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.