THE baroque ensemble Red Priest opened the 14th Brinkburn Music festival last night in rousing style, heralding a weekend of truly world class classical music.
For many events, the wet weather has been a real downer. But yesterday festival general manager Jane Blackburn said the only problem was people thinking there would be a problem.
“Some people do think they will be sitting outside so it is very important to get across the fact that the concerts take place inside,” she said.
“Brinkburn may be a 12th Century priory with no running water but the whole point is that we have these near perfect acoustics created by the Victorians when they put a new roof on.
“You do have to park in a field and walk the 10 minutes to the priory but we have had rain before and people have coped. This is not Glastonbury, it’s Northumberland and people come sensibly dressed.”
One year, remembered Jane, it rained heavily so she sat in a car at the top of the drive offering elderly visitors a lift to the priory door. To a man (and woman), they spurned her offer.
“We did have a couple saying, ‘We assume your car park is a quagmire’ but it isn’t. In fact, it’s pretty dry in Northumberland at the moment.
Picnics are part of the Brinkburn fun and you can take your own or order one, or indeed partake of a three-course meal served by local food specialists Fresh Element (24 hours notice is required and the festival does continue next weekend – tel: 0191 226-7323).
There is a marquee to provide some cover and, in past years when it has rained, picnickers have used the priory itself.
Pianist Joanna MacGregor opens the proceedings this afternoon with a bit of music history. She will perform Messiaen’s Vingt Regards sur l’Enfant Jesus which was composed in 1944 during the liberation of Paris.
MacGregor, who has performed at Brinkburn before, describes the piece as “a technical achievement, an act of faith, an emotional rollercoaster”.
The fact that she will play the piece without a break (the concert is scheduled to start at 2pm and end at 4.45pm) might deter some people.
Jane Blackburn said: “It’s an extraordinary piece of music. The music experts were thrilled when they heard we were doing this piece. One man said, ‘This is going to be the most special moment of my life’. He almost had tears in his eyes. People do get emotionally attached to this piece. It might seem a long time to be sitting down but we do challenging stuff here as well as more popular concerts.”
Joanna MacGregor will be back in the priory on Sunday afternoon for a concert of Bach, Schumann, Satie and Chopin. The weekend’s evening entertainment is provided by the King’s Singers (7.30pm tonight) and the Northern Sinfonia, in a programme including Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony, no. 8, and Mozart’s Symphony 41, Jupiter (Sunday, 5pm).
The music continues next weekend with concerts by pianist Paul Lewis, North-East choirs and the Gabrieli Consort led by Paul McCreesh, artistic director of Brinkburn Music.
For tickets, tel: (01289) 330999. For more information, visit www.brinkburnfestival.co.uk