What links Marlborough, St Helena, Treetops in Kenya, Gunjur in the Gambia and Hadrian’s Wall? They are all hosting beacons to mark the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee – but not all of them will be graced by a glimpse of the full moon.
VICTORIAN BEACON 2 230pxAnd not all of them will be on the scale of this beacon built for Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897.
Marlborough’s Diamond Jubilee Beacon will be above Barbury Racecourse on Jubilee holiday Monday, June 4 –under a full moon. The event will be open from 6.30 pm – the sun will set at 9.20 pm and the beacon will be lit at 10.00 pm.
Marlborough’s beacon – organised by the Marlborough Brandt Group – will include a hog roast, fish and chips, and a bar in the racecourse barn. There will be music from a trio led by Marlborough’s favourite saxophonist, Mick Allport – with dancing encouraged.
At about 9.30 pm people will stroll up the hill from the barn, along a torch-lit route, to the beacon. And while the huge bonfire burns on, people can camp close by for the night. At least one other local beacon will be visible from the hillside – the one on Martinsell Hill.
Admission will be by ticket. These cover the hog roast supper (with veggie alternative and with sausages for children) and are on sale now from the White Horse Bookshop in Marlborough High Street. There’s a family deal available.
Access to this event is only from the Marlborough-to-Broad Hinton road. There is no way through from the Barbury Castle side of the hill. And as there are horses about – it’s strictly a no firework occasion.
A coach will take people from Marlborough High Street but only by prior arrangement. This service will only be available if you book seats by close of play on Monday, May 28 by phoning Marlborough Brandt Group on 01672 861116. And it’ll bring them back again.BEACON 1897 1 300px
Why a beacon? Once used to communicate from hilltop to hilltop – especially to warn of an approaching dangers like the Spanish Armada – beacons have become a feature of celebrations, notably royal ones.
Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897 was the occasion for some major beaconary – as the photo on the right shows some were so big the plate camera could not see the top and show the bonfire builders clearly as well.
Beacons were organised for Queen Elizabeth’s Silver (1977) and Golden (2002) Jubilees. This year the aim was to have 2,012 beacons lit around the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth. That target has been left far behind: over 4,000 beacons are now registered with the Queen’s Pageant Master.
These includbrazier beacon e sixty beacons (one for each year of the Queen’s reign) along Hadrian’s Wall; a beacon on St Helena in the South Atlantic; and one at Treetops in Kenya where Princess Elizabeth was staying in 1952 when she heard about the death of her father, King George VI. And they’re building a beacon in Gunjur in the Gambia which has had a thirty year link with Marlborough through the Brandt Group.
The chain of beacons will be completed at 10.30 pm in London when the Queen will light the national beacon at the end of the celebratory concert.
Some beacons will be the brazier type (see left) – and this year there is a gas-fired version which is safe enough to install on church towers. Marlborough’s beacon will be a huge bonfire some eight to ten metres high, designed to burn for a long time.
Watch this space for more news about the Marlborough beacon.
Damon AlbarnA very special performance by one of the world's leading contemporary musicians was given to a small festival crowd in near-freezing conditions in a muddy field outside Marlborough at the weekend.
OneFest – billed as the UK's first music festival of the year, and the successor to last year's community pub-related HoneyFest – was headlined by Damon Albarn, the maestro behind Britpop champions Blur, cartoon band Gorillaz and more leftfield works like 2007's Oriental pop-opera Monkey, Journey to the West.
Before arriving at the festival site, at Rockley on the Marlborough Downs, Albarn was seen in Marlborough shopping for thermal clothing – and with good reason: by the time he took to the stage at 8.30pm the temperature had dipped to a positively chilly five degrees.
Albarn was at OneFest to play songs from his new concept opera, Dr Dee, based on the rise and fall of the Elizabethan mathematician, scientist, alchemist, occultist and inspiration for Marlowe's Faustus, which premiered at last year's Manchester International Festival.
Populist it wasn't, and anyone up for a warming jump-around to jaunty numbers from the singer's back catalogue was in for a shock.
Albarn brought with him a gaggle of seven classical musicians playing 16th century instruments, including the recorder and the lute, instruments from West Arica, including the kora, and three vocalists, including some wonderfully haunting falsetto from Christopher Robson.
Name-checking nearby Silbury Hill in the sublime Apple Carts
, the star himself delivered vocals, guitar and keyboards from behind a harmonium. The first half of the set was performed without introduction or explanation, before he broke into his trademark grin to gently mock the crowd: “Is everyone getting a little cold? Well, you did turn up in a field in April.”
He then insisted on playing the lively Watching the Fire That Waltzed Away – the only upbeat song in the set – twice “because it will help us get warm again” and warning the crowd that “that's as much excitement as you'll get – it kind of goes back in on itself now.”
The performance was a teaser for the release of the album, which comes out in May, followed by the London premiere with the English National Opera this summer, and was probably the only time an outdoor festival crowd will get to hear the set.
It was a demonstration of how seriously Albarn took the performance that he had brought along his parents and his daughter, whom he welcomed from the stage.
As the set finished – with Albarn playing an old 78 vinyl record on a vintage portable turntable – he thanked the audience and the organisers of the festival, and later took to Twitter to say “OneFest was a brilliant experience, a lovely festival and there for all the right reasons, I'll be back."
If he does return, he'll be in good company. Michele Stodart, who performed at HoneyFest last year as one quarter of harmonic pop rock band the Magic Numbers, was back again as a solo artist to perform a reflective folksy set.
And folk rock band Dry the River were back too. Canny Marlborough music lovers will have caught their intimate live set at Azuza back in March, courtesy of record shop Sound Knowledge
And when the five piece played at Honeystreet last year they performed as relative newcomers, having only just released their first single.
This year they took second place on the main stage, having just returned from a 9,000 mile slog across America to promote their debut album, Shallow Bed.
“We did it in an RV,” vocalist Peter Liddle told the crowd. “We did all the tourist stuff – Niagara Falls, giant redwoods...”
“... but to be honest it doesn't get better than this,” interrupted bassist Scott Miller, who had chosen to maintain his rock god image by wearing a sleeveless vest. “I thought it might make us all feel warmer,” he joked.
Dry the River played a blinding set worthy of a headline slot; an eclectic mix of folk and heavy rock. The penultimate song, Bible Belt, was – said one Marlborough festival-goer – worth the entry fee alone, while their final song, Lion's Den – also the last track on the album – swelled from a pastoral ballad to an ear-splitting wall of sound which left the crowd baying for more, and looking forward to OneFest 2013.
Charles Owen (pictured) is an internationally renowned concert pianist, but his first experience of appearing before an audience was in Marlborough when he was nineteen. Since then he’s played for Marlborough audiences fourteen times.
Now he’s Professor of Piano at London’s Guildhall School of Music and Drama, and wants to give some his best pupils the chance to share in the Marlborough audience experience. So, working with Nick Maurice and with David Du Croz of the St Peter’s Trust, a new music feast has been planned.
A unique series of recitals will showcase some of the new generation of virtuoso concert pianists.
From June this year through to June next year five star pupils aged between fifteen and twenty-six and a group of Suzuki students will have the chance to follow in Charles Owen’s steps and play at St Peter’s – on the newly restored piano. The series will open with a concert by Charles Owen on Sunday, June 17.
Charles Owen is certain that his Marlborough concerts gave a tremendous start to his career. And he has been able to play programmes here before his big recitals – giving Marlborough audiences sneak previews of his national and international performances.
He has a busy diary: in March he has recitals in Rome, Teramo, Arezzo, Trinity College, Cambridge and the University of Leicester. At St Peter’s Church in June he will be playing Schumann’s Carnaval and JS Bach’s Goldberg Variations. You can get a sneak preview at www.charlesowen.net
The concerts will raise funds for two Marlborough-based charities the Marlborough Brandt Group (MBG) and BUILD. MBG looks after the town’s link with Gunjur in The Gambia and supports development projects there – such as malaria eradication, health education and employment for women. BUILD is a national organisation encouraging links and partnerships between communities and institutions – from schools to hospitals to local authorities – in the United Kingdom with communities and institutions in other countries.
Five of Charles Owen’s students will be playing in the series:
Ashley FrippAshley Fripp’s recital on Sunday, September 23 will include Bach’s French Suite No 5, Rachmaninov’s Ten Preludes and Brahms’ Vier Klavierstucke. He has been described by the New York Times as ‘disarmingly precocious’ and has already played at most of the prestigious venues in this country. Hear Ashley play here
Mai Charissa Tran RingroseMai Charissa Tran Ringrose who was born in 1996, started playing in France aged five and continued studying when her family moved to Thailand. She now studies at the music conservatoire in Vannes as well as with Charles Owen. At her recital on Sunday, December 16 she will be playing Beethoven Chopin, Faure and Mendelssohn.
James KreilingJames Kreiling will play at St Peter’s Church next year on Sunday, January 27. He will play Schumann’s Kinderszenen, Ravel’s Miroirs, Debussy ‘s Image, Book Two and Beethoven’s Sonata in C minor, op 111. Apart from being a student of Charles Owen, James has also been taught by John York and Martin Roscoe.
Hear James play here
Mishka Rushdie Momen plays on Sunday, February 17 – her recital includes Beethoven’s Six Bagatelles, a Schubert sonata, Ravel and Chopin. Mishka was the youngest pupil to be accepted at the Purcell School and is now a postgraduate student at the Guildhall School. She won the Chopin Prize at the EU piano competition and in 2003 took first prize in the Leschetizky Concerto Competition in New York.
There’s more about Mishka here
John Paul Ekins’ recital is on Sunday, April 14, 2013. He graduated with First Class Honours from the Royal College of Music in 2009, won a scholarship to study under Charles Owen at the Guildhall School and graduated from there last year with Master of Performance (Distinction.) He will play Schumann’s Symphonic Etudes, Mozart’s C minor Fantasy and Scriabin’s 4th Piano Sonata.
Check out John Paul’s website here
The series’ finale will bring a group of seven young Suzuki piano students from London to St Peter’s on Sunday, June 30, 2013. Aged between five and fifteen they will represent the next generation of Britain’s concert pianists.
Tickets for each recital in this major new series will go on sale six weeks before the event at:
* The White Horse Bookshop (136 High Street, Marlborough, SN8 1HN),
* Sound Knowledge (22 Hughenden Yard, High Street, Marlborough, SN8 1LT)
or from the Marlborough Brandt Group (01672 861116 or The Dutch Barn, The Upper Office, Elm Tree Park, Manton, SN8 1PS with SAE.)
Tickets are £10 for the Charles Owen concert and £5 for each of the other concerts in the series. In addition there will be a retiring collection for the two charities.
(Charles Owen photograph is copyright John Batten Photography.)