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Music Editorial

hexhamabbey18.jpg Get the Abbey habit

The Hexham Abbey Festival of Music & Arts returns for four days at the back end of September and, as ever, it’s overflowing with good stuff.

Since the Hexham Abbey Festival was founded in 1953 it has attracted many world famous names including Benjamin Britten, Peter Pears, George Malcolm and The King’s Singers, but, for many, the true star of the event remains the glorious medieval abbey itself as it provides a stunning backdrop and perfect acoustics.

This year’s theme will look back at two events from one hundred years ago: the signing of the Armistice on 11 November, and (some) British women gaining the right to vote.

Vaughan Williams, the composer of the oratorio being performed on Saturday evening, served in the army and wrote his passionate plea for peace in 1936, when another war was in prospect. Jack Ellicott, whose letters home you can hear read on Sunday evening, joined in 1915 and was killed the following year.

The organ music played at the church services during the Festival will include pieces by Sir George Dyson, who saw active service, and Dame Ethel Smyth, a dedicated suffragette who was imprisoned for her activities.

A big coup for the organisers this year will be an appearance by the poet Simon Armitage who will open the festival on 27 September talking about the challenges of writing poetry for his First World War project ‘Still’.

Mozart will also be a thread running through Friday’s to Sunday’s concerts: John Butt will play his Fantasia in F Minor, K616; the Festival Orchestra will perform his Sinfonia Concertante in E flat, K364; and the Festival Winds will perform his Serenade in C minor, K388.

Among the acclaimed acts playing this year will be vocal group I Fagiolini (pictured – in their candlelit concert they will perform works ranging from Monteverdi to Flanders & Swann), Soprano Rachel Nicholls, baritone Jerome Knox, saxophonist Harry Greene, and Hexham Brass Band.

We’re only touching on the full programme here, so be sure to check out the full listings from the website, below.

Hexham Abbey Festival of Music & Arts, Thursday 27-Sunday 30 September. hexhamabbeyfestival.org.uk