It was difficult to tell whether the musicians or the audience enjoyed Whittington Music Festival more.
Only days after the Covid road-map allowed musicians to play to a live audience, Whittington Music Festival brought three chamber music concerts to Holy Trinity Church, Oswestry.
Fourteen musicians with international reputations came to Oswestry for a truncated Festival, shorter than usual, with a socially distanced audience. This was the musicians’ first experience of live applause for over fourteen months and was a very emotional experience for them as well as for the audience who for all that time had not been able to go to a concert.
Festival Artistic Director Sophia Rahman said, ‘Most of the musicians had been working sporadically in the studio and online but before coming to Shropshire many of us had not performed for a live audience for fourteen months. ‘There is absolutely nothing like the thrill of playing the most delicious music for real people in a live acoustic. The experience was as moving for us as it clearly was for audience members. They responded with rapt attention during the performances and thunderous applause afterwards, occasionally preceded by one of those special silences that comes after a period of deep listening. ‘To be involved in this unique happening was an absolute privilege and a total joy not only for the musicians but those audience members who have given feedback afterwards. ‘We all realise how lucky we were with the dates to be able to go ahead keeping a socially-distanced but vital live element to the festival and we very much hope to be able to bring more of this musical magic to next year’s event.‘
A spokesman for the Festival said, ‘This series of concerts was shorter than our usual Festival programme, the concerts themselves were shorter and the audience was distanced; there was no interval, no printed programme and no bar! But we were able to present live music and so many of our audience were so grateful and excited to experience this once more. ‘Now we shall start planning for next year in the hope that we shall be able to run a full Festival series in 2021 – with a bar.’
‘We are most grateful for help without which these concerts would not have been possible, including the loan of its grand piano by Oswestry School, a generous legacy from a supporter, and grant funding which the Arts Council allowed us to retain after cancelling last year’s Festival.
As we try to keep ticket prices within reach, we rely on the grants like this when we can get them, as well as the generous support from the Friends of Whittington Music Festival and our sponsors and benefactors. The growing reputation of our Festival brings visitors from beyond our local area and we are hoping to bring more in the future.’
As funding for next year’s Festival is not assured, support from any local individual or business will assist the Festival to continue adding to the cultural life of the area and its reputation in the world of classical music. More information can be found on www.whittingtonmusicfestival.org.uk
Pictured: Bach Brandenburg Concerto 4. Stunning performance from these amazing musicians.