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An sneak peek at Newbury's autumn Spring Festival

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AT last, after a year of Covid, life for the performing arts is looking up and seek no further than our own town as the Newbury Spring Festival is set to return, albeit not in spring but autumn, with confirmed dates of September 4 to 20.

What bliss to have two weeks of music return to Newbury, with a wonderful mix of classical, jazz, world music, kids concerts, ballet and musical theatre.

One difference you may notice is that most of the concerts will take place in St Nicolas’ Church and the Corn Exchange, with the odd notable exception, such as the choral concert with Tenebrae at Douai Abbey. Social distancing will be adhered to in all the venues.

Thankfully, the festival still has three orchestral concerts. The opening concert on September 4 is the magnificent Bach St Matthew Passion, widely considered to be one of the crowning achievements of Baroque European culture, not least because the entire work is intricately centred around one chorale theme. The concert will be performed by the Armonico Consort, one of the UK’s leading choirs and instrumental ensembles.

On Saturday, September 11, a previous BBC Young Musician of the Year, Jennifer Pike, will be performing Mozart Violin Concerto No 3 with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Also on the programme is Mozart Symphony No 29 and two works by Vaughan Williams – Five Variants of Dives and Lazarus and Six Studies for Cor Anglais and String Ensemble.

The closing concert on September 20 features the London Philharmonic Orchestra, with Paul Lewis playing the glorious Brahms Piano concerto No 1, a marvellous work from the Romantic period which will tax any pianist. Also on the programme is Beethoven’s Symphony No 7.

Aside from the daily concerts in St Nics, there is also a wonderful mixed programme at the Corn Exchange. The opening night is by the much-celebrated Sons of Pitches, a young a cappella group like no other who will thoroughly entertain with their improvisations of popular songs. Returning to the festival is Clare Teal, always a hit with Newbury audiences, and the young Spanish saxophonist Manu Brazo, who received a standing ovation for his virtuosic performance at a lunchtime concert two years ago.

New to the festival, but becoming well known for their busking and recent recording, are Duo Guitar with their flamenco fusion of classical and pop “playing songs you know in ways you probably don’t”.

... Just some of the highlights as a taster for what’s coming – there is so much to look forward to.

Tickets go on sale in July and there will be information on the festival website nearer the time. www.newburyspringfestival.org.uk

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