This Sunday Mayfield village will become a hive of cultural activity as it launches its two week classical music event. It promises a fortnight of superb choral recitals and orchestral treats but also plenty of jazz, theatre, film and folk performances. Eileen Leahy spoke to its organiser Kate Sanday about why three thousand visitors enjoy this biennial occasion so much…
HOW MANY YEARS HAS THE MAYFIELD FESTIVAL OF MUSIC AND THE ARTS BEEN RUNNING?
The first festival took place in the village in 1970 and has been running every other year since then.
WHO STARTED IT AND WHY?
It began as part of an attempt to raise funds for the building of St Dunstan’s church hall. The guiding spirit was the vicar, Canon Donald Carter, who, along with the parish church organist, Kenneth Pont, organised a series of events to fill a fortnight. Even though the hall was never built the festival has continued ever since.
WHAT ARE THIS YEAR’S HIGHLIGHTS?
There are many, but I would say the two choral concerts at St Dunstan’s Church are a must. The Mayfield Festival Choir will be performing Brahms’ Requiem with the London Primavera Orchestra to launch the festival, then closing it with a performance of Beethoven’s Ninth with Mayfield School’s Schola Cantorum and the Southbank Sinfonia Orchestra.
WHO ELSE IS ON THE BILL?
We have Radio 3’s former controller and director of the Proms Roger Wright in conversation on Monday April 25, the Jubliee String Quartet playing the following evening, and the highly energetic Carnival Band on May 4. Lutist Liz Kenny and counter tenor Robin Blaze will perform a musical medley inspired by Shakespeare’s work on May 6, and the following evening is dedicated to specialist musical films.
ARE MOST OF THE VISITORS LOCAL OR DOES THE FESTIVAL ATTRACT PEOPLE FROM FAR AND WIDE?
Our main audience is usually within a 20-mile radius of Mayfield, but when we have international artists performing such as pianist Yuri Didenko and recorder player Michala Petri they will attract audiences from all over the world. People see it as one of the UK’s premier classical events.
WHO ELSE HAS PERFORMED OVER THE YEARS?
We have hosted artists including baritone Jonathan Lemalu, composer Wayne Marshall and pianist Christina Ortiz. She is one of this year’s judges in the Tunbridge Wells International Music Competition.
CAN YOU TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT THIS COMPETITION?
The competition started in 1979 and has played an important role in the early careers of several internationally celebrated musicians. Past winners include piano virtuoso Paul Lewis, now the competition’s President; opera stars Anne Sofie von Otter and Patricia Rozario; great Spanish clarinettist Joan Enric Lluna; Russian pianist Yuri Didenko, and flautist Michael Cox, currently Principal Flute of the BBC Symphony Orchestra.
WHEN DOES IT TAKE PLACE?
It starts at 2.30pm on Wednesday April 27 and the first round will continue over three days with morning, afternoon and evening sessions. The semi-finals are held on Saturday April 30 with the final on Sunday afternoon.
DO YOU FEEL THE EVENT IS SOMETHING THAT UNITES THE VILLAGE OF MAYFIELD?
One of our key priorities is to involve the village wherever possible. For example, the two churches, St Dunstan’s and St Thomas’s, are used as venues and Mayfield School provides another three locations.
ARE THE LOCALS SUPPORTIVE?
Yes very much so. Residents and organisations put, banners up on their property publicising performances and the village newsletter publishes a special table of events. Local pubs do kindly support us with things like providing an early dinner option for the duration of the festival.
DO YOU HAVE MANY LOCAL RESIDENTS HELPING OUT ON A VOLUNTARY BASIS?
We are fortunate that so many people get involved and we are enormously grateful. We have help with everything from putting up the staging to transporting chairs. The Festival Choir take brochures and posters around local villages to help advertise it and our helpline, photography, first aid and publicity are managed by volunteers.
The Mayfield Festival of Music and the Arts runs from Sunday April 24 – Sunday May 8.
For further information and ticket details please visit www.mayfieldfestival.co.uk. or call 0333 666 3366 for tickets.
Visitors to the Mayfield Festival of Music and the Arts will be treated to 15 days of glorious performances ranging from choral and orchestral recitals to jazz, folk, film and theatre productions. Here’s our guide to what’s on when…
Sunday April 24
10am St George’s Day Eucharist, St Dunstan’s Church
Mayfield’s Scout and Guides will parade from the hut to St Dunstan’s where they will be joined by the Mayfield Band for a special service celebrating St George’s Day. Entrance is free
7.30pm Mayfield Festival Choir
St Dunstan’s Church
Perform Brahms, Requiem
Tickets cost £25
Monday April 25
8pm An Evening With Roger Wright CBE, St Thomas of Canterbury RC Church
The former controller of BBC Radio 3 and Director of the Proms, Roger Wright, will be in conversation this evening with the festival’s Artistic Director Jeremy Summerly about his life in music.
Tickets cost £14
Tuesday April 26
8pm Jubilee String Quartet, Mayfield School Chapel
Tereza, Julia, Stephanie and Lauren all perform a concert of works by the three most influential composers of string quartets: Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven.
Tickets cost £14
Wednesday April 27
8pm Choral Vespers by candlelight, Mayfield School Chapel
This promises to be a beautiful service, directed by organist Andrew Benians. Some of Palestrina’s extensive array of liturgical works will be sung as well as Gustav Holst’s Nightfall.
Entrance is free
Thursday April 28 – Sunday May 1 Tunbridge Wells International Music Competition at Mayfield Festival
Monday May 2
7.30pm Oxford Baroque, St Dunstan’s Church
This evening Jeremy Summerly will be conducting these musicians from Oxford through a programme of works by 17th- century German composer Heinrich Schutz.
Tickets cost £12 and £20
Tuesday May 3
7.30pm Syrinx: The Sweet Month of May, Mayfield School Chapel
This ensemble is dedicated to the performance of historical wind music. The Sweet Month of May
is a celebration of spring as seen through the eyes of medieval and renaissance lovers.
Tickets cost £15
Wednesday May 4
7.30pm The Carnival Band – That Sweet Enemy, Mayfield School Chapel
This is an entertaining portrayal in music and song of the infamous and fractious relationship between France and England throughout the ages. Prepare to be amused! Tickets cost £18
Saturday May 7
7.30pm Julian Bliss and the King of Swing, St Dunstan’s Church
This is evening is a tribute to Benny Goodman, King of American Swing and promises to recreate the exhilarating energy and talent of his musical legacy.
Tickets cost £12 and £20
Sunday May 8
7.30pm Orchestral and Choral Concert Southbank Sinfonia, St Dunstan’s Church
To finish the festival, Britain’s youngest professional orchestra will perform Beethoven’s Ninth, deemed to be one of classical music’s greatest symphonies.
Tickets cost £18 and £30