We have simply had the first weekend of the Two Moors Festival on Dartmoor. Situated in two spectacular nationwide parks – Dartmoor and Exmoor – the very first thing that strikes you about this wild expanse of savage magnificence is the energy of nature. You are fairly actually blown away by the full pressure of the components, from commanding views to torrential rain. Nature is in charge right here. These distinctive eco-methods have dominated our legends and mythology for hundreds of years. Here you need to respect nature.
As Covid-19 started to grip the world in its stranglehold, my tour to Italy in early March 2020 was cancelled and my final live performance in Cambridge had no viewers. We determined to flee the capital and fled to my household’s farm on Exmoor. My life has been based mostly in London however for the first time, we had an uninterrupted 4 months on Exmoor, uncovered to the wonders of this pure world and watching the every day change in the pure cycle of the seasons. And so, after an 18-month interruption – final 12 months’s Festival was disrupted by the pandemic and salvaged in a lowered type on-line – it felt much more essential to take this 12 months’s Festival again to its pure roots on the Moors. John And Penny Adie based the festival in 2001 as an inventive response to the Foot and Mouth disaster which was so devastating to the space.
For all of us, time over these final 18 months has been warped. Some issues have been sooner, others slower or totally halted by inertia. Nature was what grounded us in the passing of time, reminded us of our traditions marking the adjustments of season and our sense of mortality. The abundance of the harvest, barrenness of winter, and delivery of recent life approaching spring turned much more visceral: I used to be additionally pregnant with our first little one. Quite other than the energy of destruction from the pandemic, we now have all been uncovered to the environmental upheavals of this previous 12 months: fires in Australia, growing pure disasters, and floods in northern Europe. How we reside alongside the pure world somewhat than attempting to dominate it is changing into growing related. This is partly why I wished it to take centre stage for my first full Festival: Arcadia Unlocked.
We opened the festival in a distant valley – Widecombe-in-the-Moor. Separated from the exterior world, there are not any issues right here of annoying cellphones going off mid-live performance. Cut off from trendy hectic life, nature and music took centre stage to a rapt viewers, the place solely birdcalls had been the solely distraction. As the solar set on a radiant Friday night, Ruby Hughes with lutenist Sergio Bucheli carried out timeless, historic folks songs of Dowland and Purcell, that are virtually a part of our collective DNA. Songs of affection and nature remind us that for many of historical past we lived at one with nature, and that our separation is solely comparatively current. Pianist Cordelia Williams transported us additional right into a distant world of the thoughts – from darkness to daybreak – with Schumann’s Songs of Dawn and Schubert’s joyous A main Sonata D664.
Two talks on wildlife on Dartmoor set the scene for the weekend. Before pianist George Fu’s recital of Messiaen, Respighi and Ravel, Tony Whitehead from the RSPB made us conscious that there are actually most likely solely two pairs of curlews left on the moor, however skylarks and cuckoos are thriving right here, whereas dwindling elsewhere. Naturalist John Walters identified that wooden warblers had been now uncommon on the moor, most likely due to local weather change. He additionally confirmed us a rare array of uncommon creepy crawlies, together with the foot-lengthy ash slug and the ’bungee-leaping’ leopard slug. His love of all the smaller creatures of the Dartmoor ecosystem was coronary heart on sleeve and the footage he had collected over the 12 months’s was testomony to his persistence and devotion to understanding the wildlife of the Moor and their important function in the native atmosphere.
Addressing environmental points, we had percussionist Joby Burgess’s Waste and Renewal programme. Joby has constructed his percussion devices from others’ waste – he makes use of disused soda bottles to actually flip waste into music. Like the moors, the land must be renewed, herds of life-inventory maintained and their land for grazing protected in order to protect the pure cycle for the farmers – it must be a symbiosis that is respectful of one another. His programme melded Toru Takemitsu’s Seasons and Gabriel Prokofiev’s Fanta with Rebecca Dale’s Can’t Sleep and the beautiful Quilyuan based mostly on Alaskan shamanic drumming by John Luther Adams.
Following Joby, Stile Antico introduced a programme entitled Garden of Earthly and Heavenly Delights, singing songs of the Renaissance: some pious, and a few decidedly much less so. Nature as God persists in music: it’s in the romantic imaginative and prescient of Brahms and Schubert however it’s additionally in the mathematical formulation of Bach’s cerebral Goldberg Variations, to be carried out by Pavel Kolesnikov in Exmoor subsequent weekend.
There’s extra to look ahead to on Exmoor. I’m delighted that composer Huw Watkins – my duo companion – agreed to be our first composer-in-residence. He has written a brand new track cycle that evokes his reminiscences from childhood rising up in Wales. Arranging conventional Welsh folks songs, lots of which take the theme of unrequited love, his songs proceed the custom of Britten’s folks track preparations . Written for tenor Nicky Spence, Huw’s songs can be coupled with Janáček’s nice track cycle The Diary of One Who Disappeared – which recounts the story of a farmer’s son’s romantic obsession with a gypsy lady. He abandons his household and neighborhood to reply to the name of the wilderness and the freedom it represents. Janáček wrote the work in the final 12 months of his life, in the embers of his infatuation for Kamila Stösslová.
I’m additionally thrilled to have the ability to carry out Huw’s Violin Sonata lastly in entrance of an viewers after we premiered it in an empty Wigmore Hall throughout lockdown, my final live performance earlier than our daughter was born. Huw’s sonata has dance-like idioms and sweeping melodies: it is based mostly in tonality and is emotionally direct, full of sunshine and hearth, like wanting by means of a kaleidoscope at shafts of color. Not a notice is wasted. It’s a piece which I’m certain will enter the trendy violin repertoire, and has simply been shortlisted for this 12 months’s Royal Philharmonic Society Awards.
Later, Lawrence Power joins Matthew Hunt and Huw Watkins for a live performance together with Schumann’s Fairy Tales. Through folks and fairy tales we now have at all times tried to know the mysteries of the pure world round us and why we’re right here – as we additionally do by means of nice music.
Tamsin Waley-Cohen’s Two Moors Festival 2021: Arcadia Unlocked continues Friday 8 to Sunday 10 October on Exmoor
Read: Violinist Tamsin Waley-Cohen on practising Bach and Brahms
Read: ’As a cellist, the previous spruce tree I carry round and play on daily basis conjures up me to offset my very own carbon footprint’
Read: Sentimental Work: Viktoria Mullova