The story so far
In 2015 four musicians/music enthusiasts decided to bring world-class classical music to Fowey, drawing on the contacts of Ambrose and Celia Miller. Ambrose has been Artistic Director of the Kings Lynn Festival since 1998 and he was director of Stratford-on-Avon Music Festival from 2007 to 2016. For many years he has also advised venues on how to promote classical music and encouraged performances by young instrumentalists all across the globe, most notably with the European Union Chamber Orchestra which he co-founded and manages together with his wife and former cellist (Celia Pond).
Fowey Valley Music complements the Fowey Festival of Words and Music held annually in May.
Looking always to expand musical horizons, the organisors of Fowey Valley Music hosted their most ambitious festival yet, bringing to Fowey not only world-renowned Welsh harpist, Catrin Finch but also a Trio of young, prize-winning stars. It may be hard to know what will come from a solo harp but Catrin’s recital was mesmerizing. Her interpretations of a wide range of works were a glorious mixture of beauty and virtuosity. No wonder that, even when still a student, she was chosen by the Prince of Wales in 2000 to revive the ancient tradition of Royal Harpist, an honour which helped to secure her career and led to world-wide acclaim for her concerts and ground-breaking recordings.
FVM’s Coffee Concert saw a wonderfully talented array of local young prize-winning musicians perform and the evening concert was also a great celebration of youth. Benjamin Goldscheider, horn and Callum Smart, violin were both category winners of recent BBC Young Musician competitions and, together with pianist Richard Uttley, concluded the weekend’s three concerts with a stunning performance of Brahms Horn Trio, an absolute master work of 19th century chamber music. The rest of their programme contained pillars of the sonata repertoire of Beethoven and Schumann, briefly interrupted by short, spicy pieces by Gilbert Vintner and Friedrich Kreisler. The stylistic maturity that the three performers displayed was compelling and their already burgeoning careers will surely take them far.
In May 2017, co-founder of FVM Dr Marlene Bowden arranged for the world’s most performed living composer Sir Karl Jenkins to appear in Fowey in May as part of the Fowey Festival of Arts and Literature. What made the event even more special was that Sir Karl was accompanied by his wife Lady Carol (Barratt), a specialist in music education and a composer in her own right. Coaxed by the Reverend Philip de Grey-Warter, vicar of Fowey Parish Church turned interviewer for the evening, Sir Karl talked about life before and after fame, reminiscing about the classical musical grounding he received growing up in SW Wales which provided the building blocks for his later compositions, about his early career as a jazz musician, working with Ronnie Scott and other luminaries of the jazz world, before joining Soft Machine, the seminal 70s rock band, and composing some tracks of their many albums. These autobiographical reminisces were interspersed with excerpts of Sir Karl’s compositions, which ranged from soundtracks to some of his most familiar advertising music (Delta Airlines, De Beers diamonds, etc.) to The Armed Man (which Sir Karl revealed is probably the work he is proudest of). When Lady Carol joined her husband on stage, we learned how Carol and Marlene had become friends back in the 60s and (among other things) about Karl’s and Carol’s first dates, what it is like to be married to another composer, the music they listen – or don’t listen – to, and much more besides. Marlene brought the evening to a close by playing – most beautifully - some of Carol’s piano preludes.
We are very grateful to Sir Karl and Lady Carol for this memorable evening of fascinating insights and mesmerizing music.
...We enjoyed the evening of interviews and music very much. I liked his [Sir Karl’s] honesty as he talked about composing for occasion. No nonsense about the muse, just a complete mastery of the medium with which he works and a sensitivity to the effect of the sounds he creates... Philip did a good job of structuring the interview and sketching out for us the biography and linking it to the compositions... Thank you again for all you are putting into the musical life of Fowey.”
“Just wanted to let you know how very much we enjoyed the evening with Karl and Carol Jenkins last night. I think we have you [Marlene] to thank for arranging it, not to mention for playing Carol's preludes so beautifully. It was a fascinating session - Karl was so amazingly modest and unassuming, and Carol clearly such a live wire.. It was a great evening...”
“We thoroughly enjoyed the evening, ‘Sir Karl Jenkins in Conversation with Rev. Philip de Grey- Warter’. The presentation put his work into perspective and gave an excellent insight into what inspires his compositions. The added bonus was, of course, an excellent piano performance by Marlene Bowden.”
The second edition, in 2016, attracted even larger audiences, some attending from as far afield as Merseyside and East Anglia! On the Friday evening, Craig Ogden gave what was in fact a potted history of the guitar repertoire, extending from the Elizabethan period to the twenty-first century. He explained the background to each piece, including the technical complexities, and in-between with a combination of self-deprecation and great charm entertained us with anecdotes of touring life, including a run-in with a fraudster, and with tips about nail care, such as the pros and cons of superglue and wet and dry sandpaper!
Clarinettist Emma Johnson, an early winner of the BBC Young Musician competition, made the clarinet exciting from the outset. In the second half of her vibrant programme on the Saturday evening, she really gave the clarinet its head and showed the meaning of rhythm in her jazzy Bernstein renditions. Her artistic rapport with her accompanist, acclaimed pianist John Lenahan, was simply breathtaking! This concert was preceded by an interview with Emma and a small reception for Friends of FVM.
The first FVM festival, in 2015, started out as it intended to go on: by signing up world-class performers. They were award-winning violinist Tasmin Little and celebrated trumpeter Crispian Steele-Perkins, accompanied on the piano by the equally distinguished Leslie Pearson.
Tasmin and Crispian were chosen partly because they are also excellent raconteurs and entertainers. Tasmin discussed and demonstrated the ins and outs of playing a violin and reminisced about a career that has taken her round the world, while Crispian Steele-Perkins took inspiration from the BBC’s Antiques Roadshow and generated much laughter as he traced the evolution of the trumpet over the centuries by demonstrating his extraordinary collection of antique instruments.
Feedback from the festival gave the organizers the confidence to decide to make it an annual event.