Benedetti Elshenbrioch Grynyuk Trio, who appeared at the 2016 festival

This has been the first time we have come to the Festival and we were enthralled; it has been superb Audience member

2016 was the most adventurous in our 16 year history, combining an ambitious programme of challenging music with our most varied offering of artforms yet. Among festival highlights were a theatrical dramatisation of the life of 16th-century composer Carlo Gesualdo, brand new choreography to the music of JS Bach, a string quartet performed from memory in darkness, guided walks, family concerts, a day out singing sea shanties on a Maldon barge, new collaborations between folk and classical musicians, a beer festival, talks and exhibitions, a hair-raising Bartók ballet set in a brothel and an epic Mahler symphony.

Yet another wonderful season of music. Audience member

International stars Tim Hugh, Nicola Benedetti, James Gilchrist and Bellowhead’s Jon Boden appeared alongside rising stars Kensington Brass and the Marian Consort, dancer Laura Caldow, guitarist Chris Woods (photo), rock art collective the Neutrinos and international chamber music performers including Tom Poster, Savitri Grier, Katie Stillman and Nathaniel Boyd.

Chris Woods, who appeared at the 2016 festival

The festival continued its friendly, informal concert style, with the music introduced by the performers. A ‘pay what you can’ concert produced an average ticket price of over £11, and a ‘read the paper’ concert introduced a totally relaxed, informal style. Both concerts were packed.

The opening weekend brought some of the world’s leading classical musicians to play chamber music in churches in the area’s idyllic countryside. The second weekend celebrated Colchester’s unusual and charismatic venues with theatre, dance, installations, immersive experiences, concerts and exhibitions. The third offered rare orchestral masterpieces with a stunning orchestra hand-picked from London’s international orchestras, in the dramatic setting and wonderful acoustic of Stoke-by-Nayland Church.

Thank you for a truly magnificent concert. The choir were exemplary in all departments; fantastic tuning and blend especially from those doing the high wire act. Communication from choir members was great. The Schutz three part motet will stay in my mind for a long time. Robin Greatorex, audience member on the Elysian Singers


Untitled-2.inddWe featured Anne-Marie Jacobs’  stunning aerial photos of Essex marshes on all our publicity material. A special exhibition of her work mounted by the Minories Gallery in Colchester complemented displays of her ceramics at the 16 festival venues.

Our core offering of compelling, challenging music brought to life by international performers in converted, informal and unexpected spaces, strengthened our reputation as a festival to be surprised and inspired by. The artistic quality of the festival has resulted in Radio 3 planning to broadcast 4 concerts from the summer festival in 2017.

Our learning and participation programme continued to evolve. Our work in schools actively involved over 1,500 children and was spread across several months rather than the intense period around the Festival which had previously presented challenges to schools. The projects increased Roman River’s profile in schools and their communities, and forged new collaborations with local organisations. The overall programme is also developing to involve excluded groups and those with challenges of various kinds, as well as young people.

I wanted to say once again how thrilled we were to be a part of this year’s festival. We really enjoyed our stay and events, made so much more pleasurable by outstandingly generous hosts, the highest quality of music making in the orchestras, and welcoming, kind and encouraging support by your entire team. Kensington Brass



Roman River @ the Mercury | March and May

Building on our first co-promotion with the Mercury Theatre last year, two excellent concerts: Tasmin Little and Piers Lane in March, and Argentinian pianist Sergio Tiempo in May. Average occupancy 97%.

Tim RidoutSummer festival | July 4-6

Five informal concerts programmed over a summer weekend to make the most of light evenings, idyllic countryside and  warm churches. The festival included

  • Piano Quartets by Fauré and Schumann with sensational American violinist Elena Urioste, rising star violist Tim Ridout, Artistic Director Orlando Jopling and long-time festival favourite Tom Poster.

Last night was utter magic. The Quartet were so good together that it is hard to appreciate that they don’t play together every day. Wonderful programme, too. Marcus Gregson, audience member

  • A virtuosic solo viola recital by Tim Ridout including music by Patterson, Vieuxtemps, Telemann, Hefti and Bach.
  • Juliette Bausor flute, Daniel Bates oboe, Katherine Spencer clarinet, Stuart King bass clarinet, Peter Whelan bassoon and Pip Eastop horn played Ibert Trois Pièces Brèves, Veress Trio for Oboe, Clarinet and Bassoon, Damase Dix-Sept Variations, Poulenc Novelette and Janacek Mladi
  • A family concert with specialists Billy’s Band led by Dan Newell, LSO trumpet
  • Winners of the Oxford Lieder Young Artists competition Nick Mogg (baritone) and Jâms Coleman (piano) performed a range of repertoire and musical styles for their Roman River début, including songs by Schubert, Loewe, Britten and Quilter

Just to say thank you for the delightful concert we enjoyed this afternoon. The setting was beautiful and the 2 performers gave us such a superb performance and they were great communicators too. The music was a joy to listen to. Sue More

Main Festival | 15 September – 2 October


We heard new music by Mark-Anthony Turnage, Steve Reich, Tom Adès, Gwilym Simcock, Jonathan Dove, Elvis Costello, Chris Woods, David Lang, Julia Wolfe and Michael Gordon and seven local composers, and forgotten 400-year-old choral gems by Praetorius, Gesualdo and Schein.

Outreach and opportunities for young people

During the summer term, top animateur Anthony Bailey and Roman River musicians gave workshops in 8 primary schools, introducing the music and themes of Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf, ahead of a performance to 750 pupils at the Mercury Theatre.

The main festival included early years concerts for children of 6 months upwards, a community brass project that included players well into their 70s, a primary singing and composition project in partnership with the Essex Music Education Hub, coaching for secondary school age musicians, and free interactive recitals and workshops in seven secondary schools by festival musicians. The Festival Finale included over 100 performers ranging from local primary school children to members of the London Symphony Orchestra, the festival choir, the local youth orchestra and the inspirational singer/songwriter Gwyneth Herbert.

We continued our very successful young musician programme, selecting six exceptionally talented musicians at the start of their careers and giving them mentoring and development opportunities within the festival. Our context out of London and our support network of partners and Friends gives us the unique opportunity to be able to offer life-changing opportunities to talented young musicians, and we are thrilled to have the support of the Jerwood Foundation and Fenton Arts Trust to enable us to continue this effective work.


Roman River Music performed in 20 venues in 2016, including the Mercury Theatre and the following venues:

Summer Festival 

East Mersea, Wivenhoe, *West Bergholt and Mistley Church

Main Festival 

Fordham, Fingringhoe, *Coggeshall, Dedham, *Brightlingsea, and Stoke by Nayland Churches | St Martin’s Church in Colchester | The Mosaic Space, Firstsite | *Colchester Arts Centre | *Thistle (a 1904 sailing barge) | *The old bus depot, Colchester | *Theatricool | *The studio theatre at the Mercury | Tymperleys (a half-timbered 15th century merchants house in central Colchester) | The Moot Hall at Colchester Town Hall