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In the summer in particular, South Devon seems to have it all. We are blessed with beautiful landscapes, spectacular beaches, lush countryside, exquisite food, and to cap it all off, superb creative talent, particularly at the Dartington International Summer School and Festival.
From 28th July until 25th August, the world-famous Summer School showcases and encourages some of the most superb musical talent in the country with concerts from its students and alumni as well as workshops for all levels of interest and capability. Making it an extra special occasion however; this year it is also celebrating 70 years of the Dartington International Summer School and Festival tradition as well.
Proudly contributing to our creative life since 1948, the summer of 2018 offers a packed programme of celebratory events with over 100 concerts, photographic exhibitions and installations, film and illustrated talks as well as opera, jazz, chamber music, folk, poetry, musical theatre, Brazilian rhythms, gospel and choral music.
A creative triumph, but also an organisational one, born of both personal and professional passion and talent, Programme Manager Emily Hoare explained: “Our Artistic Director, Joanna MacGregor, is a very inspiring musician, and this year she has created a classically broad programme of courses for music students, young professional, and keen amateurs, to come and learn, listen and enjoy their specialism, and possibly try something new as well.”
What makes the experience at Dartington so special however, is the very personal feeling that all involved have put into it. For example, when we asked Emily what she was most looking forward to at the festival, she said: “Having worked at the summer school and knowing so many of the artists personally, this question is like being asked which is your favourite child!… I do love early music though, and the baroque orchestra and opera courses in the second week are wonderful as they involve so many young and wonderfully talented students. To see what they can achieve in a week is remarkable. In the final week we also have an ensemble called the Dead Rat Orchestra, who teach a multimedia course where students will create site specific pieces of music and sound installations. Anything like this, which takes advantage of the beautiful setting of Dartington, is always a highlight for me.”
Current and former students of Dartington also glow with praise. Concert Pianist, Florian Mitrea, is a former student who regularly returns and contributes to Dartington’s ongoing legacy. This summer he is bringing a programme featuring the extreme musical contrasts of Mozart and Prokofiev, and he effervesces as he describes the music: “the tonality that Mozart seems to use whenever he wants his music to be jubilant and uplifting, and yet there are always tears in Mozart’s smiles.”
He praises the opportunities provided to him through the school, noting: “Dartington has given me the opportunity to collaborate with some wonderfully innovative artists of our times. On top of everything else, I have been lucky to benefit from Joanna MacGregor’s guidance and mentorship.”
He is also joyful in his praise of the experience as both a student and a performer at the location itself. Giving an idea of what audiences can expect, Florian says: “Dartington has an inexplicable way of creating a buzzing atmosphere that inspires and motivates one to do more, to improve, to find ideas, to take risks, and thus, concerts become such thrilling adventures. So often, while performing in the Great Hall, I have felt stimulated to go beyond my professional duty of giving a concert and let myself be seduced by the sounds bouncing off the ancient walls and becoming characters.”
Meanwhile, Trio Gaspard, a younger piano trio who are also former students of the Summer School and now teach and perform there, are equally exuberant: “when we took part in the summer school as teenagers, we loved the special atmosphere and wonderful concerts there. We are really looking forward to meeting and listening to fantastic performances from other musicians this year, and also to working and playing with the participants of the summer school. All of this in the breathtaking backdrop of the Dartington gardens!”
It is easy to forget at times just how privileged we are to nurture such a high level of talent in the UK, and as Emily eloquently points out, Dartington plays a key role in that: “The UK is respected internationally for its Early Music scene, in both performance and teaching. Dartington was significant in the revival of this in the 1980s and remains a very important part of that world, offering very specialised tuition to young musicians, and also, and more unusually, to amateurs too. You won’t find a professional early brass ensemble in the UK for example that doesn’t include at least one member who has been to Dartington and counts that as a very important part of their development.”
With that kind of spectrum and talent, the Dartington International Summer School and Festival promises to be a wonderful celebration this year, and Emily reflects the opinion of so many involved when she says: “As someone who grew up in Devon, to be part of something that brings events like this to the area makes me very proud.”
The Dartington International Summer School and Festival offers poetry, folk, jazz, samba, music theatre, gospel, and opportunities to participate in one or several of these courses as well as to attend performances. To find out more, take a look at the brochure!
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