Sir Peter Beale at home in AveburyLate October is a good time for music in the Marlborough area. Next Sunday the fifth series of Brilliant Young International Musicians recitals starts at St Peter's Church (see later preview.) And on Saturday (October 22) St Michael's Church in Aldbourne hosts a concert by the Avebury Vocal Ensemble conducted by Sir Peter Beale.
Piano solo or the human voice with orchestra - the choice is yours. St Michael's will echo with the music of Vivaldi's Gloria - which, Sir Peter told me, 'swings along - jumps along'. And also the Faure Requiem - 'a more meditative piece' chosen to mark the centenary year of the Battle of the Somme.
The Avebury Vocal Ensemble is only loosely connected with Avebury village - its name has more to do with the AVE of its logo - the Ave meaning 'hail' (or 'farewell') that appears in the titles of so much of the repertoire of religious music. The Ensemble draws its singing members from a wide area around Marlborough, Swindon and north Wiltshire.
But then the Ensemble's conductor, Sir Peter, does live in Avebury - with his wife Mary. He bought a house there in 1977 with his first wife, Julia, who died in 2000.
Sir Peter was attracted to the world of music from an early age. For six years he was a chorister at St Paul's Cathedral: "My life was transformed when I was accepted as a chorister." He became Head Chorister and spent three years in Cornwall when the choir school was evacuated to Truro.
Later he was a choral scholar at Cambridge and while qualifying in medicine, sang professionally to help pay for his studies.
He was in the last but one group called-up to National Service: "I enjoyed it so much I had no qualms about signing on permanently." So started a military career which ended with four years as Surgeon General of the British Armed Forces and the rank of Lieutenant General.
He has five surviving children - the first is the actor Simon Russell Beale who was born while the Beales were stationed in Penang during the Malaya Emergency. Incidentally, Simon followed in his father's footsteps as Head Chorister at St Paul's - but rejected a career in music and chose acting instead.
Two other sons now work in hospital radiology departments and his daughter is a GP in Newbury. The fourth son was a professional singer and now manages the rising chamber choir ORA.
Sir Peter is fanatical - that's my word, not his! - about singing. The Avebury Vocal Ensemble chooses popular choral pieces t- hough he admits he does influence their choice!
Sir Peter insists members can sing in tune and can sight read music. This means he can rely on them with just four rehearsals in the lead up to their five or six concerts a year. And then rehearsals on performance day sometimes with an orchestra: "Financially we live on a bit of shoestring - deliberately. And sometimes we can afford a scratch orchestra."
At next Sunday's concert in Aldbourne the Ensemble will be accompanied by the AVE chamber orchestra - a ten-strong group which includes a professional cellist: "They're all good."
The Vivaldi Gloria is, Sir Peter says, "Just a glorious piece - one of his best - incredibly tuneful and joyous with good opportunities for soloists. The Vivaldi swings along - jumps along - whereas the Faure is a more meditative piece."
The concert will begin with Monteverdi's Beatus vir ("Beatus vir, qui timet Dominum..." - "Blessed is the man who fears the lord.") Sir Peter: "It's glorious - a very happy piece - good to start off with." Then the audience will be roused with Vivaldi's trumpet and oboe openings.
The second half of the concert will open with a Beethoven string duet played by members of the orchestra, leading into the Faure Requiem.
The concert in St Michael's Church Aldbourne is on Saturday, October 22 and begins at 7.30pm. Details and information about tickets can be found on Marlborough.News' What's On calendar.
Wiltshire’s Air Ambulance hovers over Marlborough Town Hall in a new Christmas scene supporting the charity that keeps the helicopter flying.
Christmas in Marlborough was designed by architectural illustrator Colin Palmer, well known for capturing every shopfront in Marlborough High Street in pen and ink in stunning architectural detail.
“It was an honour to produce the design and I feel very privileged that my design was chosen by Wiltshire Air Ambulance,” said Colin.
“I know the great work they do. The brief for the design was to have a well known Wiltshire landscape in snow, with a Christmas tree and the helicopter flying overhead.
“It took me a little while to choose the best view point, I spent quite a bit of time taking pictures at different times of the day.
“I wanted the town hall to be in the design because it is a building that people know.”
Marlborough artist Colin Palmer and WAA Critical Care Paramedic Louise CoxClaire Kelly of Wiltshire Air Ambulance said: “We’d like to thank Colin Palmer for his wonderful design and we are delighted that it is our bespoke Christmas card this year.
“Over the years our bespoke Christmas cards have featured our helicopter flying over iconic Wiltshire landmarks and have proved to be very popular.
“We think that Colin’s design of Marlborough High Street will be just as successful.”
The cards will be available from St Peter’s Church in Marlborough, and Great Bedwyn Post Office. For a full list of stockists, log on to www.wiltshireairambulance.co.uk/get-involved/buy-our-christmas-cards
Director Hilda Sheehan, Cllr Eric Shaw Mayor of Swindon and Lady Dada AKA Mike PringleEroticism, Spitfires, a goblin circus and complete nonsense - it must be the Poetry Swindon Festival, which starts next weekend.
2016 is the 100th anniversary of Dada, the short-lived but influential ‘nonsense’ art movement which spawned surrealism, Salvador Dali, Monty Python and Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz.
“Poetry Swindon likes its poetry a little off-kilter - quite a lot off-kilter,” said festival director Hilda Sheehan, “so something anti-meaning, and silly with a serious message is what Poetry Swindon is all about.”
Poetry Swindon celebrates with a day of Dada - creating Dada-esque anti-verse and with an opportunity to perform it - on 1 October.
Then, just for women, American poet Carrie Etter will lead an erotic poetry workshop on 7 October.
On 3 October, the Spitfire - once made in Swindon 75 years ago for the second world war - is celebrated with flight-themed poems by North Swindon school children, a new Spitfire sculpture by artist and writer Mike Pringle, and readings from Sisters in Spitfires, a collection by poet Alison Hill.
The festival’s Children’s Day (2 October) twists words with the mischief-making Goblin Circus, Plant-a-Story and the eccentric Imagination Museum.
As well as open mics, poetry discos and family events, Britain's friendliest and most fun poetry festival features readings and workshops by the best bards in the UK and beyond.
Award-winning Kim Moore is poet-in-residence across the Big Poetry Weekend, and the festival welcomes one of our brightest young poets, Andrew McMillan (7 and 8 October) who follows in the footsteps of Keats by winning plenty of poetry plaudits whilst still in his twenties.
Radio 4 poet-in-residence, Daljit Nagra is judge and guest poet at the Battered Moons poetry awards evening (8 October) and leads a masterclass on Sunday 9 October.
Due to the success of last year - and the enthusiasm of the organisers - the festival has been extended to 11 days and in two parts. The community element of Poetry Swindon Festival takes place 29 September to 5 October at Central Library, Museum and Art Gallery, Savernake Street Social Hall, Museum of Computing, North Swindon Library and the Richard Jefferies Museum.
The Big Poetry Weekend, beginning 6 October on National Poetry Day and finishing 9 October, is based at the Richard Jefferies Museum at the Richard Jefferies-inspired ‘Tent-Palace of the Delicious Air’.
Many events are free, other tickets can be bought per event or as part of a festival pass.
Poetry Swindon Festival is grant funded by Arts Council England and Artswords.
For more information and tickets, visit www.poetryswindon.org or Swindon Central Library.