30.12.18

Past performers 2006-2018

We have had an amazing year in 2018, including the privilege of a recital by Gerald Finley and an incredible performance of Handel's Messiah. Over the last 12 years we've welcomed a host of wonderful performers, and, for the record, here they all are:

Adrian Bradbury | Adriano Graziani | Aiso Quartet | Alessandra Testai | Alex Metcalfe | Amanda Pitt | Ann Beilby | Anthony Zerpa-Falcon | Archaeus String Quartet | Archduke Trio | Barbirolli Quartet | Callum Smart | Cambridge Taverner Choir | Cantabile | Cellists of the RPO | Charles Wiffen | Chelys Viol Ensemble | Chris Hatt | Christopher Sayles | Clio Gould | Daniel Auchinloss | David Chatterton | David Campbell | Daniel Edgar | Daniel Tong | David Owen-Norris | David Maw | David Owen Norris | Decimus Consort | Diane Moore | Dulcinea Quartet | Eleanor Alberga | Ellen Smith | English Cornett and Sackbut Ensemble | Felicity Lott | Follia | Frances Yonge | Gary Branch | Gerald Finley | Giles Davies | Gilfillan family | Greg Tassell | Guy Johnstone | Hugh Webb | Ibrahim Aziz | Jamie McVinnie | Jane Gomm | Jennifer Snapes | Jong-Gyung Park | Julius Drake | Karen Jones | Karina Lucas | Kate Andrews | Kate Semmens | Katharine Johns | Katie Stillman | Kokoschka Trio | Konevets Quartet | Ken Aiso | King Charles Singers | Lianna Jeffrey | Liz Partridge | London Bridge Ensemble | Marcus Andrews | Margaret Faultless | Marie-Noelle Kendall | Martin Fogel | Masahiro Yamaguchi | Matchbox Opera | Merry Opera | Michael Bacon | Michael Collins | Michael Grant | Michael McHale | Miriam Cox | Nigel Clayton | Oliver Davies | Owen Rees | Paul Clark | Paul Jeffrey | Paul Guinery | Pentagon Ensemble | Peter Arnold | Peter Barker | Rachel Godsill | Rachel Stroud | Raphael Wallfisch | Richard Egarr | Richard Uttley | Robert Gibbs | Robin Jeffrey | Roselyne Martel-Bonnal | Rose Trio | Royal Tunbridge Wells Male Voice Choir | Ruth Beedham | St Andrews University Madrigal Group | Sam Haywood | Sara Lois Cunningham | Sarah Stuart-Pennink | Sasha Grynyuk | Schubert Ensemble | Simon Lane | Sophia Lisovskaya | Steve Pierce | Steven Devine | Temenos Chamber Choir | Teresa Caudle | Tim Gill | Tim Lines | Tom Bowes | Tom Foster | Tom Lilburn | Trajecti Voices | Trevor Eliot Bowes | Twilight Ensemble | Unexpected Opera | William Bass | William Summers | Yeo Yat Soon | Yukiko Shinohara

22.12.18

Handel in Tunbridge Wells

The earliest reference to Handel visiting Tunbridge Wells appears in his letter to Charles Jennens in July 1735. Jennens had sent a libretto (probably Saul) to Handel in London, and Handel wrote: “I am just going to Tunbridge, … I shall have more leisure time there to read it with all the Attention it deserves”.

It is likely that at this time Handel was visiting the town more for its social scene and entertainments than for medical reasons, this also being the year when Beau Nash took over as Master of Ceremonies. According to Samuel Derrick (Nash’s successor) “the best musical performers of the age, often come down hither from London, and form elegant concerts, for which they are generally well paid”. Derrick was less complimentary about the fiddlers “scraping away” in the Music Gallery on the Pantiles during the hours of water-drinking – “I cannot say they yield very delightful strains.”

Nash’s Rules and Regulations recommended, among rules for dancing, card-playing and donating to the water-dippers, that visitors should make voluntary contributions to pay for the minister at King Charles the Martyr; “It is hoped he may rely with confidence for the reward of his labours, on the benevolence of those who reap the benefit of them”. Handel evidently followed this advice as his name appears in the subscription list for the Church of King Charles the Martyr in 1755.

Charles Burney wrote in 1785 that during the last years of his life, Handel constantly attended public prayers, twice a day, winter and summer, both in London and Tunbridge Wells. William Coxe reported that that during his visit in 1755 Handel had a quarrel with John Christopher Smith senior (Handel’s first copyist in London who he summoned from Germany in 1712). Smith left Handel “in an abrupt manner, which so enraged him, that he declared he would never see him again”, though Handel stayed friends with his son who acted his secretary and amanuensis and conducted the performances of his late oratorios.

The last references to Handel visiting Tunbridge Wells are in August 1758, when he is mentioned as being with William Morrell, librettist of Judas Maccabeus and other late oratorios. On this occasion Handel underwent couching (a form of cataract treatment) at the hands of John “Chevalier” Taylor, a notorious travelling oculist. (Taylor had in 1750 performed a botched operation on JS Bach in Leipzig, leaving Bach continuously ill for six months afterwards). Taylor celebrated the operation in his ode “On the Recovery of the Sight of the Celebrated Mr Handel, by the Chevalier Taylor”. One of the opening verses reads: “Great Father of Music and every Science / In all our Distresses, on thee our reliance; / Know then, in yon villa, from pleasures confin’d, / Lies our favourite, Handel, afflicted and blind.” The poetry does not improve, and neither did Handel’s eyesight. Later in his diaries Taylor admitted that “upon drawing the curtain” (i.e. removing the supposed cataract) the back of the eye was found to be “defective, from a paralytic disorder”.

The 1985 television film “God Rot Tunbridge Wells!”, written by John Osborne, portrays Handel’s riposte to an appalling performance of Messiah by the Tunbridge Wells Ladies Music Circle, but sadly there is no historical foundation to this scene.

Programme notes by Patrick Glencross


11.12.18

A truly magic evening

What an experience! There was an audible gasp from the audience after the last chord of Saturday’s performance of Handel’s Messiah, followed by an astonishing, prolonged standing ovation from the full house.

It was Director Steven Devine’s vision that had paid off. Bringing together superb players mainly of the OAE with world-class soloists from the world of opera, and a small, dynamic choir, his interpretation focused tenaciously on the meaning of the text’s juxtapositions of scripture. Not only was the performance of terrifically high quality, the audience were truly taken on an emotional journey that no-one there will forget.

“The best performance of Messiah I have ever heard.”
“Privileged to be there.”
“The intimacy of the setting gave us all the opportunity to feel that we were part of it. I shall never hear a better Messiah. A truly magic evening.”
“How amazing tonight was. One of the best musical experiences ever, in King Charles or anywhere. I and all the people I spoke to were pretty much lost for words.”
“I was moved afresh by the extraordinary scriptural truths of this extraordinary piece of inspired genius and the dramatic setting... overall one of my top 10 musical experiences ever.”
"It was a-ma-zing."

With thanks to the whole cast:

Soprano: Kate Semmens. Alto Tom Lilburn. Tenor: Dan Auchinloss. Bass: Trevor Eliot Bowes

Violin 1: Daniel Edgar (leader), George Clifford, Sophie Simpson. Violin 2: Stephen Rouse, Mark Seow. Viola: Jan Schlapp. Cello: Kinga Gaborjani. Double bass: Kate Brook. Oboe: James Eastaway, Geoff Coates. Trumpet: Tamsin Cowell, Kirsty Loosemore. Timpani: Stephen Birke. Harpsichord: Stephen Devine. Organ: Robin Bigwood. Directed by Steven Devine. 

Decimus Consort - Soprano: Kate Faber, Caroline Preston Bell, Ellen Smith, Polly Walton. Alto: Christina Astin, Nicholas Perkins, Ben Toombs. Tenor: Alex Churchill, Stephen Pritchard, Philip Mills. Bass: Keith Bryant, Patrick Glencross, Rupert Preston Bell.

12.11.18

Handel Messiah for Christmas

Saturday 8 December, 7:00pm
(Note early start time)

Directed by Steven Devine, co-principal keyboard player with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and also the principal keyboard player for The Gonzaga Band, Apollo and Pan, The Classical Opera Company and performs regularly with many other groups around Europe, including the Academy of Ancient Music.

With four world-class soloists
Kate Semmens, soprano
Mark Chambers, counter-tenor
Daniel Auchinloss, tenor
Trevor Eliot Bowes, bass

Tickets are available here. Advance booking recommended.

Suiting the early Baroque interior of King Charles church and its excellent acoustic, this performance of Handel's masterpiece with a small orchestra and a choir of just 12 singers aims to recreate something of his original conception.

23.10.18

Fauré Requiem 11 November

6:30pm

In place of the usual Sunday evening service, this will be a devotional performance with prayers to mark the centenary of the Armistice.
There will be a retiring collection for the Royal British Legion.

19.10.18

Alex Metcalfe Trio

Saturday 20 October, 7:30pm
Tickets available from https://ticketsource.co.uk/mkctw

Katy Johns (violin)
Miriam Cox (cello)
Alex Metcalfe (piano)

Schubert Trio in B Flat
Shostakovich Trio no.2

6.10.18

Frisson 12 October - Festival highlight

Friday 12 October, 7:30pm | Tickets

A highlight of the Tunbridge Wells International Music Festival this year is the concert at King Charles by Ensemble Frisson, with Karen Jones (whose fabulous flute playing was chosen for the Harry Potter films and May’s royal wedding), Ann Beilby (viola) and Hugh Webb (harp). Their enchanting programme includes music by Debussy, Bax, Richard Rodney Bennett and others.

Hugh Webb (harp) 
Hugh Webb studied with Renata Scheffel-Stein, Sioned Williams and Susan Drake. He has worked extensively in the contemporary music field and Javier Alvarez, Robert Keely and Ian Dearden have all written solo works for him with funding from the Arts Council of England. Hugh’s CD recordings include Bax’s Concerto for Flute, Oboe, Harp and String Quartet with the Academy of St Martin’s Chamber Ensemble (Chandos); a collection of French music for flute and harp; Villa Lobos’s Quartet (Clarinet Classics); and Bax’s Fantasy Sonata (Koch International). He gave the first performance of Cyril Scott’s Celtic Rhapsody as part of Sidonie Goossens’ 100th Birthday Celebrations at the Wigmore Hall. Hugh Webb also plays jazz on the harp and has given recitals at the European Harp Symposium and the World Harp Congress. He is active in the commercial world of television, film and popular music, devised a children’s show which toured very successfully in 1998 and has written music for a version of The Snow Queen. He has given many masterclasses and has lectured at London’s Royal Academy of Music, the Paris Conservatoire, the Sweelinck Conservatoire in Amsterdam and with Telynor Morgannwg in Wales.

Annie Beilby (viola) 
Australian violist Ann Beilby made her solo debut in the Sydney Opera house aged 19. She has since won many awards and prizes, both as a solo and as a chamber musician, including the Schott & Co Publishing Prize at the 2006 Lionel Tertis International Viola Competition, and the Cecil Aronowitz, Lionel Tertis and Lesley Alexander Prizes at the RCM (2009). Annie was also a finalist in the RCM String Player of the Year Award in 2009, and joint winner of the 2007 RCM Autumn Concerto Competition String section. Having graduated from the Royal College of Music’s MMus programme with Distinction in 2010, Annie now enjoys a rich and varied musical life freelancing with the leading London symphony and chamber orchestras. She is eternally grateful for the support of here mentors Guenter Pichler, Alex Todicescu (Sydney Conservatorium of Music) and Ian Jewel (RCM, London), as well as the Worshipful Company of Musicians in London; the Musicians Benevolent Fund; the Leverhulme Trust; the Richard Carne Trust; the Meyer Foundation; the Escuela Superior de Musica Reina Sofia; the Australian Music Foundation; and the Royal College of Music. She plays on a wonderful modern viola made for her in 2011 by David Milward.

Karen Jones (flute) 
Karen Jones studied at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama with Peter Lloyd and subsequently won a Fulbright Scholarship and Harkness Fellowship to study in Vienna with Wolfgang Schulz and in New York with Thomas Nyfenger. Her early successes include winning the woodwind section of the BBC TV Young Musician of the Year competition and the Gold Medal in the Shell/London Symphony Orchestra Scholarship. Whilst completing her studies in the USA, she was appointed principal flute of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, a position she held for five years before returning to London. Karen is in great demand as guest principal flute with all the major London orchestras and ensembles including the London Philharmonic Orchestra, Philharmonia and London Sinfonietta. In addition, she is principal flute of both the London Chamber Orchestra and the City of London Sinfonia, and in 2014 was invited to play with the World Orchestra for Peace. She combines this with regular solo engagements, chamber music projects and commercial studio work including the film scores to Harry Potter, Sweeney Todd and Bridget Jones. Previously having held teaching posts at the Royal Northern College of Music and Trinity College of Music, London, Karen has a busy schedule as one of the UK’s leading flute teachers giving masterclasses across the country, as well as coaching for orchestras such as the National Youth Orchestra and Kent Youth Orchestra. In 2004 Karen became a professor at the Royal Academy of Music.

5.10.18

Twilight Ensemble 5 October

7:30pm | Discounted tickets available here until 4pm on the day, or full price on the door

In partnership with the Tunbridge Wells International Music Festival, we present the Twilight Ensemble: singers Sarah Dacey, Ciara Hendrick, Greg Tassell and James Oldfield, and pianist Belinda Jones, with guest pianist Andrew Matthews-Owen.

Highlights of the programme will include Brahms' Liebeslieder Waltzes Op. 52, and humorous songs by Tom Lehrer and Flanders & Swann.

Described as 'exceptionally good' and 'full of personality' Twilight Ensemble have quickly established themselves as a brilliant vocal quartet group dedicated to performing a cappella and accompanied works.

They have a wide range of repertoire, from rare French and German Romantic quartets through to light and comic songs, and have built an excellent reputation for their compelling sound, artistry and communication with audiences. Its members are outstanding singers and musicians, working regularly for companies such as the Royal Opera House, English Touring Opera, Glyndebourne, and the OAE and performing at venues including the Rachmaninoff Hall in Moscow, the Wigmore Hall, and Royal Festival Hall.

 As a group, they have appeared at a variety of venues and festivals including Brandenburg Choral Festival, Rye Arts Festival, Lamberhurst Festival, Queens Tennis Club and Drapers Hall, and have also recorded for Music Sales Ltd. As well as discovering and performing older works, the group are also dedicated to arranging and writing their own pieces and commissioning new works.

29.9.18

Soloists for December's Messiah

We're delighted to announce the soloists who will be singing in our performance of Handel's Messiah on 8th December, directed by Steven Devine.

Find out more about them from these links:
Kate Semmens, soprano
Mark Chambers, counter-tenor
Daniel Auchinloss, tenor
Trevor Eliot Bowes, bass

Tickets are available here.