PETWORTH FESTIVAL: Spice Girls' demise is classical music's gain!

What do you do when you are faced with the devastating tragedy of the Spice Girls splitting up?

The answer for Laura Snowden, originally from East Grinstead and performing at this year’s Petworth Festival, was to take up classical guitar.

She will be offering the first of two lunchtime events presented as part of the festival’s continuing relationship with the Worshipful Company of Musicians. Her recital will be in Leconfield Hall on Thursday, July 21, at 12pm.

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Following studies at the Yehudi Menuhin School, Laura went on to study guitar and composition at the Royal College of Music, and one of her own compositions will be included in the programme.

“Composition has always been something I have done. I used to write songs before I took up the guitar. It was quite instinctive for me to be writing music, and I have started programming some of my own pieces now.

“When you are interpreting someone else’s piece, you are always thinking what were the composer’s real intentions in terms of the character and the feeling of the piece. If you have written it, obviously you know exactly that and there is perhaps less pressure because you know what you want. But actually most of what I have written, I have written for other people or for a particular person that has asked for something.

“The piece I am playing at Petworth, I think, is the first piece I wrote for myself. It is called Anpao, the name of the goddess of dawn in one of the strands of native American mythology, It is meant to evoke the early morning when you are getting up at 4am for your Ryanair flight, having booked a seat next to you for your guitar!”

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Laura is contemplating recording a CD of her own work: “With the folk band I play in, it felt natural to record an album because a lot of pieces that we play are pieces that we have written or arranged, and we made that album in 2015, but with the solo playing, it would be a bit more tricky to decide what to record, not just your own pieces but pieces by other people as well.”

It was listening to her father’s recordings of Ralph McTell that got Laura into the acoustic guitar in the first place: “I just fell in love with the instrument. I wanted to start lessons at school, but I couldn’t. It was full up. I was trying to persuade a boy to do country dancing instead so I could start the guitar! So I taught myself to start with…

“And then when the Spice Girls split up, I got very upset and disillusioned with the pop world. I decided to bury my misery in the classical guitar instead!”

As for her Petworth programme, Laura will also be playing John Dowland – Two Fantasies; Heitor Villa-Lobos – Five Preludes; Lennox Berkeley – Sonatina and J K Mertz – Fantaisie Hongroise.

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“In this instance, I was asked to produce quite a varied programme. This programme is like a little bit of everything. I have tried to put something in from lots of different eras and different styles and characters. Sometimes you might have a theme or try to put together maybe three major pieces, but this one is more of a pot pourri really.”

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