Conductor and festival director Tom Hammond thinks we should all bother with music. In this guest post, he explains why and previews this year’s Hertfordshire Festival of Music.

I’m writing this a month before the opening of the 2021 Hertfordshire Festival of Music (HFoM), with the sweaty brow of the accidental concert promoter desperately hoping to see more tickets flying off the shelves. Postponed last year due to the coronavirus pandemic, this year’s Festival is particularly special because for many people it will be the first time they will have enjoyed live music in over a year. For me, my co-artistic director, James Francis Brown, and indeed the whole Festival team, the challenge this year is presenting live music in a COVID-secure environment to ensure the comfort, safety and enjoyment of our audiences, performers and staff. There is the additional challenge of social distancing which means that venues cannot operate at full capacity and we can only offer a limited number of tickets for each performance. We are fortunate to receive the support of Arts Council England and a number of charitable trusts and foundations, county, district and town councils, while a growing Friends Scheme allows individuals to play an important role in furthering the Festival’s scope and potential.

Of course, we are not the only music festival or concert promoter trying to square the circle of socially-distanced events and the consequent reduction in ticket revenue, but there are always solutions if you look for them, and to accommodate as many people as possible, within the limitations of social distancing, many of our concerts will be repeated. This has also allowed us a certain amount of flexibility with regard to concert start times, so people may choose to attend an early evening concert and then go on to dinner, or come and enjoy some post-dinner music with us!

We’ve programmed some fabulous music and musicians in this our fifth year: Master of the Queen’s Music Judith Weir CBE is our Featured Living Composer and her music will be performed by Albion Quartet, the Hertfordshire Festival Orchestra, and Chloē Hanslip and Danny Driver. Inventor of the string quartet Joseph Haydn, who has a special connection with Hertfordshire, is celebrated in Albion Quartet’s opening concert, and we’re also featuring music by Pärt, Walton, Sibelius, Bartok, Beethoven, Chopin, Liszt, Mozart and James Francis Brown. Pianist Florian Mitrea will also give the world premiere of a work by Alan Mills.

It’s not just classical music traditionally presented (although there’s plenty of that, and no apologies for it!). We’re delighted to welcome back the exuberant ZRI, who will mash classical music with gypsy and klezmer styles in a performance at McMullen’s Brewery in Hertford. Recorder ensemble Fontanella present a themed programme based around the year 1670, a period in musical history which is strangely parallel to our own times. The concert is also a celebration of the 350th anniversary of the Friends Meeting House in Hertford, which has been in continuous use since it was founded.

Alongside the music, we have education and outreach projects – masterclasses with Chloe Hanslip at Queenswood School, and Music in Mind with members of Orchestra of the Swan, bringing music to people with dementia in selected care homes throughout the county. The irrepressible “virtuoso of the arts” Matthew Sharp weaves bewitching words and magical music in an enthralling afternoon of storytelling for younger children and their families, and there’s even an opportunity to explore historic Hertford on a guided walk.

Basically shed-loads of stuff – and really good stuff!

Since the Festival began – the initial germ of the idea coming to me back in 2015 – we’ve welcomed around 3000 people to concerts in Hertford and Hertfordshire, given education and performance opportunities to around 500 younger people (schoolchildren as well as conservatoire-level students) and raised something like £150,000 in external funds and Box Office revenue. Raising that sort of money for music is incredibly hard work as anyone who’s ever tried will know, taking hours of your life that could be spent doing vastly more enjoyable things….

The money that we’ve raised has gone directly into the music economy via paying our artists – about £75,000 on musician’s fees alone, and we pay at a decent rate –  plus all the other elements of the musical food chain, including commissions, hire of copyright materials, piano tuners, keyboard hire, sound and lighting equipment, etc., etc. The pandemic hit musicians and the musical food chain hard, and it feels especially important to be breathing life back into the industry through our activities this June.

Where that money certainly isn’t going is into my back pocket, nor that of my co-Artistic Director. We’ve also got a very hard-working board of trustees, because we’re now properly formalised as a charity, plus our FOH team who also do it for the love of music.

Why on earth would anyone do this?!

I have asked myself that question many times, not least as so many areas of running a Festival are things for which I’ve had absolutely no training, experience nor aptitude and I’m already pretty busy with my main work as a conductor and producer. But, when I read my social media newsfeeds, or see classical music mentioned in the national press, it’s too often report after report about cuts in music education and how music is being marginalised. Or how to make it ‘relevant’. Or how it’s seen as for only posh people…. You don’t need me to go on because it’s jaw-clenchingly boring to do so, and moaning is too easy and the time could be better spent doing something about it.

What I and my colleagues at HFoM are trying to do, albeit in a nascent way which needs constant refinement, is simply to present amazing music in appropriate spaces that heighten the audience experience, plus open out opportunities for young people, and try to buck the above trend. As a colleague of mine once said to me, we are attempting to act as incubators of this amazing art form and when the day finally comes and politicians actually read the gazillions of studies that show how music helps people in so many ways and fund it again, someone can buy us all a pint.

Until then, if anyone fancies coming along and helping us continue beyond this year, we have tickets to sell! Hertford is only 20 miles from by central London, easily accessible by road and rail, and has a good selection of shops and eateries with attractive countryside nearby. It will be light well into the evening, hopefully sunny and warm too. Why not come and join us?

Hertfordshire Festival of Music runs from 4-10 June 2021. This year’s Principal Artist is violinist Chloë Hanslip, who will be giving masterclasses and performances during the festival. Full programme of events

Tom Hammond is co-Artistic Director of Hertfordshire Festival of Music, and a conductor and record producer.

www.hertsmusicfest.org.uk

Meet the Artist interview with Tom Hammond

Hertfordshire Festival of Music (HFoM) takes place from Thursday 4th to Friday 10th of June. Postponed last year due to the coronavirus pandemic, HFoM 2021 is particularly special as for many people it will be the first time they have enjoyed live music in over a year.

Now in its fifth edition, Hertfordshire Festival of Music has grown rapidly from a small weekend event to a major summer celebration of classical music, based in and around the attractive historic county town of Hertford.

An established part of the summer classical music calendar, under the direction and vision of co-Artistic Directors conductor Tom Hammond and composer James Francis Brown, HFoM is now one of the UK’s major music festivals, featuring international artists and ensembles alongside innovative outreach and educational projects. This
year’s Festival showcases a diverse range of artists and music.

HFoM is delighted to present prodigiously talented violinist Chloë Hanslip as this year’s Principal Artist. Praised for her “warmth and clarity” and “simply spellbinding” playing, Chloë Hanslip (b. 1987) has already established herself as an artist of distinction on the international stage.  During this year’s Festival, Chloë will perform as a soloist with the Hertfordshire Festival Orchestra in music by Pärt and Sibelius. She will also give two recitals with pianist Danny Driver and masterclasses at Queenswood School in partnership with Future Talent.

Judith Weir, CBE, is this year’s Featured Living Composer. Appointed Master of the Queen’s Music in 2014, Weir’s richly communicative music is “consistently imaginative” and “genuinely ravishing” (Tom Service, The Guardian). Festival audiences will be able to enjoy performances of Judith’s music as well as gain insights into her creative life in an “in conversation” event with HFoM Artistic Directors Tom Hammond and James Francis Brown.

HFoM 2020 featured Artists/Ensembles:

  • Violinist Chloë Hanslip (“…wholly infectious conviction, spontaneity and panache… superbly accomplished performances…” Gramophone)
  • Pianist Danny Driver (“….a delight to hear performances as radiant as these” Seen & Heard International)
  • Albion Quartet (“The playing, by the excellent Albion, is masterly in its vividness, freedom and sensitivity” Sunday Times)
  • Matthew Sharp, cello/voice (“extraordinary cellist, virile baritone and compelling actor” Daily Telegraph)
  • Fontanella Recorder Consort (“Such beautiful playing, fabulous ensemble…what’s not to like?” Frome Concerts Group)
  • Pianist Florian Mitrea (“a mixture of phenomenal technique and ravishing musical intelligence” Cambridge Independent)
  • Hertfordshire Festival Orchestra, conducted by Tom Hammond
    ZRI (“unique and endlessly captivating…combining the raucous energy of an impromptu pub session with the style and sophistication of the concert hall” – Cambridge Music Festival)
  • Tom Hammond, conductor (“A serious contender for most promising maestro of his generation.” Musical Opinion

The Festival opens with two concerts by Albion Quartet which celebrate Hertfordshire’s ‘Haydn Connection’ (read more here) as well as showcasing music by Judith Weir, CBE.

In addition to more traditional concert settings, ZRI will play an informal “brewhouse session” at McMullen’s Brewery in Hertford, and there will also be an opportunity to watch a full concert orchestra at work in a “relaxed rehearsal” with the HFoM Festival Orchestra. 

From talks and guided walks to storytelling events for children with “virtuoso of the arts”, cellist and actor Matthew Sharp, a celebration of the Friends’ Meeting House in Hertford (the oldest still in use) and a festival finale including two of Beethoven’s best-loved sonatas for violin and piano, Hertfordshire Festival of Music brings together some of the finest international musicians in a varied range of creative and imaginative programmes. It promises to be a delicious, generous feast for music lovers who have been bereft of live music over the past year. 


Hertford is just over twenty miles from central London, easy to get to by rail and road but nestled in the beautiful countryside of the Lea Valley. Concerts generally take place within a ten minute stroll of the town’s centre, which boasts excellent restaurants, many independent shops and accommodation.

Since its launch in 2016, the Festival has presented concerts that have inspired extraordinary audience responses to artists such as Tasmin Little OBE, Dame Emma Kirkby, Stephen Hough CBE, Steven Isserlis CBE, the Carducci Quartet, the Galliard Ensemble and The Prince Consort. HFoM is fortunate to receive major support from Arts Council England and a number of charitable trusts and foundations, county, district and town councils, while a growing Friends Scheme allows individuals to play an important role in supporting the Festival and furthering its scope and potential.

The Festival offers affordable ticket prices, multi-event discounts, some free events, and a ticket scheme for under 18s and those in full-time education. The organisers have gone to every length to ensure that all venues are COVID-secure for the safety, comfort and enjoyment of audiences, performers and Festival staff.

HFoM exists to celebrate and nurture exceptional music-making, featuring some of the world’s finest performers. The Festival also supports professional and young musicians from Hertfordshire, presents fascinating music by living composers and devises major, innovative projects for education and participation.

Partner organisations: Queenswood School, Hertfordshire Music Service, Mudlarks Garden Café, Benslow Music Trust, Future Talent

Funders and supporters: Longmores Solicitors, Queenswood School, Handelsbanken, Harpenden Music Foundation, East Herts District Council, Hertford Town Council and Herts County Council, McMullen Brewing and Pubs.

HFoM is grateful to Arts Council England for its generous support of the Festival for 2021 and 2022.

Website: www.hertsmusicfest.org.uk
Twitter: @HertMusicFest
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Hertsmusicfest/
Registered Charity Number 1175716

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A Music School by Day, A Concert Hall by Night 29 July – 26 August 2017

After the successes of 2016, the programme for Dartington International Summer School & Festival 2017 is released.

Dartington is a place of shimmering beauty, and its world- famous Summer School is for everyone: for professional musicians and music students, for people who love to listen, and for people who want to debate ideas. The 2017 programme engages with music reflecting migration and exile, ancient and new; and complexities of identity, nation and revolution.

Play in a brass ensemble, and learn about Middle Eastern and Brazilian music. Experience everything from medieval and renaissance music to salsa and jazz. Listen to legendary pianist Alfred Brendel on Schubert; Stories in Transit hosted by Marina Warner; and folk sessions with Martin and Eliza Carthy. There are poetry and multimedia courses, yoga and dance, lectures and films.

Dartington hosts over ninety public concerts and events throughout August. Visit the beautiful gardens, relax with a drink or a meal, and be immersed in world-class performances, from afternoon to late night; some of the most celebrated musicians, writers and thinkers will be here. On 28th April we will present our second Party in the Town, happening all over the market town of Totnes, and collaborating with local artists and young people.

Dartington International Summer School has expanded into a fully-fledged, exuberant festival, and gets more action-packed every year.

Read the Dartington 2017 course brochure (PDF file)

Source: press release via Wildkat PR

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