60th Summer Festival
31 July - 10 August 2018
The 60th St Endellion Summer Music Festival was a hugely exciting and memorable two weeks of wonderful music-making. It always amazes me how much can be achieved with generosity, good humour and a willingness to work. We had a programme packed with challenging works which the musicians and audiences alike embraced with great enthusiasm. The opening concert was a particular challenge because Ryan Wigglesworth had to withdraw at the last moment to arrange the funeral of his great friend and mentor, the composer Oliver Knussen. Fortunately the Festival family is full of talent and Adam Hickox’s Festival debut as conductor was brought forward by a week when he agreed to conduct Debussy’s Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune and Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G major. This unexpected change added a real frisson to the performance and it was wonderful to see how naturally Adam assumed the authority needed to guide the orchestra through some very difficult music. The performances were a delight and Charles Owen gave a really beautiful rendition of the Ravel. Elgar’s The Music Makers was, if anything, even more memorable and moving because it was dedicated to Rob O’Connell, a beloved chorus member who died tragically young in the week before the Festival. The opening words
We are the music makers
And we are the dreamers of dreams
are almost a Festival motto and were all the more deeply poignant for being sung by Rob’s friends and colleagues in the presence of Rob’s partner, Debbi Steele, our Festival Treasurer, along with Rob’s parents and sister. Aidan Oliver, in his last Festival as Associate Conductor, led a blazingly heartfelt performance with Susan Bickley as the radiant mezzo-soprano soloist.
It is impossible to do justice in a short review to all the excellence and variety on display this year but some of the highlights include the beautiful playing of the Elgar Cello Concerto by Tim Gill with Ryan Wigglesworth conducting, the versatility and brilliance of the orchestral playing in the concert of Bruckner Adagio, Ravel’s Tombeau de Couperin and Mahler’s 4th Symphony and the riotous verve of the performances of Berlioz’s Damnation de Faust. It was an especial joy to welcome Alan Opie, a Cornishman born and bred, to the Festival as Mephistopheles and his glorious singing in the opera was matched by Fleur Barron, Peter Hoare and Tim Dickinson. The chamber music concerts always show off the depth of talent which we seem to attract to St Endellion each year and it was a special pleasure to witness how Gabby Painter, Joely Koos and Iain Burnside rose to the almost impossible challenge of Tchaikovsky’s Piano Trio. The lunchtime concert on the final Friday in St Kew was as eclectic as any we have had over the years with a harp duet, a six player marimba meditation and a tremendous performance of Brahms Clarinet Quintet. Iain Burnside once again created a very funny and entertaining late night concert investigating the Wagner household and the Chorus and St Endellion Little Big Band delighted us with a programme of Broadway classics introduced and conducted with real panache by Tony Castro.
It is really hard to imagine anywhere in the world with a comparable Festival, where all the performers come together simply because of a shared love of music and the joy of community. This can only happen because of the generosity and enthusiasm of all involved - the musicians and singers, the backstage crew, the cooks and washers-up, the wonderful people who run Junior Endellion, the baristas, the transport team and the people who keep the site running.
I am enormously grateful to all involved and also to the Parish and clergy of St Endellion for welcoming us so warmly and giving us the chance to reconnect with the true spirit that inspires the wonderful art of music