Festival Memories

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Festival Memories

You do not have to look far to read what a precarious situation the performing arts world is currently in.  From pop to classical, guitarists to conductors it is the same the world-over.  Yet we need the arts, aside from the fact that it employs a huge amount of people, it has and always will give great pleasure thereby improving people’s lives.

Some good news is that thanks to the generous support of the public and sponsors, the Newbury Spring Festival is forging ahead with a programme for 2021, they are unable to give too much away at the moment but suffice to say that many cancelled artists have been invited back.  However, as orchestras book up to three years ahead, the programme for St Nicolas Church will be different the programme for which will be announced later in the year.

Over the 43 years that the Festival has been going there have been some incredible performers and performances, here are some favourites as chosen by the management team.

Julian Chadwick
Julian Chadwick, Chairman NSF

Julian Chadwick – Chairman

One of my favourite works is The Dream of Gerontius by Sir Edward Elgar. It is a sublime choral work which touches the soul. I was privileged some years ago to examine the original score which is held in the Library of the Birmingham Oratory. It is held there because that is the Church and community founded by the author of the poem on which the composition is based namely Cardinal (now Saint) John Henry Newman.

The music is absolutely beautiful and speaks to me and my faith-and Cardinal Newman happens to be someone who has had and continues to have a profound influence on my life.

The piece was beautifully performed at the opening concert of my first Festival as Chairman and that night remains in my memory

David Parry, conductor

Mark Eynon – Festival Director

I will never forget an amazing performance of Mendelssohn’s Elijah conducted by David Parry. At 9 oclock on the morning of the concert David rang me to say that soprano Joan Rogers was ill and couldn’t perform, but that he would get back to me after making a few phone calls to other singers. We then discovered that Mary Plazas, who was planning to attend as a guest of one of the other soloists, had dreamt that night that she was actually singing in the performance. Which indeed she did, contributing to a wonderful evening with English Chamber Orchestra, our own festival chorus and the great Sir John Tomlinson in one of his very rare performances of the role.


Sheku Kanneh Mason

Ashley Morris – General Manager

My time with the Festival is comparatively short so luckily I have fewer moments to pick between, but the stand-out moment for me has to be when Sheku Kanneh-Mason appeared at the Festival in 2018. While his performance was, of course, incredible the most amazing thing was his entrance to the Church. The concert had been anticipated for months, it sold out in a matter of hours. That anticipation was palpable as he walked into the packed St. Nicolas Church. The atmosphere was electric before he’d even set foot on the stage! What followed was of course one of the most memorable performances of Elgar’s Cello Concerto.


Jane Pickering – Administrator

Acker Bilk

The last time Acker Bilk came to the Festival, he was very unwell but like most jazz musicians wasn’t going to be beaten into submission without a good blow on his clarinet first!  I went back-stage before the show and met all the band and the man himself sitting in a wheelchair, looking as dapper as always with his stripy waistcoat and colourful bow tie.  His eyes were twinkling at the thought of playing to a packed house once again… a bell went, it was time.  His performance was sublime, I don’t think I have heard him play better, he didn’t miss or fluff a single note. This must have been one of his last concerts as he sadly died a few months later.


Douai Abbey

Sarah and David Denly – Stewards

Picking a favourite concert is nigh impossible with NSF.  We love string quartets and have seen many great performances at the Festival.  But at Douai Abbey, with its evocative setting and lively acoustics, add voices and you can be in heaven indeed.  Our ultimate experience was a performance by Tenebrae of their Russian renditions.  Their singing sounds like a flock of angels and can truly transport us with their music.


St. Nicolas Church

Paul Millard – Festival Chorus Manager

I will never forget the amazing performance of A Sea Symphony, given by the Spring Festival Chorus in 2019.  Tom Primrose had trained the chorus superbly, but on the day of the concert, the conductor was called to a family emergency late that morning. Amazingly another conductor was able to get to Newbury, just in time to take the only rehearsal with the orchestra. It must have been the adrenaline caused by the situation, but that evening the orchestra and chorus united to give an outstanding and memorable performance.  The audience and performers all seemed to be uplifted by the glorious music.





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