By Graham Chalmers
Virtuoso musicians, former Poet Laureates, jazzmen, folk fiddlers, classical buskers, colliery bands and a new interpretation of Virginia Woolf - this year’s Ripon International Festival looks set to maintain its reputation for high quality in whatever it chooses to do.
Running from September 6-24, Ripon International Festival has always been particularly strong on classical music - but, equally, has always been quietly diverse beyond narrow classification.
With festival founders Janusz Piotrowicz, artistic director, and Susan Goldsbrough, director, still at the helm, regular festival-goers know they are in safe hands.
Susan said: “Now that the preparations are complete, I can give myself up to the miraculous music of Beethoven, Mozart, Mendelssohn, Rachmaninov and other great masters. It’s their sounds which always get me through each exciting year of planning and fundraising!”
The 17th annual festival is launched this Saturday night at Ripon Cathedral with a fast-selling opening concert featuring the award-winning Orchestra of Opera North.
The acclaimed orchestra’s programme begins with Beethoven’s exhilarating 8th Symphony, followed by Mozart’s dazzling flute concerto, and Mendelssohn’s glorious Scottish symphony.
Another high point is sure to be the much-loved Hallé Orchestra which makes its festival return on Sunday, September 14.
Performing in the Royal Hall in Harrogate, their programme offers a real feast of musical delights.
It will begin with Verdi’s dramatic overture to The Force of Destiny, well known as a film score and stand-alone concert piece as an operatic curtain raiser.
It then continues with Grieg’s Peer Gynt; the heart-rending Solveig’s Song and exciting Hall of the Mountain King, then concludes with the sumptious melodies of Rachmaninov’s monumental Second Symphony, a Classic FM favourite with its famous Adagio and plaintive clarinet solo.
Other classical highlights include baroque trio, Fantasticus, the major European prize winners from Amsterdam who will perform in the unique medieval manor, Markenfield Hall on Friday, September 19.
There’s also South African baritone, Njabulo Madlala, winner of the Kathleen Ferrier prize, who will appear at Holy Trinity Church in Ripon on Saturday, September 13.
The award-winning singer’s programme will include the Toreador Song from Carmen, Largo al Factotum from The Barber of Seville, Songs from Porgy & Bess and South Pacific, and Bellini, Massenet and Schubert.
Meanwhile, The Escher String Quartet from New York will play Mendelssohn, Ravel and Beethoven in an afternoon concert at the ancient St Andrew’s Church in Aldborough on Sunday, September 19.
But Ripon’s line-up extends far beyond the classical field.
Sarah Blake’s presentation of Virginia Woolf’s inspirational book A Room of One’s Own on has proved so popular, organisers have added a second performance on the same day on Friday, September 12 at Thorpe Prebend House.
Also proving popular is former Poet Laureate, Sir Andrew Motion, who will present his collection of poems, The Customs House, and other works at Ripon Spa Hotel on Thursday, September 18.
Elsewhere, there’s Benny Goodman with Pete Long (one of Ronnie Scotts’ All Stars) and the Jazz Repertory Company and the Carlton Main Frickley Colliery Band.
Finally, the festival will come to a lively conclusion with The Coal Porters, the US/UK alt-bluegrass outfit led by Sid Griffin, formerly of 1980’s Indie-chart heroes, The Long Ryders, who play at Ripon Spa Hotel on Wednesday, September 24.
For more information, visit www.riponinternationalfestival.com