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Behind the Scenes at the Martinborough Music Festival

November 21, 2018 November 2018 No Comments

Until he took on the role of Chair of the Martinborough Music Festival Ed Allen thought he had a good sense of what was involved in putting on such an event.  After all he’d performed professionally as a French Horn player all over the world.  “Not so”, he says now.  “I realise that when you sit down to play or to listen, you are enjoying the results of a tremendous amount of unseen planning and organisation.”

Musicians are often booked up years ahead so within days of the inaugural Festival last year Vicki Jones, with the help of fellow musician Wilma Smith, was working on the critical task of identifying the artists and the repertoire for 2018.  Her choices would include music spanning more than 300 years from J S Bach to Gareth Farr and some 50 years separated the youngest musician from the oldest.   The instruments also spanned the centuries; the most modern a 2015 cello, the oldest a 1610 viola.  

With the artists signed up, the work of promoting the Festival and attracting the audience was next.  The rave reviews from 2017 made this task much easier.  This year’s festival was completely sold out in advance, with 200 more seats sold than last year.  As Brendan Smyth, who managed the marketing says, “We are well on our way to reaching our goal of becoming “the best little chamber music festival in New Zealand.

As the September deadline approached the pace picked up and the logistics became more complex: organising travel, accommodation, support and rehearsals for 6 artists from NZ and overseas; lighting, staging, seating, advertising, ticketing, finance, secretarial, community liaison; moving Cherry Van Kranen’s grand piano (a task for five specialist movers); organising artist visits to local schools and donating tickets for students to attend a concert; and coordinating with the generous funders and sponsors.

You might think that there must be a big team behind such an enterprise.  In fact a committee of six managed it all.  Martin Lawrence, Katherine Lawrence, Brendan Smyth, Marion Townend, Winifred Bull and Ed Allen. 

Two people who made important contributions to the Festival were missing.  Ian Cresswell who first mooted such an event and Cherry Van Kranen whose piano is a key part of the performances.  The Festival was dedicated to their memories

The artists had a chemistry that resulted in a beautiful repetoire becoming even more glorious.  It was “a dream team” according to violinist, Wilma Smith.  The audience responded with matching enthusiasm. In their words,  “absolutely ecstatic”, “a great event”, “spectacular”,“tremendous treat”, “a joy” and “playing of the highest order”.    

The Festival has already pencilled in dates for next year – 27-29 September.  If you would like to know more, visit www.martinboroughmusicfestival.co.nz or email info@martinboroughmusicfestival.co.nz to get on the mailing list for updates. 

Chris Cassels

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