever-evolving reputation in the city, we want to refresh our look and name to be on-trend and expand on our offering to the public. Ports Fest has been a well-known abbreviation for the festival for many years as our hashtag.

In the past we have been grateful to host hundreds of well-known artists, speakers, and authors, as well as involving thousands of local community residents, groups and school pupils. As well we have created fun thematic programmes to get the public involved with, such as Play Code City, The World’s Smallest Escape Room and 20 Love.

Although we had to cancel our festival in 2020 this has given us the chance to reflect on our work and think about ways to deliver an outdoor weekend festival in 2021 that will involve as many young people and as much of the Portsmouth community as possible.

The dates for this year’s festival will be July 2nd-4th and the theme for this year “Remember, Reimagine, Reset”.

We will be launching the programme for this year’s festival in May. Please be assured that the festival remains aware of the current restrictions and will always adhere to these forms of guidance locally and nationally, keeping everyone’s health and safety at the main core of this festival going ahead. “Our priority is to work around the stipulations in order to keep absolutely everyone safe. In light of this we are keeping positive that we will be able to deliver Ports Fest this summer. By then we will all need some live arts and cultural sustenance” Erica Smith, Festival Director.

In these unprecedented times, we want to bring to the community this Summer some fun-filled events for all to enjoy. Despite this, we are future planning and hopeful that our fuller programme will be back for 2022.

Head to our new website to find out more on what we do and will continue to provide to the community of Portsmouth and the surrounding areas.

The 2021 Petworth Festival previewed

We are doubtless far from being the first to wish you a happy new year, but a happy new year to you all the same from the Petworth Festival team. We really hope that 2021 will turn out to be a different year to 2020. I am sure we are all agreed on that!

But if 2020 was memorable for anything other than the pandemic I hope that most if not all of you will have taken something positive from the Petworth Festival Autumn Special, the fortnight of ‘almost live but definitely online’ events we ran towards the end of October. The response received at the time was overwhelmingly positive, and we came away feeling we had definitely done something to help fill the terrible void Covid-19 has brought to our lives. We also found out just how welcome was the opportunity for the performers and authors whose livelihoods have otherwise been so dramatically affected by the lockdown.

2021 is now upon us of course, and in the same way that we negotiated last year’s white-water ride, we are again looking to lay on a festival we can be proud of and one that continues to build on the momentum we have so happily gathered in the last few years. At the time of writing we can’t wholly guarantee that all our plans will all see the light of day, but in the sincere hope that they will, we invite you to join us at 7pm on Tuesday 2 February for an online event that will give you the first glimpse of what we are planning for July.

‘The 2021 Festival Previewed’ will run for roughly 35 minutes and will tell you where we are, what our plans are and, crucially, invite your continued support. As we said repeatedly at the time, the 2020 festival was only made possible by the support of our Sponsors, Patrons and Friends, and we hope that this event will both whet your appetite for our summer plans, and encourage you to continue or develop your support for what we are trying to achieve in and for Petworth. If you can’t join us on Tuesday, the video will be available on until 31 March.

So do join us to see some clips of ‘the best of 2020’ as well as to meet some of the performers chalked in for July.

Update to plans for the Festival of Chichester in 2021

We are still looking forward to the 2021 Festival of Chichester between 12 June to 11 July and hoping to be able to return to a lively, eclectic programme of arts events.

However, because of the current circumstances, the festival committee feels that we need to delay our festival entry window from February to March. We will keep in touch with you and confirm closer to the date that the entry window will open on Monday 1 March and will close on Wednesday 31 March. As previously advised, all entries will need to be submitted via a new registration form at You have the usual guidance and information to help you complete your application. If all progresses to plan, the box office at The Novium will open for ticket sales on 1 May.

If the national situation means we won’t be able to progress to a full live festival in 2021, we’ll be planning for a new kind of online festival, perhaps also including some open-air events or socially distanced gatherings, depending on the rules applicable at the time.

We are planning an active publicity programme to develop contacts and to enable us all to work together by supporting each other’s events and maximizing the benefit of all our individual contacts and mailing lists. By working together, we can amplify the message and this will help you to reach a wider audience for the events you are planning.

Festival of Chichester: The Festive Jazz Café

Each December, the Festival of Chichester puts on an exciting evening of jazz and readings to celebrate the Christmas season and to raise much-needed funds to kickstart next summer’s festival. All the performers are giving their services free so if you enjoy the festive fun, please consider making a small donation.

This year, it is going virtual.

You can enjoy online fantastic jazz from The Dream Duo, Julian Marc Stringle (vocals and clarinet) with Dominic Ashworth (guitar) plus stimulating Greek-influenced jazzy sounds from Pavlos Carvalho with Rebetiki Serenata.

Guest poet is Romani writer Raine Geoghegan, plus dramatized readings from A Christmas Carol by Gareth Williams – film/TV/stage actor and ex-singer with the million-selling group The Flying Pickets….remember Only You? That’s Gareth! Also featuring actress Paula Tinker with festive readings.

Come back to the page linked below on Friday 11th December for a 7.30pm première. All the performances will be available to view throughout the rest of December.

Petersfield Musical Festival Newsletter Autumn 2020

It’s been the toughest year on record for musicians, with professionals deprived of their livelihoods and amateurs unable to take part in the groups and activities they love.

The Festival was stopped in its tracks by the March lockdown and lost its planned Choral Workshop in September. However, planning for 2021 continues, though necessarily on a smaller scale than usual.

Meanwhile, individuals and groups have found enterprising ways to keep singing and playing – whether online, outdoors, or socially distanced under strict conditions.

Our autumn Newsletter reports on the Festival’s online AGM, and brings stories from local singers and instrumentalists about how they have succeeded in making and sharing music under lockdown,

Read the full newsletter: 46 Petersfield Musical Festival Newsletter_33_Autumn_2020_colour

If you would like to support professional musicians by contributing to Help Musicians (formerly The Musicians Benevolent Fund) please click here.


Festival of Chichester annual public meeting switches to Zoom

Organisers of the Festival of Chichester are setting the ball rolling for next year with their annual public meeting.

The plan is for a Zoom meeting on Tuesday, November 17, beginning at 7pm. Drop us an email to to receive details on how to confirm your attendance.

Read more at the link below.

Still chance to catch Petworth Festival Autumn Special online

Petworth Festival rose to the challenge of the toughest of times to pull off a hugely successful autumn special.

“Somehow we made it happen and boy was it good”, says artistic director Stewart Collins. The live part of the festival concluded last Sunday night. “At any point over the last six months we could have had the rug pulled from underneath us as we went in and out of various levels of lockdown or Covid-based restriction, but remarkably we have been able to stage and stream all 26 of our events problem-free and received the most gratifying amount of support and appreciation as a result.

Read more at the link below.

Mitsuko Uchida plays Schubert at Petworth Festival

Like almost every other festival this year, Petworth’s annual summer music festival, which normally takes place in July, fell victim to the restrictions imposed in response the coronavirus pandemic, but rather than cancel this year’s festival altogether, its organisers sensibly moved the music festival to the autumn and combined it with the literary festival. The events are all online, though some are live, with audience, to create “a real ‘Petworth’ feel about them” (Stewart Collins, Artistic Director) and, as always, there’s a fantastic line up of performers and guests, including Sheku and Isata Kanneh Mason, The London Mozart Players with Howard Shelley, and Mitsuko Uchida. Petworth Festival always attracts an impressive roster of performers and amply confirms that there is very high quality music-making to be found outside of the capital.

We’re all pretty used to watching concerts via livestream and videocasts now; superior technology allows such broadcasts to be presented with high-quality sound and visuals, which undoubtedly enhances the experience. It’s impossible to entirely recreate being in a concert hall, but one of the advantages of livestream is that you can choose when the view the concert: watch it live or at your own convenience, perhaps in the middle of the afternoon, as I did with this particular concert. With my laptop connected to the tv in the living room and a cup of tea in hand, I settled down to enjoy Mitsuko Uchida playing two sonatas by Franz Schubert.

Read more at the link below.

London Mozart Players Ensemble set to open 2020 Petworth Festival

The curtain rises on this autumn’s special edition of the Petworth Festival with a celebration of Beethoven’s 250th anniversary.

Howard Shelley directs the London Mozart Players Ensemble in a performance of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No 3 on Friday, October 16 at 8pm. The concert opens with the opening Adagio-Allegro assai from Haydn’s 94th Surprise Symphony.

Events will happen live to small invited audiences of sponsors and friends – but will be streamed, giving the public the chance to buy tickets and attend the events online.

Read more at the link below.

Plans for the Festival of Chichester 2021

We are looking forward to the 2021 Festival of Chichester, which will run between 12 June and 11 July, and are hoping to be able to return to a lively, eclectic programme of arts events.

It was such a disappointment to be forced to cancel the fantastic plans we had lined up for the 2020 live festival, but we’ve been very pleased with the positive responses to our Virtual Festival, which helped us keep the festival flag flying and stay in touch with our loyal audiences. Now it’s time to start planning for the next festival.

Because of the current uncertainty, the festival committee feels we have to keep our options open to see how the situation develops. We are therefore postponing entries from the usual November to end of January time frame to a month-long entry window in January, which will now be open from 1 to 31 January. We are also developing a new online entry system designed to streamline the process. We will keep you updated with this as work progresses.

This year our usual autumn public meeting will have to be a virtual one. The plan is for a Zoom meeting on Tuesday 17 November, beginning at 7pm, when we can update you with news of what the plans are for 2021 and of course hear all your helpful feedback, suggestions and advice. This meeting is open to anyone to attend and speak. Please email if you would like to receive the Zoom link.

If the national situation means we won’t be able to progress to a full live festival in 2021, we’ll be planning for a new kind of online festival, perhaps also including some open-air events or socially distanced gatherings, depending on the rules applicable at the time. We are very grateful for the fantastic support we’ve had from our organisers and audience members. You deserve a great festival and we will do all we can to provide the best festival the times will allow.

Profile: Stewart Collins, producer and artistic director of the Petworth Festival

The Petworth Festival has announced its special autumn programme yesterday. 25 events will be filmed live from the festival’s ‘home’ venues St Mary’s Petworth and the Leconfield Hall and will be streamed via its website.

Simon O’Hea has been in conversation with its artistic director, Stewart Collins.

As an artistic director, what informs your musical preferences?

I am keen to get away from pigeonholing people into the various genres. I love musicians who are able to move between the various genres – Joanna MacGregor, Matthew Barley, André Previn and Leonard Bernstein come particularly to mind.

I am particularly fond of 19th-century Romantic and French impressionist music, but I also admire the great Jazz musicians. One of my favourite pieces is Oscar Peterson’s Hymn to Freedom, which I programmed as part of the festival’s 40th anniversary year to be played by four pianists from four different traditions, which was amazing.

I was brought up to believe that classical music was the one and only thing. But once I’d become a professional choral singer, I saw that genius has many different disguises, and that there is an incredible amount of talent everywhere you look. Having to make a living from music-making, I also recognised how hard you have to work whatever your calling if you are to make it in the harshly competitive world we live in. I think that it’s given me an empathy with up-and-coming musicians, and a good reading of talent.

Having been both a choral scholar as well as an active member of the Footlights whilst a history student at Cambridge, I co-founded the four-part group Cantabile which was set up in the mould of the King’s Singers. We did quirky numbers drawn from across the board – cabaret, madrigals, topical songs, Schubert lieder and a whole lot more, including a memorable 15 month run in the West End.

After 15 years of professional singing, family pressures eventually made for a change, and I was fortunate to be offered the position of artistic director of the Henley Festival. I’ve now been there for 30 of its 39 years. I’ve been artistic director of the Petworth Festival for 11 years and proud to have seen that reach its 40th year, not to mention having founded a now very well established literary week.

What makes for success in directing an arts festival such as Petworth?

It’s a bit like being a cook: you identify incredibly good ingredients, but until they are stirred into the mix and cooked up they won’t make a good dish. And, following the cooking analogy through, you need to be able to find a balance of flavours. A kaleidoscope is better than one theme. You will be looking to cater to a wide variety of tastes.

I’ve also very much supported identifying and bringing on new, young talent. Over the past five years I’ve fostered a most valuable relationship with the Royal Academy of Music, a relationship which has resulted in concert series at each of the last five festivals featuring soloists and performers selected and endorsed by senior staff at the conservatoire. Beyond that we’ve also made a point of working year-on-year with ensembles from West Sussex Music, and more recently both The Musicians’ Company and the Live Music Now charity. Gratifyingly the audiences for these events have really been building.

What about this autumn’s festival?

In July we ran a cut-down festival, online. And this autumn we are looking to distil the best of what we had in the summer into a 15-day programme featuring the highest-profile events that we ran in the summer. It’s wonderful that such talent is available to join us. Some of it will be drawn from the RAM. We’ll also be re-broadcasting Harry Rylance and the Voreios Trio, all of whom are young and extremely gifted musicians, while there will be a small live audience for the other events. Read more

We are extremely thankful to our sponsors: there are too many to mention individually, but you can read their names here.

We have already been overwhelmed by the support we have received from many of our Friends and Supporters, but the Festival will still need all the help it can get to enable us to overcome the many challenges the Covid-19 crisis has forced on us. As such we appeal to everyone who loves the Petworth Festival to help us survive into 2021 and beyond by making a donation, however small. Thank you.

Petworth Festival Special unveils autumn programme

A strong line-up in Petworth this autumn (Friday 16 October – Sunday 1 November) will give us a taste of the summer festival that never was.

Go to the festival web page to view what’s on.

This summer’s Petworth Festival, along with festivals the length and breadth of the country, was forced off the calendar by the COVID pandemic.

But to ensure that this year doesn’t pass entirely festival free, organisers of the Petworth Festival have come up with a special season of highlights, adding a week of performances to the start of what will be Petworth’s tenth literary festival, all under the banner the 2020 Petworth Festival Special.

Watch a preview by artistic director Stewart Collins on YouTube, and visit the festival website to find out more.

Read a profile of Stewart Collins here.

Read more at the link below.

Petworth Festival announces its autumn 2020 programme

Petworth Festival looks different in 2020 but we are thrilled to bring you something special this autumn. 25 events comprising what we do best – musical performance and literary wonder – all filmed live in our ‘home’ venue St Mary’s Petworth and streamed via our website.

Sheku and Isata Kanneh-Mason were due to play at the festival this summer and we are delighted they can join us in the autumn together with their mother Kadiatu Kanneh-Mason who will be talking about her new book ‘House of Music – Raising the Kanneh-Masons’ as part of our 10th Anniversary Literary Week.

Other names announced so far include: William Boyd, MILOŠ, Vanessa Branson, Mitsuko Uchida, Anthony Horowitz, Patti Boulaye, Michael Morpurgo and Clare Teal.

Artistic Director, Stewart Collins says ‘You’ll understand my excitement I’m sure when I found I was able to secure probably the biggest name in classical music at the moment, the cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason [who will perform with his equally high profile sister, pianist Isata], as well as the solo guitarist MILOŠ who was responsible for the longest waiting list in the festival’s history on his first visit. Add in one of the world’s greatest pianists Mitsuko Uchida and we’re genuinely in unprecedented territory as far as the festival is concerned.’

Full programme announced and booking online from 17 September. Read more.

Petworth Festival – free online concert to celebrate what should have been the 42nd Petworth Festival

With the 42nd Festival due to have opened on Tuesday 14 July, the Petworth Festival team are proud to announce an online event that will run throughout the festival fortnight, at the end of which a further announcement will be made about the extended 2020 Petworth Festival Special which will take place in October to include the 10th Anniversary Literary Week.

Between 7.30pm on Tuesday 14 July and midnight on Saturday 1 August, at any point you will be able to catch an online mini-concert that is being specially recorded in St Mary’s Church, a three-part celebration that features two remarkable sets of students from the Royal Academy of Music and one of the festival’s all-time favourite performers, the piano genius, Harry the Piano. Each will give sparkling, short performances to remind us all of the wonderful chemistry between live music and the festival’s beautiful ‘home’ venue.

The concert will be made available free of charge, but as Festival Artistic Director Stewart Collins makes clear, ‘there is of course no such thing as a free lunch – or in this case, a completely free concert. It will come as no surprise to anyone to hear that the cancellation of the summer’s festival has come at a very significant cost, and that whilst many of our wonderful supporters and sponsors have ensured that the damage isn’t fatal, we do urgently need to raise funds to minimise the impact both this year and into the future. We sadly had to cancel the biggest planned expansion of events aimed at the wider community this summer, but hopefully a successful appeal alongside July’s online event will ensure that we can resuscitate plans in 2021.’

You can log on to watch the summer special through the festival’s website,

Further info on the performers:
Further information:
Harry the Piano
Harry Rylance
Voreios Trio

Great events still to come in the Virtual Festival of Chichester

Plenty of highlights remain to come as this year’s Virtual Festival of Chichester enters its fourth week.

The day’s events will be added at 7pm ready for enjoying at the traditional 7.30pm event time. Festival events will then stay online all summer.

Go to

Read more below.

Review of “The Canterbury Pilgrims” at the Petersfield Musical Festival

To most people of a musical disposition, the name George Dyson will not ring many bells. Google “Dyson” and one gets a lot of information about vacuum cleaners. Those who sing in church choirs will have come across his splendid settings of the Canticles for Evening Prayer, Dyson in F and Dyson in D but few will have heard his masterpiece, “The Canterbury Pilgrims”, in performance…until last week, when the work was given a splendid performance at the Petersfield Musical Festival.

Under the calm baton of Paul Spicer, and with the Southern Pro Musica in top form, The Festival Chorus, resplendent in their multi-coloured apparel, gave it their all. In the opening Prologue the choir sings a capella with the orchestra topping and tailing each phrase; here the balance was good, the dynamics followed the composer’s instructions and the intonation was spot on. Towards the end of the prologue the choir were joined by the tenor soloist, Nathan Vale. Vale has a pleasant uncomplicated voice but needed to “sell” himself rather more to his audience – a little underpowered.

In section ll, The Knight, the orchestra came into its own, Dyson making full use of all departments, especially the large brass section. The choir managed to hold their own against this wall of sound and I was reminded of Vaughan William’s Sea Symphony in some of the more “full-on” moments. In The Squire we were treated to some delightfully delicate playing and we were introduced to the soprano soloist, Sofia Larsson as “The Nun”. She has a beautifully clear voice and an engaging presence which interacted with the audience.

In The Monk, we met the Baritone soloist, Edward Ballard. Ballard has a big voice which was ideally suited to the work. He was not overshadowed by the orchestra and one could hear every word. This was followed by The Clerk of Oxenford, to my mind one of the best parts of the evening. The tenors start a craggy fugue section, the other parts joining in with some precise, detailed singing. The first half ended with a march-like theme for the tenor and the chorus joining in with another fugue-like section, which, given the murmurs of appreciation from the audience, was enjoyed by all.

The second half started with The Franklin with the band going hammer and tongs and the Baritone battling bravely, if not always quite successfully. Again the influence of Vaughan Williams could be detected. In The Doctor of Physic, tenor Nathan Vale was more at ease and sang with assurance and clarity of diction. Sofia Larsson made the fun piece The Wife of Bath very much her own. With a jaunty accompaniment, she obviously enjoyed herself and delighted the audience with a stratospheric final B flat. In The Poor Parson we experienced some excellent four-part singing from the Chorus and the evening ended with L’Envoi.

I left happy but with a slight niggle that something was not quite right. On reflection I came to the conclusion that the work is a series of short separate vignettes and that there is no narrative to hold the piece together. Maybe that is why The Canterbury Pilgrims is not often heard? That said, it was a splendid evening’s music making and a great credit to all concerned.

David Francombe

Image: Sir George Dyson (c) The Royal College of Music

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