Sketching at the Southrepps Classical Musical Festival


Sketchbook: Martin James Bartlett, pianist

I’ve just experienced seven days of pure bliss at the Southrepps Classical Music festival in North Norfolk. It’s a programme of 10 ambitious concerts put together by directors Ben Johnson, Tom Primrose and Daniel Goode. Now in its seventh year, the festival has gone from strength to strength and this year was undoubtedly the best ever.


Martin James Bartlett, pianist in rehearsal


Some highlights for me included a breathtaking piano recital by BBC Young Musician of the Year 2014 Martin James Bartlett; classical guitarist Sean Shibe who produced music like I have never heard before from a guitar he cradled like a baby; the Southrepps Sinfonia with the specially formed Southrepps Singers in their perfomance of Handel’s Dixit Dominus and Susanna Hurrell’s exquisite poetry recital in ‘Talking to Hardy’ a sequence of songs and poems designed by Iain Burnside. You hardly ever get to hear a countertenor (the highest male singing voice) as there aren’t many but at Southrepps we had two, Rupert Enticknap and Tim Morgan.  What a week it was… and I’ve not even mentioned the superb performance of Purcell’s opera Dido and Aeneas…


Artistic Director Ben Johnson leaning on piano talking to Martin in rehearsal

Each year four young musicians take part in a masterclass and receive lessons and support from the pros throughout the week. It’s wonderful to see their progress.

I can hardly express how good this festival is. You will think I am exaggerating but it is truly world class music in an intimate village church setting where both audience and performers are close. You feel and experience the music in a way that simply can’t happen in a huge, formal concert hall.





Classical guitarist Sean Shibe’s intense concentration


My artist friend Elda Abramson and I  had a go at sketching during some rehearsals and performances. This was incredibly challenging… but it wouldn’t be reasonable to expect a violinist, guitarist or pianist to stay still would it?! Most of my sketches are incomplete scribbles but a small number of them began to capture what I was seeing and feeling. It was an exhilarating experience and a privilege.

I’d like to thank everyone involved with the Festival (the directors, performers, young musicians and all the villagers who give their time and energy, and their homes to accommodate the musicians) for a most extraordinary and uplifting week. What a very special time it was. I didn’t want it to end.

The Southrepps Classical Music Festival


First violinist Agata Darashkaite


Young musician Magnus Walker (tenor)


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