It is a cold winter’s Sunday evening as patrons, sponsors and the friends of the Shipley Arts Festival are generously welcomed at Sedgwick Park House by its owners, Clare and John Davison. We have come together to launch the 2015 Shipley Arts Festival.
It has been my long-held belief that music has the power to transform our lives and communities. This is certainly at the heart of the vision of my great friend, the musician and Shipley Arts Festival Director Andrew Bernardi.
He has brought his international reputation as a violinist and the 1696 Stradivarius to Sussex, providing an unprecedented focus for music and the arts and the opportunity to build up this fantastic community in our county.
Each year the Shipley Arts Festival brings some of the country’s leading musicians to our churches, stately homes and gardens to perform a varied repertoire at the highest level. Andrew comments: “We have built longstanding relationships with many of these artists who dedicate themselves to the festival and our community as they return each year.”
The breadth of engagement with our local community quickly becomes apparent as The Lord High Sheriff of West Sussex, Jonathan Lucas, and myself are introduced by Andrew Bernardi to those who, like myself and Toovey’s, passionately support the work of this generous and inspiring individual. Francis Maude M.P. has supported the festival from its early days and his wife Christina, an accomplished pianist, performs at some of the concerts. Individuals, young musicians and Sussex businesses, like Toovey’s and Spofforths, all play their part in the success of what Andrew describes as “a celebration of community through music”.
The West Sussex Gifted and Talented String Academy is part of this vision and something very dear to Andrew’s heart. It seeks to be aspirational and inclusive, creating the opportunity for a musical education of the highest calibre to children from all walks of life.
It is a child’s ability and potential that determines their selection for this enrichment program, not their ability to pay. Andrew has an innate ability to build community and bring organisations and individuals together. The String Academy is partnered with Windlesham House School and its head, Richard Foster, who is passionate about the project.
The Gifted and Talented String Academy is also engaged in a two-year collaborative project with the Yehudi Menuhin School and its Director of Music, the composer Professor Malcolm Singer. Andrew comments: “The Yehudi Menuhin School is one of the finest string schools in the world and it is great that our string players encounter Malcolm and the school.” Andrew Bernardi is clearly moved as he speaks about Yehudi Menuhin; the life and work of this famous violinist is a great inspiration to him.
Against the backdrop of this splendid house, with its roaring fire and panelled walls, we are ushered into the music room, where we are treated to music composed and conducted by Malcolm Singer, played by students from the String Academy and Yehudi Menuhin School. Andrew and his group then play a series of pieces from this year’s concerts. The faces of all are transfixed as the music of J.S. Bach fills the room.
Like a conductor at the head of an orchestra, Andrew Bernardi weaves together our shared gifts and resources and blesses our community in West Sussex.
As Jonathan Lucas launches the 2015 Shipley Arts Festival, he celebrates Andrew, the Shipley Arts Festival and the young musicians.
As the speeches and applause fade in my imagination, the music continues to resonate in my heart. I am uplifted as I wind my way home across the ancient lanes of our county, the winter hedgerows and trees picked out in the headlights against a cold, clear night sky.
Tickets for the Shipley Arts Festival concerts go on sale on Monday 2nd February at The Capitol Horsham box office. Telephone 01403 750220 or go to www.thecapitolhorsham.com to book your tickets. Demand is expected to be strong for these concerts, so don’t delay!
Rupert Toovey is a senior director of Toovey’s, the leading fine art auction house in West Sussex, based on the A24 at Washington - www.tooveys.com - and a priest in the Church of England Diocese of Chichester.