Shipley Arts Festival premiere celebrates the endangered turtle dove

Knepp Castle
Knepp Castle

When ‘my truelove gave to me’ two turtle doves in the song the Twelve Days of Christmas she may not have appreciated just how rare the gift was.

Britain’s breeding population of our smallest native pigeon has fallen by more than 90% in the past ten years.

It is now largely confined to this corner of England - but thanks to pioneering projects like the Wilding initiative at Knepp Castle estate, south of Horsham, at last it has some hope.

To celebrate this local revival in the fortunes of the tiny bird with a soft purring voice, the acclaimed Shipley Arts Festival premiered a new piece of music dedicated to it.

Composed by Roderick Williams the Knepp Piano Trio was given its first performance in one of the castle’s main historic reception rooms and hosted in a style reminiscent of a Jane Austen scene.

Stradivarius Piano Trio comprising British musicians Andrew Bernardi, Maria Marchant and Jonathan Few quickly demonstrated why their reputation for quality and innovation is international.

The evening mixed cutting edge new works with some revered classics - the themes of which all reflected the ethos of the estate.

Mussorgsky’s Ballet of the Unhatched Chicks and Bach’s Sheep May Safely Graze sat comfortably together in the programme.

The Shipley Arts Festival is nothing short of a classical triumph. A Sussex gem as precious as any architectural asset of the county.

That’s thanks in particular to Bernardi and his gifted musical associates, supporters such as Charlie and Izzy Burrell, sponsors including Toovey’s, Nyetimber, Kreston Reeves, Rossana, Wakefields, and NFU Mutual - and, most importantly, an appreciative audience.