As the newest member of staff, I’ve been waiting to be asked to write an Out of Office blog, and have to confess, I’ve slightly dreaded it. “Just write about what you do in your spare time,” says our lovely Marketing Intern Kathleen. The concept of ‘spare time’ is, sadly, wishful thinking, as in between working for CLS, running a choir and still doing a fair bit of singing and recording work, I don’t really have any! So far, all of my annual leave is earmarked for festivals – either performing in them, or working at them! The photo below was taken this summer at the Larmer Tree Festival in Wiltshire, where, when not getting rained out of my tent, I worked as a volunteer (and got rather muddy!).
It was taking part in the St Endellion Festival last Easter that introduced me to CLS in the first instance. Many CLS musicians have been involved with the festival over the past thirty years through their work with Richard Hickox, as have a number of my friends, and I wanted to find out what all the fuss was about.
As a result, I found myself in a beautiful little church not far from Padstow (or ‘Padstein’ as it is nicknamed, due to Rick Stein’s fish restaurant empire!) and sat next to soprano Sarah Fox. Now, at this point in my career, I am probably not supposed to get star-struck (especially not when I ought to be concentrating on sight-reading an alto solo at short notice), but it was impossible not to find my jaw hanging in a gormless manner whilst listening to the seemingly effortless sound that she makes. This pretty much set the tone for the week. By the end of it, I had performed all manner of music under the baton of Jamie Burton and chorus master, Fanny Cooke, alongside a choir of 50 professional and keen amateur singers, an orchestra of talented musicians and some world-class soloists – and all for the love of doing it.
The incredible thing about the festival is its ethos – nobody is paid for their work. In fact, the performers actually pay to come to the festival. There is no hierarchy of conductor, soloist, chorus. All are equal during the festival week, everyone makes music together, everyone mucks in with the washing up, and (possibly) most importantly, everyone socialises in the pub together afterwards. The musicians are like a large self-made family; many have been coming to St Endellion and taking part in the festival for years – it is their annual holiday. Newcomers needn’t worry though, you are welcomed in with open arms!
By the end of the week and the final chorale of Bach’s St. John Passion, I was physically and emotionally drained, but desperate to return the following year, which reminds me… Barry, about my annual leave next Easter…