St Endellion Easter Festival 2013 – Director’s Report
Back once again on my enchanted isle in the West of Scotland, I now have time to reflect on the 40th Easter Festival at St Endellion, the years that have passed and the years that are to come.
It is extraordinary how mankind loves a round figure, a decade or multiples thereof, the apparent achievement of landing on a year that ends in a nought, almost to the dismissal of all those intervening, hardworking years. In reality, there is no actual difference between the 39th, 40th or 41st Easter Festivals, other than the marking of time passed, but, going with the flow, there is no question that we pulled out every possible stop this year to acknowledge this “milestone”, and it was indeed an epic time.
Good Friday saw an appropriately serious opening concert given by the Endellion String Quartet in celebration of the life of Louis Carus, a key figure in the Festival’s history (see The History and Ethos of the St Endellion Easter Festival on this website), who died last year. Beethoven and Britten preceded an almost unbearably beautiful performance of Schubert’s Quintet in C, the Quartet being joined by Shuna Wilson, a student cellist in the first Easter Festival in 1974 and a regular and much loved performer here ever since. Followed by a very special service of Compline, I was reminded that night of the unique and timeless chemistry of personalities, music, worship and place that is brought together by Endellion, something that must never be jeopardised by the “march of progress”. A stellar start indeed, inspiring all the performances that followed. But nothing could quite have prepared us for the joyous achievement of the Come and Sing session the following day, when over 160 “scratch” singers rehearsed and performed Tallis’s remarkable 40 part motet, Spem in Alium. James Burton was in his element, inspiring, encouraging, cajoling and cherishing the very mixed talents in front of him, and the end result after three hours of intense rehearsing was a triumph indeed.
Thereafter there flowed the most wonderful period of music-
All the above delights were a great build up to the end of the week where the audience (and performers) were undoubtedly “taken away” by the Dream of Gerontius, and thrilled too by the pairing of Vaughan Williams’ Lark Ascending with Beethoven’s 9th Symphony. It is a privilege for the Festival to benefit from the very different types of direction of Jamie Burton, Ryan Wigglesworth and Andrew Watkinson, and in having Mark Padmore heading such a great posse of vocal soloists, be it in his Late Night Schumann and Janacek, his Abraham and Isaac with Billy Purefoy or his astonishing reading of Gerontius, we were blessed indeed.
The music apart, the banter and comradeship were rock solid as was the superb catering of Cheryl Feldon and her team, who not only nourished us daily, but also prepared an delicious and most special midweek Gala Dinner for 200 to celebrate our ruby anniversary (with particular thanks to Robert and Kate Sloman for their kind hospitality at Roscarrock). The weather was amazingly kind, if amazingly cold, with not a single drop of rain (or snow) falling in the 10 days of the Festival – surely a record, Summer or Easter! Our beloved Rector and his Parish were, as ever, so tolerant of our “invasion” and I am very glad to report that the Retiring Collections during the Festival raised c.£6k for the church – a crucial contribution at this time as the church roof is undergoing significant repairs. If you could consider helping more with this fund, it would be hugely appreciated – we cannot have our Festivals without a fit church, and the spiritual life of North Cornwall would be seriously diminished if St Endellion were to deteriorate physically.
It was a very demanding Festival, but the remarkable commitment of the participants and audience made it totally worthwhile and, despite the ensuing exhaustion, the stuff of wonderful times to be remembered. The 41st Festival will no doubt settle back into the rhythm of those years that don’t end with a nought, but I know it will have its unique place in the history of an institution with which it is a privilege to be connected. If you have been tracking us these years, you will know what I mean; if you are new to the Endellion phenomenon, please taste and see…… ...
I hope you were with us this watershed year, but if not, I (and my successors) look forward to greeting you in the years to come, particularly in 2014!