Exceptional line-up as 21st Shipley Arts Festival begins

Andrew BernardiAndrew Bernardi
Andrew Bernardi
Violinist Andrew Bernardi – founder and artistic director of the Shipley Arts Festival – is thrilled the festival can celebrate its 21st birthday this year with a busy and impressive programme.

Tickets are now on sale at http://bernardimusicgroup.comThe programme begins with Music Celebrating 21 years on Sunday, May 2, at Shipley Parish Church at 8.30pm when the Bernardi Music Group with the String Academy will perform Holst St Paul’s Suite; John Ireland Toccata; and Vivaldi Concerto for Four Violins movement 1 in D major.

As Andrew says, it’s a chance to see the Bernardi Music Group perform side by side with the String Academy “as we celebrate and launch our 21st anniversary year in this beautiful and historic church.

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“Our programme includes our thanks to the late composer and performer John Ireland who rests at Shipley Parish Church. John Ireland continues to provide us with lasting inspiration as we celebrate our milestone anniversary and extend our commitment to creating and performing music inspired by the communities of Sussex.

“It feels like a very significant year for us, and I do have a sense of pride that we achieved our purposes very early on.

“We were already a very successful professional chamber group before we started the festival. We had done residencies with opera companies and all sorts of things.

“But I remember one day, when I still had my professorship at Kneller Hall (the Royal Military School of Music), an exceptionally distinguished musician asked me ‘Andrew, what is your real ambition? What do you really want to do?’

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“This was the year 2000, and I said we have got this chamber group and I really wanted to use this wonderful chamber group as a bringer-together of communities through music, to commission music, to bring young people together… but not just to listen, but to actually make music the thing that makes them grow as individuals and communities.

“I am very lucky to do some commercial sessions. I have done the big-name things. And I have always thought it was great and hoped that it would continue, but the fundamental feeling I had was that I wanted to do something of enormous purpose with the community. And I am so proud that we started to achieve that very early.”

It all grew from a charity concert at Shipley Church: “I met this amazing group of people around the church. I said ‘This concert has been really successful. You have got John Ireland buried in the church. You have got this wonderful rural community.’ I said ‘I really feel that we can do something extremely unique and special based around this wonderful community.’ And they instantly surprised me and said ‘Yes, that sounds like a great idea!’”

And so the Shipley Arts Festival began, as did country-house concerts and an association with The Capitol in Horsham: “People were really looking for a festival.”

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And so Andrew has maintained two exciting strands to his career: concerts around the world (in normal times) to more than a hundred thousand people a year, plus, on his doorstep, the rich community celebration which the Shipley Arts Festival has become.

“I play to people all around the world, but behind that the thing in my heart is what we can do for people through music. It is much more than entertainment. It is the essential business of bringing people together and surprising them into realising the bigger picture in their mind of all that they can communicate… and that is priceless.

“Music itself is the highest form of human intelligence, the highest actual expression of human intelligence. Music causes people to forget themselves if it is done really well and if it is a shared experience and if it is done with generosity.

“It causes people to connect with themselves in a way that nothing else does. It is also about having fun.

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“It causes people to connect with each other in a different way and in a way which is very direct, and that’s the reason music is the top shared moment in any successful society. Musicians are the ultimate bringers-together of people.”

And this past year has put that into perspective.

In terms of technology, the Shipley Arts Festival is striving to be the best, working to perfect its livestreaming and also working to be at the absolute cutting edge of innovation.

“We have used our digital formats to secure those same purposes of social mobility and of bringing people together. The pandemic has heightened the importance of our deep roots and our purpose in the community.

“But we are always looking at opportunities for young people, and this has gone on despite the pandemic. There are children in our string academy that have won scholarships that are going to be absolutely life-changing for them.”

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Also key to the festival’s place in its community is its relationship with its sponsors: “Our sponsors support us but we are also supporting our sponsors.

The festival has three levels of sponsorship: international, national and Sussex. Each relationship is a bespoke package which expands opportunities for business and community engagement.

“The sponsors are The Festival Friends, NFU Mutual, Nyetimber, Tooveys, Kreston Reeves, Wakefields, Yuayuan, and the government’s DCMS Recovery Fund awarded to us by Arts Council England,”

Full details on bernardimusicgroup.com

The programme includes:

Music Celebrating 21 years, Sunday, May 2, Shipley Parish Church, 8.30pm, Bernardi Music Group with the String Academy to perform Holst St Paul’s Suite; John Ireland Toccata; and Vivaldi Concerto for Four Violins movement 1 in D major.

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Live Concert: Celebrating Life, Friday, June 4, The Blue Idol, RH13 8QP, 7pm, performed by violinist Andrew Bernardi cellist Jonathan Few and flautist Bruce Martin: J S Bach Unaccompanied sonatas for violin cello movements; Debussy Syrinx; Faure Pavane for flute cello and violin

Live Concert: Baroque to Jazz at Lackenhurst, Friday, July 2, Lackenhurst, RH13 0JL, 7.30 pm, Andrew Bernardi and friends with Joe Townsend to perform Purcell Chacony in G minor; Joe Townsend Jazz; J S Bach Concerto for Jazz and Modern Violins; Handel Halvorsen Passacaglia

Showcasing Shipley Idyll at Findon Place, Friday, June 25, Findon Place and Church, BN14 0RF, 7.30pm, Bernardi Music Group to perform Elgar Serenade for Strings Op 20; Mendelssohn String Octet Op 20; and Paul Lewis Shipley Idyll. The evening will include the 2020 commission Shipley Idyll, written by Sussex composer Paul Lewis to mark Shipley Arts Festival’s double decade of achievements in the community.

Live Concert: Celebrating the Shipley Arts Festival’s commissions from Nuthurst Church, Sunday, June 27 (TBC), Nuthurst Church, RH13 6LH, 6.30pm, Bernardi Music Group with soloists Bruce Martin and Andrew Bernardi to perform: Paul Lewis Violin Concerto; J S Bach Concerto for flute BMV 1055; Cecilia McDowall Great Hill

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Live Concert: Knowledge Night at Windlesham House School, Tuesday, June 29, Windlesham House School, RH20 4AY, 7pm, programme to be confirmed. The Stradivarius Piano Trio will be performing with the String Academy.

Music and Views for your senses at Durrance Manor, Sunday, July 11, Durrance Manor, RH13 8PE, 6.30pm, The Stradivarius Piano Trio with clarinetist Nicola Baigent to perform Beethoven Piano Trio Op 38 in E flat major; Max Bruch Op 83 no 5 Trio for clarinet, viola and piano; Handel Halvorsen Variations on a theme for violin and cello.

String Academy and Trinity Sannyi School concert at the Yehudi Menuhin School, Friday, August 6, Menuhin Hall at the Yehudi Menuhin School, KT11 3QQ, time TBC.

Opera at Leonardslee Gardens, Monday, May 31, Leonardslee Lakes and Gardens, RH13 6PP, 6.30pm, Bernardi Music Group, soprano Charlotte Broker and tenor Ben Thapa to perform favourites including: Puccini’s Crisantemi (Chrysanthemums), Nessun Dorma, plus excerpts from La Bohème, Verdi’s La Traviata and Mozart’s Così fan Tutti.

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The Four Seasons at Leonardslee Gardens, Wednesday, June 23, Leonardslee Lakes and Gardens, RH13 6PP, 7pm, Bernardi Music Group and Stradivarius Piano Trio to perform and Piazzolla The Four Seasons: Verano Porteño (Buenos Aires Summer); Vivaldi The Four Seasons.