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Brinkburn has a new arrangement

Our classical music writer, Thomas Hall, looks ahead to this year's Brinkburn festival.

Our classical music writer, Thomas Hall, looks ahead to this year's Brinkburn festival.

Brinkburn Abbey at festival time

Details of the 14th Brinkburn Music summer festival were announced at a launch party at Seven Stories, the centre for children's books in Newcastle.

Patrons, supporters and other guests gathered to hear Brinkburn Music chairman Richard Maudslay and artistic director Paul McCreesh report on financial and artistic matters ahead of the popular two-weekend festival which, this year, runs from July 6-15.

Ticket sales account for less than 25% of Brinkburn Music's annual budget, making prices ranging from £10 to £32 seem surprisingly low for a 390 seat venue.

Especially so when considering the high quality of artists performing at the festival.

This is largely down to the support of individual donors, regional trusts and foundations such as the Northern Rock Foundation which has just awarded a grant to further develop the festival over the next three years. Plans include theatre presentations, the formation of a festival ensemble, commissioning new music and developing links with other national and international festivals. There are also plans to extend Brinkburn Music's year-round activities to the wider North-East community.

The overall format of the festival has changed from previous years with more afternoon concerts meaning earlier finishing times. It is hoped this might prove particularly attractive to audiences of the Sunday events, as most face a long drive home from Brinkburn Priory, near Rothbury.

Perhaps more radical, though, is the idea of playing two of the concerts through without an interval.

This, said Paul McCreesh, is for artistic reasons and was prompted by Brinkburn regular, pianist Joanna MacGregor, who is to play Olivier Messiaen's monumental solo Vingt Regards sur l'Enfant Jesus, running at over two-and-a-half-hours. The other work is Beethoven's hour-and-a-half long Missa Solemnis, for which McCreesh will conduct around 90 choral and orchestral performers - something of a record for Brinkburn.

Tickets are available from April 10 at The Maltings Theatre and Arts Centre, Berwick. tel. (01289) 330 999 or visit: theteam@maltingsberwick.demon.co.uk

Also from Morpeth Tourist Information Centre on (01670) 500700

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