Guy Johnston explained the themes of this years festival, which covers not just Remembrance of World War One, but remembers Richard Strauss and Sir John Tavener. The Sixteen will be giving an all Tavener concert, there will be chamber music and songs from the eve of the war with music by Janacek, Debussy, De Falla, Ravel, plus Schoenberg's Ode to Napoleon and Messiaen's Quartet for the End of Time. The final concert will see the festival extending its local links, joining forces with the Hertfordshire Chorus to perform Haydn's Nelson Mass conducted by Nicholas Daniel, along with Strauss's Metamorphosen. As ever the concerts will be presented in the Old Palace at Hatfield House, St. Etheldreda's Church and the Marble Hall of Hatfield House.
As well joining forces with the Hertfordshire Chorus the festival's education work has increased this year, providing further local links. There are schools concerts in St Etheldreda's Church and young musicians from The Musicale Young Artists Chamber Orchestra will be giving a concert there including Strauss's Wind Serenade in E flat major.
At the Royal Society of Musicians, Guy Johnston (cello) and Chris Cowie (oboe) were joined by Beatrice Philips (violin) and Max Baillie (viola) for a performance of Mozart's Oboe Quartet in F major. Then Johnston and Roger Ringrose performed a sequence alternating Wilfred Owen poems with movements from Bach's solo cello suites. One of the poems included Strange Meeting, which Britten set in his War Requiem. It was interesting to hear it in the spoken version. Finally Harry Christophers conducted eight members of The Sixteen in John Tavener's The Lamb and Funeral Ikos, wonderful to hear these pieces so finely performed in such close proximity.
All in all, a very tempting introduction to the festival. Fundraising, as ever, is an issue and the festival is still busy raising funds - support is possible via their Friends scheme.