2014 marks the centenary of the outbreak of The Great War and our opening and closing days are dedicated to it. The Festival begins with a performance of Mozart’s Requiem featuring four young soloists, the same age as many of those who lost their lives, and it ends with three events at the Corn Exchange: a lunchtime recital From Your Ever Loving Son Jack, which mixes songs with letters from a 19 year old soldier killed at the Somme, an afternoon symposium where four of the country’s leading military historians examine and debate the causes and outcome of the conflict, and finally a screening of the classic film All Quiet on the Western Front.
We remain however, predominantly a music festival, and continue to present a world class line up of orchestras, soloists and ensembles of the highest international standards, bringing together young and established artists. This year’s John Lewis Young Stars are the remarkable soprano Ruby Hughes who appears with the English Chamber Orchestra on our first night, the violinist Alexander Sitkovetsky who joins the Moscow Philharmonic on the middle Saturday, Joseph Middleton and his Myrthen Ensemble comprising the leading lieder singers of their generation, vibrant jazz saxophonist YolanDa Brown and Unexpected Opera, a quartet of adventurous opera singers in their highly original show. Brilliant young Russian pianist Yevgeny Sudbin was recently awarded the Critics Circle Music Award for Exceptional Young Talent, and I am delighted to welcome him both for his solo recital and for a specially devised chamber concert at Highclere Castle. Voces8 is the leading young vocal ensemble to have recently emerged on the international scene, as is the Aurora Orchestra the most exciting instrumental ensemble of their generation; both will make their festival debuts this year, while I’m delighted to welcome back Ballet Central with their current company of talented dancers. In addition to these young stars we have an outstanding line-up of young prize winning musicians for our regular lunchtime Young Artists Recital Series where the returning Fugata Quintet had such a success in 2013 and which this year includes BBC New Generation Artist Trish Clowes, who is developing an impressive following on the contemporary jazz scene as both composer and saxophonist.
In contrast to all this new talent I am delighted to welcome some established musical greats: jazz legend Chris Barber who opens the festival’s residency at the Corn Exchange, is celebrating 65 years as leader of his band, and on our last night at St Nicolas Church, great British pianist John Lill performs with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in his 70th birthday year. Legendary counter tenor James Bowman and veteran early music soprano Catherine Bott will serenade us at Audley Inglewood, and Britain’s senior string quartet, the Chillingirian, will perform at Englefield House. Eric Whitacre and Simon Halsey are among the most important choral directors working anywhere in the world today and I am delighted to welcome them both with their own choirs, the Eric Whitacre Singers who will make their debut at Douai Abbey and the 120-strong London Symphony Chorus which promises to fill St Nicolas Church. Jazz genius Django Bates is one of Britain’s most established and respected musicians and he and his band will also be making their Festival debut in this year’s Corn Exchange programme as will one of the leading folk singers of her generation, Gwyneth Herbert, while star guitarist Craig Ogden returns to the Festival with an orchestra of local young guitar students. I’m equally delighted to welcome to Newbury three of the country’s most distinguished personalities, all of them national treasures: Anne Reid in cabaret at The Vineyard, Maureen Lipman for an afternoon interview at Sydmonton Court and Jeremy Paxman who will talk about his latest book Great Britain’s Great War at Englefield House.
I am pleased to not only welcome so many new artists to Newbury this year, but also introduce two new venues, Ramsbury’s historic Holy Cross Church, once a cathedral, and newly restored Audley Inglewood, both of which we look forward to visiting. With over forty-five events in twenty venues there is much to enjoy over the coming festival fortnight in this its 36th year. With your support we can look forward with confidence to many more.
To all our artists and audiences, whether regular visitors or newcomers, I wish you a very warm welcome!
Mark Eynon - Festival Director