Top musicians will be rehearsing in fields, parks and gardens as they get to know the locals while they prepare for Ashburton Chamber Music Festival. The festival takes place from 18 to 25 July and features a world premiere, a new concert hall, and events where the audience get to choose the music.
Conceived by American musician David Yang, this community-based festival aims to give ‘backstage access and a front-row experience’. Open rehearsals offer the opportunity to get to know the musicians and hear them rehearse in advance of the performances. The performers have been brought together specially for the festival so they will be getting to know one another musically.
Four concerts feature music ranging from Mozart and Mendelssohn to a newly commissioned movement inspired by the Beach Boys’ God Only Knows.
As well as the concerts, at a series of ‘hausmusik’ events, the audience help to select pieces from a huge pile of music which the musicians may never have played before. They then play through the music, unrehearsed.
Andy Williamson is one of the festival organisers and a performer. He said:
“For these ‘hausmusik’ events, nobody knows the programme in advance. A small audience gathers with the string quartet for an informal evening of music, conversation, and some lively discussion about which piece they want to hear next. It sounds counter-intuitive – why would you want to hear a piece that hasn’t been rehearsed? But it gives a real feeling of excitement because no one quite knows what’s coming. And of course, they’re all top musicians, so we know that we’re going to hear something wonderful.
“With this festival, we wanted to create a special experience to make classical music accessible to a much wider audience. I hope that people who’ve never been to a concert before may hear one of the rehearsals, meet the musicians and decide to come to a performance.”
Festival Organiser David Yang said:
“Why go to a concert when you can listen to music at home while doing the dishes? There’s the obvious stuff: live sound, live performers, no distractions, and the joy of a shared experience. But add to that the fact that it is an in-the-moment experience. That’s why you can be overwhelmed at a concert one night but listen to a recording of the same concert weeks later and wonder why you can’t hear what you heard the first time. Music doesn’t even exist until you perform it. A concert is something made fresh in front of you: electric, live, and raw.”
As well as conceiving the festival idea, David Yang is one of the performers making up a string quartet for the week. The quartet will be joined by Andy Williamson playing sax and flautist Judith Hall. Composer Tom Vignieri will also be there to hear the premiere of his new composition ‘God Only Knows’ along with his setting of the gospel song ‘I Want Jesus to Walk With Me’ for sax and strings.
The festival is hosted by Ashburton Arts Centre with concerts taking place at the Arts Centre and at Bremridge, a brand-new concert venue on the edge of the town. Hausmusik events will take place at outdoor venues with airy indoor options in case of bad weather.
More information about Ashburton Chamber Music Festival is available online and tickets are available from WeGotTickets.