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Petworth raises the roof
Family entertainment is at the heart of this year's Petworth Festival, a two-week summer celebration of the arts.
Organisers have lined up a programme of music, comedy, talks and performances, and Stewart Collins, the Festival's artistic director, says it is shaping up to be a “great fortnight”.
“The festival has always enjoyed a reputation for its presentation of fine chamber music,” he says. “And this year we have probably the highest profile line-up of all time - the remarkable Benjamin Grosvenor, the Skampa Quartet, the Hilliard Ensemble and so on.
“But in keeping with the last few years, the festival is increasingly spreading its wings with a terrific jazz, comedy and cabaret line-up, together with a deliberate expansion of our programming for the family and young audience. We really hope that these initiatives will keep our forward momentum as a festival going.”
Staged in a variety of venues including St Mary's Church, the Leconfield Hall and Petworth House in Petworth, and Bignor Park and Champs Hill at Pulborough, the festival opens with a special service at the church in the evening of Thursday July 12.
But it officially kicks off on Friday July 13 with a performance at the church of the jazz cantata Captain Noah and His Floating Zoo, a brand new initiative featuring the specially created Petworth Festival Semi-Chorus. It's a combination of young singers from Petworth Primary School and members of the Bach Choir, who come under the direction of David Hill, one of the country's leading choral conductors. He will also lead a new performance of Faure's Requiem for treble and baritone soloists, chorus, violin, cello, harp and organ, including young soloists from West Sussex.
The theme of children continues over the weekend when improvisatory troupe Kepow brings the family show Whose Story Is It Anyway? to the Leconfield Hall in Market Square on Sunday July 15. Starring Kevin Tomlinson and Abi Hood, the comedy theatre show guarantees proper belly laughs as it celebrates the power of the human imagination.
And the following weekend will see the fully staged outdoor production of Roald Dahl's the Twits in the grounds of the elegant Bignor Park on Sunday July 22.
Key to the festival is music, and there's a rich variety over the fortnight. The music programme begins with Joe Stilgoe's Edinburgh Fringe hit show with his jazz trio on Friday July 13 and ends with the energetic, inspiring and spirit-filled London Community Gospel Choir, whose performance on Saturday July 28 closes the festival.
In between, festival enthusiasts have plenty of choice: solo pianist Benjamin Grosvenor and Piaf - The Songs, both on Saturday July 14; Mahler's 4th Symphony & Pictures at an Exhibition on Sunday July 15; the Skampa Quartet on Monday July 16; soprano Valentina Nafornita with Simon Lepper on the piano on Tuesday July 17; Gabriela Istoc and David Butt from the National Opera Studio, solo pianist Martin Roscoe and a few ditties from Festival director Stewart Collins and Harry the Piano, all on Wednesday July 18; The Hilliard Ensemble and West Sussex Young Musicians, both on Thursday July 19; an opportunity to come and try the organ at St Mary's Church on Friday July 20; Jazz in the Stables at Petworth House on Saturday July 21; Michael Collins with members of the City of London Sinfonia on Sunday July 22; June Tabor, the authentic voice of British traditional music on Monday July 23; Julian Bliss and the King of Swing celebrating the Benny Goodman legacy on Tuesday July 24; Mary Bevan and Charles Rice from the National Opera Studio on Wednesday July 25; solo pianist Cristina Ortiz, and She'Koyokh, traditional music from several cultures, both on Thursday July 26; and in the penultimate event of the festival, the Dante Quartet performs a group of three varied works, each with a relationship to the United States, on Saturday July 28.
As well as music, the festival programme also includes entertaining talks, including from local raconteur and writer Edward Enfield on Growing to a Ripe Old Age on Tuesday July 17, comedy writer Simon Bullivant on the timely Bumper Book of Great British Olympians on Tuesday July 24, cookery writer Prue Leith discussing and answering questions on Relish: My Life on a Plate on Wednesday July 25, and a fascinating look at Running with the Kenyans: Discovering the Secrets of the Fastest People on Earth with Adharanand Finn on Friday July 27.
Gardening at Petworth with Lady Egremont on Friday July 20 is among the rest of the festival highlights, along with a performance of Shakespeare's Henry V by travelling theatre company Illyria on Friday July 20, a Golden Walk around Graffham on Saturday July 21 and comedy cabaret with Sarah-Louise Young on Wednesday July 25 For full details, visit www.petworthfestival.org.uk
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