Dartington Summer School & Festival

Farewell to Dartington….

It’s been a great five years. Even when I was running around in my ‘Norwegian’ coat with a   large waterproof hood, occasionally battling the elements – a pile of music under one arm and a mobile phone pressed to my ear – I knew that Dartington was the centre of summer. I can still hear the Big Choir warming up after breakfast, their wordless scales reverberating across the Courtyard; the joyful samba band, and jazz students jamming in the White Hart. The gentle melodiousness of viols and recorders wafting from the upper windows of the West Wing, and the brass class, gruffly waking up in the Gatehouse. Folk songs rolling across the wildflower graveyard, meeting the vocal workshop (and supportive applause) coming the other way from the Ship Studio. The Festival Orchestra and conductors resonating behind the trees in Studio 6, and chamber music pouring out of every corner.

There have been so many highlights for me, I wouldn’t know where to start. St Matthew Passion with Tom Randle and Gillian Keith as evangelists; Oh, What a Lovely War! with teenage actors, in the jewel-like Barn Theatre. Baroque operas, brilliantly directed by my lovely husband Richard Williams, and Peter Grimes, under the fabulous guidance of Sian Edwards. Alfred Brendel’s wisdom-filled lectures, and the vibrant Kathryn Tickell and Amy Thatcher, kicking off a big folk programme. Adriano Adewale improvising with Adrian Brendel; Laurence Cummings directing a vast Saul, then turning around and singing to the audience. Improvisation and film with jazz idol Eric Vloeimans, and Neil Brand’s Oliver Twist. Marina Warner lecturing on Arabian Nights, and Simon Armitage reading Gawain and the Green Knight. Harriet Walter and Jane Glover collaborating in The Creation; James Runcie’s classes on Paradise Lost. Concerts dedicated to the pain of exile, with Stile Antico and Tamim al-Barghouti. Young artists flourishing onstage; Harry Birtwistle, Judith Weir, Michael Finnissy and Eleanor Alberga inspiring young composers. And my days and nights – practising every morning in the Ship Studio, teaching, rehearsing, attending (and performing) concerts, and being with musicians until the small hours – filled with music and laughter. As Eleanor wrote to me about ‘living’ The Rite of Spring in the Great Hall, I have fully ‘lived’ in the trees and gardens, stones and history of Dartington.

I’ve been inundated with messages, emails, cards and letters – so heart-warming and moving, thank you. What a great experience this has been for me. I wish you all joy, friendship and success for the coming years of the Summer School.

We Are Celebrating 70 Years!

It’s a great pleasure to welcome you to the 70th anniversary of the historic Dartington International Summer School!

It’s the Summer School’s 70th birthday this year and there’s a joyous, bumper programme, packed with acclaimed and innovative artists throughout four weeks. Imogen Cooper, Jane Glover, Felicity Lott, Tom Randle, Adrian Brendel and Oliver Knussen – as well as the brilliant folk duo Harbottle and Jonas, Trio Gaspard and the fabulous Heath Quartet – will be part of the celebrations. There are workshops and masterclasses, coaching and concerts, premieres and new collaborations.

Our choral projects are even more colourful and ambitious, from Bolivian Masses and Bach’s St Matthew Passion to Haydn’s Creation and Verdi’s Requiem. We thrill to music resonating with liberation: Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro, as well as Byron Wallen’s cool jazz project celebrating Martin Luther King and the Harlem Renaissance. Composition is buzzing with Eleanor Alberga, Oliver Knussen and Freya Waley-Cohen. Neil Brand presents film and music, Adriano Adewale and Luiz Morais delight us with Latin American rhythm – all this and flamenco, too.

I’m delighted to welcome a distinguished group of writers and poets including James Runcie, Alice Oswald, and the award-winning Katrina Porteous on wild landscapes.

Dartington is a place of extraordinary beauty and creativity, and its ancient buildings and dream-like gardens resonate and shimmer with generations of musicians, artists, dancers, poets and writers. Each year the Summer School sets out to do something unique: to create a community of all ages and backgrounds, coming together in a fantastic atmosphere of study and friendship, celebration and performance. We’re a music school by day, and a concert hall by night; you can listen to up to three concerts each evening.

I look forward to welcoming you all to what will be a wonderful summer party –the 70th anniversary of the Summer School!

Joanna MacGregor, Artistic Director