Poetic highlights in store at the North York Moors Chamber Music Festival

Jamie Walton
Jamie Walton

A performance of the Edith Sitwell/William Walton entertainment Façade is a highlight of the North York Moors Chamber Music Festival.

The performance of the poems of Edith Sitwell, who was born and brought up at what is now Woodend in Scarborough, will be read over a musical accompaniment by William Walton at St Hilda’s Church in Whitby.

It is the closing event of the festival which runs from Sunday August 12 to Saturday August 25.

Another highlight promises to be music by Michael Tippett which will receive its first performance in more than 80 years.

Celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, the festival, which brings world class musicians to perform in churches across the North York Moors, this year focuses entirely on British composers, including, as well as Tippett and Walton, Kenneth Leighton, Edward Elgar, Frank Bridge and Henry Purcell.

The concerts take place in late August, a period chosen specifically by festival organiser and international cellist Jamie Walton to show the Moors off to their best advantage, when the heather is in bloom.

“I’ve chosen all British composers this year, our 10th birthday year, as people often ask me to feature more British music,” he said.

“We’re particularly thrilled to be presenting Michael Tippett’s overture to his opera, Robin Hood, in the village where it was written in 1934, Boosbeck, near Saltburn.

“Tippett lived in Boosbeck with his partner in the summers of 1933 and 1934 providing musical activities at work camps for unemployed ironstone miners set up by a local family, the Pennymans.

“In 1933 he arranged an abridged version of The Beggar’s Opera for the miners to perform. It was hugely successful, so the following year he wrote the music for a new folk opera for them, Robin Hood, based on the traditional stories but with a subtext commenting on the difficulties faced by the unemployed miners.

“It’s a little-known episode in the life of a great British musical pioneer who was nearly as passionate about politics as he was about music, and we’re delighted to be reviving part of it this year.”

The Robin Hood overture will be part of a programme of music at St Aidan’s Church, Boosbeck, on Friday August 17, which will also include work by Britten, Walton, Dowland and Purcell.

Musicians performing at this year’s festival include The Oculi Ensemble led by violinist Charlotte Scott; Grammy-nominated recording artist and founder of the Homecoming Chamber Music Festival in Moscow, violinist Roman Mints; renowned Swiss violinist Rachel Kolly d’Alba; rising young piano star Luca Buratto; international pianist Katya Apekisheva; English National Opera, Welsh National Opera and English Touring Opera mezzo-soprano Anna Huntley, who was born and brought up in Yarm, on the edge of the North York Moors National Park, and lute virtuoso Matthew Wadsworth, who was born blind and was the first sightless student to attend the Royal Academy of Music, where he was named as London Student of the Year in 1997 in recognition of his work on the development of Braille lute tablature.

The North York Moors Chamber Music Festival includes 11 concerts at 10 churches across the area, including at Pickering, Lastingham, Helmsley, Boosbeck, Egton Bridge, Danby, Fylingdales, Sneaton Castle, Lythe and Whitby.