For the past three years, the Northumberland Music Festival (NMF) has been building a reputation for offering a great combination of classical entertainment and cuisine in some of its home county’s most picturesque settings.
And when it returns for its fourth incarnation in the autumn, organisers are promising to spread the ambition of the Festival programme even further.
Graeme Danby, Heritage Opera and the Northumberland Ranters lead the cast of the Festival in a running order which spreads itself over three weekends in November and includes an eclectic entertainment menu featuring classical, opera, traditional and revue offerings, as well as gourmet dinners at a trio of fine houses, namely Doxford, Eshott and Guyzance Halls.
The first event for your eceltronic planner’s consideration is a full-length performance of Rossini’s The Barber of Seville from Heritage Opera. The comic story of love, kidnapping and disguise will be performed on Friday, November 14 at Doxford Hall Hotel following a reception and three-course dinner.
The following night at the same venue, another reception and first rate dinner will be followed by a debut NMF performance from the British Philharmonic Concert Orchestra. Holst’s delightful and evocative portrait of Edwardian London – the St Paul’s Suite; Mozart’s Piano Concerto, No.23, in A Major, featuring celebrated recital pianist Ian Buckle; and Schubert’s orchestral masterpiece – the 5th Symphony, D485 will all feature.
The glass-clinking and good eating preamble will be repeated the night after ahead of a performance of Puccini’s Tosca, also from Heritage Opera.
This new production, which will premiere in July, promises to continue the Tosca legacy of charming and moving audiences, with its eternal themes of power, obsession, love, and death. It will be sung in English, accompanied by piano.
Two further weekends of music, entertainment and great food will come later in the month and will feature much to get excited about, not least the aforementioned traditional music ensemble, the Northumberland Ranters, who have become the Festival’s resident music makers since it began.
Chosen from talented young musicians who attend schools in Northumberland and aged between 10 and 19, the Ranters were formed seven years ago to continue and promote the culture and musical traditions of Northumberland.
Known for putting fiddles, cellos, accordions, flutes and Northumbrian pipes to memorable use, the young ensemble play all types of traditional music from England, Ireland, Scotland, as well as from Norway and Spain.
Later in the NMF calendar, Wicked Women will see two of The Archers’ most popular ladies – Sara Coward (Caroline Stirling) and Sunny Ormonde (Lilian Bellamy) take over the Festival stage at Eshott Hall with West End leading lady Jan Hartley in a show which celebrates memorable - and often scandalous - women from both real life and fiction.
Expect to hear wise and witty words from the likes of Carol Anne Duffy, Wendy Cope, Pam Ayres, Mae West, Dorothy Parker, Cleopatra, Tallulah Bankhead and of course, the Queen Mother!
Also among the on-stage treats on the programme is a Grand Operatic Tour of Italy, a Feast of Gilbert and Sullivan, The Three English Tenors and The Band Of The Royal Regiment Of Fusiliers before internationally renowned - but North East grown - operatic bass, Graeme Danby offers a journey through the words wit and music of the oh-so-English comedy duo (Michael) Flanders and (Donald) Swann, and the transatlantic brilliance of musical satirist Tom Lehrer.
That performance on November 30, will bring the NMF proceedings to a close for another year.
Festival director, Jeremy Peaker, who has put the programme together for the second year running, says: “The Festival has received a tremendous reception here in Northumberland over the last three years.
“The fourth festival will again be happening over three weekends with more opera, an orchestral concert and an emphasis on comic performances, together with our new competition, we think we are able to appeal to ever increasing numbers.
“Of course not only is this a festival of music, it will be, as always, a great festival of fine food.”
Not only that, but the 2014 event will also continue the fundraising trend which has seen almost £10,000 collected for local charities from a proportion of ticket sales. This year, the chosen good causes are Hospice Care, North Northumberland, and St Oswald’s Hospice, in Newcastle.
If you would like a full programme and/or more details on the packages available, email Festival organisers at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01668 283100. You can also visit the website at www.nmfestival.co.uk to explore what’s on offer.