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Festival Fever

Newbury Spring Festival celebrates its 40th anniversary with world-class classical music, musical theatre, folk, jazz and cabaret

Trish Lee


Trish Lee



Festival Fever

Drum roll… fanfare… cue the chorus…Newbury Spring Festival has hit the BIG 4-0.It has grown over the years and richly deserves its international reputation, writes TRISH LEE, with music’s most talented young artists appearing alongside famous names at concerts held in venues in and around Newbury
Tickets are selling fast for Newbury’s 40th prestigious music festival. As always, an exciting and varied array of world-class performers will be coming to our town to entertain during the festive fortnight.
One day you might find Tibetan monks creating a sand mandala, playing long horns, bone trumpets and skull drums; classical music’s international superstars on another.
A hidden gem in this spring celebration is the Festival Chorus, who, for the last 20 years, have got together every year to perform in one of the acclaimed orchestral concerts at the parish church of St Nicolas, in the centre of town.
Last year, they sang at the opening concert in Elgar’s magnificent Dream of Gerontius and this year it will be the closing performance of Mozart’s Mass in C minor.

Over the last four decades, a great many class acts have come to take part in the festival and in 1998, in order to include more local people, the chorus was formed to involve local amateurs and offer them the chance to perform with professional musicians.
Visiting conductors have been continually surprised and impressed by the standard of the chorus, now said to be one of the best local choirs in the country.
Aside from the talented individuals who take part, much credit should go to chorusmaster Janet Lincé, who retired from the role last year.
It isn’t easy for a choir to sing over the sound of a large orchestra, but Janet’s attention to detail – in particular diction and voice projection without straining and tuning – has resulted in so high a standard that many top conductors are more than happy to come back to the festival.
The chorus work hard: auditions take place in February, with weekly rehearsals starting in March and running up to the festival. In this short rehearsal time they have taken on many ambitious works, including the Mozart Requiem, Elgar’s The Music Makers, Vaughan Williams’ Dona Nobis Pacem and even Beethoven’s Ninth.
The chorus has been fortunate in securing the services of a new master in Ben Cunningham, who came to the attention of the festival last year when he played the organ at one of the Young Artists Lunchtime recitals.
Currently the organ scholar at Westminster Abbey, and still only in his early 20s, Ben has considerable experience in directing choirs and he is looking forward to the challenge of taking on bigger works and working with the Festival Chorus over a longer period of time.
He intends to follow Janet’s lead and, in his own words, ‘make the music come off the page’.
Newbury Festival Chorus will sing the Mass in the renowned Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra’s all-Mozart programme, which also features extracts from Don Giovanni and the 40th Symphony, on Saturday, May 26.
If you are interested in joining the Newbury Spring Festival Chorus, contact Paul Millard: The chorus is free to join, but is subject to successful audition.

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