A trio of classic musical feasts

THREE stunning opera gala concerts with music which includes Mozart, Verdi and Bizet are to open the first-ever Northumberland Music Festival to be held in October.

Exciting young Head of Music at Garsington Opera, Robin Newton, is responsible for the programme and he will introduce the performances by the singers, all of whom are singing in the county for the first time. The concerts, on October 28, 29 and 30, will be performed at both Doxford and Eshott Halls, and will feature both great music and fine food, with dinner or lunch included with the tickets, as required.

The concert programme presents arias, duets, trios and quartets from key operas in the repertoire. Pieces are included from La Traviata, Le Nozze di Figaro, Carmen and Cosi fan’tutte. The soloists all have impressive musical backgrounds bringing a soaring professionalism to complement the elegant Georgian settings of Doxford and Eshott.

Among the singers Robin has invited to join the Northumberland Music Festival are soprano Samantha Crawford, who regularly performs on BBC Radio 3, and has appeared on BBC’s Last Night of the Proms, the Children in Need Concert and Songs of Praise.

Robin said: “I’m delighted to be presenting two outstanding programmes bookending the very first Northumberland Music Festival. To open the week’s music-making, I have programmed a varied and, I hope, engaging collection of music from some of the greatest works in the operatic canon sung by an exciting quartet of young soloists.

“Closing the festival are two performances of a Gilbert and Sullivan programme by the wonderful Much Loved Productions Ltd who will showcase some of the most experienced G&S performers in the country.”

Robin has a reputation as an imaginative, dramatic conductor of a wide repertoire. Other highlights of his current season include appearances with the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra, the London Mozart Players, and Co-Opera Co. He has worked with internationally-renowned orchestras and opera houses including the London Philharmonic Orchestra, the Philharmonia, the BBC Symphony Orchestra, Opera North, and English National Opera. As a symphony conductor, he regularly performs a wide repertoire and has worked closely with Andrew Litton and Jirí Belohlávek.

The festival is the brainchild of Robert Parker, who owns the two halls and Guyzance Hall, where he also lives. He said: “I love music and Northumberland, and the festival is my way of uniting both passions. Many of our performers are playing or singing here for the first time, which reflects the fact that though Northumberland has great musical traditions, it doesn’t have much experience of great performances. We hope the festival will start to change that.”

In addition to the two gala opera concerts, the festival will feature a huge variety of music including two Gilbert and Sullivan concerts, again presented by Robin Newton who has assembled a strong cast of former members of D’Oyly Carte Opera Company, including mezzo soprano Pauline Birchall and tenor Stephen Brown.

Further performance will include Manchester’s Polyphonic Brass Quintet and The Kingsmead Quartet, regular performers with the Royal Philharmonic. Guaranteed to give the younger members of the audience something to aspire to will be a piano recital by students from Chetham’s School of Music and Murray McLachlan, Head of Keyboard. The music of the north east is also well represented with concerts from The Durham Miners’ Association Brass Band and traditional music from the local duo with an international reputation Northumbrian Pipes and Fiddles and the Northumberland Ranters.

For full details about the Northumberland Music Festival, call 01668 283100 or visit www.nmfestival.com.

A donation from ticket sales will be made to the Great North Air Ambulance, Macmillan Cancer Support and HospiceCare North Northumberland.