The Peasmarsh Chamber Music Festival grew out of the Florestan Festival at Peasmarsh and concluded a magnificent 20th season last Sunday, June 24. Of many magical moments, one of the most memorable was the traditional Friday night concert in St Mary’s church, Rye. Festival Artistic Director Richard Lester (cello) gave us a totally enchanting Boccherini concerto and his fellow Director Anthony Marwood (violin) a dazzling serenade, for its composer Leonard Bernstein’s centenary. Both were wonderfully supported by the extraordinary Britten Sinfonia, under their compelling conductor Douglas Boyd, who also contributed a remarkably vivid Philosopher symphony by Haydn.
The excellent weather helped make this 20th festival an especially beautiful event with many works, including Elgar’s Piano Quintet and Schumann’s D minor Violin Sonata, being given performances of an unforgettable intensity. All the musicians who come to Peasmarsh church seem to absorb the unique atmosphere of the place and the Festival and play with a special fervour.
However, the main event of the 2018 Festival, in many ways, was connected with its Directors’ long-standing commitment to musical education. For some years, the annual Festival education concert in Peasmarsh church with pupils from Beckley and Peasmarsh primary schools has been brilliantly organised by the charismatic Sam Glazer. This year, former Rye resident and long-time Festival supporter, Kate, Lady Davson, with the Festival itself, commissioned from Sam a work to be on Commedia dell’Arte themes, to be performed by children from the two primaries and a string quartet of Festival musicians.
The result was the delightful Three Commedia Sketches, based on the children’s ideas and edited by Sam. The three sections, based on the commedia characters Columbina, Pantalone and Arlecchino, were delightfully performed by those who contributed many of the ideas and the work’s winning combination of words, music, gesture and acting suggest that it will be a staple of school and concert hall for the foreseeable future, maybe longer.
We are blessed in this area – the rising musical excellence of Hastings; 20 years of the Peasmarsh Chamber Music Festival; 30 years of Vinehall School concerts; nearly 48 years of the Rye Arts Festival and, longest lasting of all, 50 years of the Brickwall Music and Arts Society; blessed, as I say.
Photos: Walter van Dik and Kenneth Bird