Over 165 of the UK’s most accomplished musicians descended on Colchester and the surrounding countryside for the 15th Roman River Festival, playing 27 concerts in just over two weeks plus a further ten recitals in schools.
The festival looked in particular at music from the golden period of 1890 – 1914. The Festival Artist was Luke Elwes and for the first time there was a special Festival Exhibition of his work, curated by Cobbold & Judd.
Our education programme enabled over 1,000 young people to unlock hidden talents, gain in self-confidence, learn teamwork and self-discipline, and develop their skills and ability to learn by composing, singing, playing, performing, and listening to the international quality concerts, ten of which took place in schools. Young musicians rehearsed and performed alongside some of the musicians appearing at the festival, and we began a series of Young Artist Showcase concerts, to give performance opportunities to exceptionally talented local young musicians.
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Our heartfelt thanks to the organisations and individuals who enabled the 15th Roman River Festival and education programme to take place.
International stars Sergio Tiempo, Jennifer Pike, Guy Johnston, and Natalie Clein, Rachmaninov’s Vespers at Stoke by Nayland, star soprano Ruby Hughes performing in the beautiful long gallery at Layer Marney Tower, and a performance of Brahms’ A German Requiem on 4th October, with two rising stars of the singing world Lucy Hall and Ben McAteer and a top class orchestra lead by Peter Hansen and featuring the country’s top period brass. Leading cellist Richard Lester played Schumann Cello Concerto in the first half.
LSO principal cello Rebecca Gilliver played Elgar’s Cello Concerto with Samuel Burstin conducting Stravinsky’s Firebird, and East London folk minimalists Firefly Burning, ‘pop-in-disguise’ singer-songwriter Fiona Bevan and electro-acoustic magician Gabriel Prokofiev rubbed shoulders with leading period-instrument specialists performing Pergolesi, Bach and Brahms, new classical music by seven composers, and Thomas Guthrie singing Schubert’s Die Winterreise in Liquid nightclub.
We showcased some amazing young talent during the festival – the Celan Quartet playing Mozart and Brahms, Savitri Grier in Bach and Ysaye, young conductor Samuel Burstin and our side-by-side ensemble in Stravinsky’s Firebird, and composer-clarinettist Mark Simpson, who made his Proms début at the age of 19.
Over 1,000 young people were involved in this year’s education programme.
There were intimate recitals in Peake’s House, a beautiful and amazingly original 16th century half-timbered townhouse in Colchester’s Dutch Quarter. We loved the atmosphere and beauty of St Martin’s Church in Colchester so much that we programmed six events there this year, and we returned to the perfect sounds of Fingringhoe Church, Liquid nightclub, Fordham Church, and the tiny Abberton Church, in which the UK’s leading gamba player Jonathan Manson played works from the 17th century heyday of the Bologna cello school, by Gabrielli, Bononcini and Jacchini. The soaring pillars and wonderful acoustics of Stoke by Nayland Church made it our main venue for the third year running, and we transformed the sightlines with dramatic stepped staging both for audience and performers.