Hagley Music Festival 2013


It was just after 10 a.m. on a Friday morning, and music could be heard breaking the silence.  The music was Howard Goodall’s The Lord is my shepherd.  No, nobody had started watching a repeat of The Vicar of Dibley, and no-one was getting married in the church! This was tightly-knit and beautiful singing from Hagley’s Roman Catholic School Chamber Choir, to begin the 2013 Hagley Music Festival.  They gave us a varied selection of pieces, including Killer Queen, all sung with a smile, to open the Shoppers’ Coffee Concert.  We were expecting a girl band to follow, but unfortunately two of the girls were unwell.  Instead a Year 10 band Falling Out of Favour stepped in - all boys, with vocals, guitars, keyboard and drums.  This was not the kind of music which can have been heard very often in Hagley Free Church, but we could all see why this band had won competitions - performing a mixture of Coldplay  and other songs, including their own material.

After Coffee, Haybridge Year 10 students took over, and gave a mixture of vocal and instrumental numbers, all performed with confidence and to a high standard, which was warmly applauded by an appreciative audience.

For the first time Hagley Music Festival had an evening jazz event - Bev Pegg and his Good Time Jazz Gang in St John’s on Friday night.  A selection of mainly 1920s/30s classic jazz went down well with the audience,most of whom had found the licensed bar beforehand.Kidderminster Male Voice Choir

The following day the festival found its way to St Saviour’s for a lunchtime concert from Kidderminster Male Choir.  Donning their bright red blazers, the members sang their hearts out.  The programme had everything from Elvis Presley to Verdi, musical showstoppers to Queen.  Laughter was in no short supply, with humorous introductions from the compères and some most extraordinary chicken noises.

 Saturday evening brought an astonishing concert which those who had been in the audience were still talking about days afterwards.  Ten musicians, none of whom were older than 19, were joined by the former BBC Young Musician of the Year winner, cellist Guy Johnston.  An injury to the harpist forced changes to the programme, which now began with an unexpected flute solo of tranquil tone and beauty, followed by two virtuoso performances from Lizzy Bass, substitute harpist, and from Guy, who had got up at 4.30 a.m. to fly from Berlin.  The highlight of the evening for many, though, was Mendelssohn’s String Octet, led by Roberto Ruisi, the NYO’s 16 year old leader.

As Christopher Morley wrote in The Birmingham  Post;

"Anyone fearing the future of classical music in this country would have been cheered by Saturday’s concert in this year’s Hagley Music Festival.  Never mind the beautiful evening sunshine suffusing the grounds of Hagley Hall; what was happening inside the charming little church was heartening enough, with musicians from the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain displaying brilliant  technique and an amazing maturity of musicianship, all without the guidance of a conductor".

Piano music and a cream tea was the attraction of Sunday afternoon.  What was not in the least anticipated was Matt Davis’ amiable dry Welsh wit, or his improvisations on tunes suggested by the audience.  These combined with the programme of popular classics to make for a delightful afternoon.  Hagley Café’s scones and cakes were rather good too!

Monday evening was a treat for both Hagley Primary pupils and audience alike.  The CBSO’s Little Big Time Band entertained everyone for the first part of the evening, followed by a rhythmic and catchy group instrumental composition and a second-half of fun historically-based songs from the Primary School, conducted by David Lawrence.

Hagley Community Orchestra took to the stage on Wednesday, giving us Bach, Mozart, Andrew Downes and Rogers and Hammerstein.  Superb oboe, flute and soprano solo performances brought a quality feel to this local enterprise, which has given many musicians the chance to develop their skills and musicianship.  The audience enjoyed joining in with some of the songs, too.

Friday’s celebrity concert was introduced as a “Welsh sandwich” by the Orchestra of The Swan’s conductor David Curtis.  Huw Watkins’ 2011 work Concertino was surrounded by English staples from Holst, Elgar, Vaughan Williams and Britten.   Tamsin Waley-Cohen’s performances of both the Huw Watkins Concertino and also Vaughan Williams’ The Lark Ascending were memorable for her intense concentration and complete  absorbtion in the music.  Those who saw her perform at St. John's will be looking out for her name again.


Saturday evening took us into the Saloon in Hagley Hall. With only 100 seats available, this was an intimate affair, with the artist raised on a platform for all to see her guitar-work in a demanding programme. Xuefei demonstrated her ability to play music of quite different styles and genres, and including a milestone piece for guitar by Benjamin Britten, and performed in this his centenary year.   A world premier performance of a piece by William Lovelady, on a guitar especially made for Fei by Paul Fischer - one of the best classical guitar makers of his time - for the evening’s concert, and filmed for the record by director Henry Astor, was something that no-one who was there will forget.

Choral Evensong brought the Music Festival to a close.  King Edwards’ Chamber Choir provided the choral music for the occasion, and their Director of Music was thrilled that they had the opportunity to sing in that “context and in a beautiful acoustic”.  A rather larger than normal congregation sung particularly vigorously, and even the sermon was described as a “highlight” of the occasion!   A free glass of wine afterwards was a fitting way to enable everyone to celebrate a special service and a wonderful festival.


compiled at the Rectory