Top class music and arts festivals are a staple of our Westcountry summers – from the sprawling acres of Glastonbury’s Worthy Farm to the seaside folk of Sidmouth and the spectacular stage at Cornwall’s Eden Project.
This week an innovative new celebration has been added to the mix in the shape of Charles Hazlewood’s Orchestival in Somerset.
Billed as a journey that will change the perception of classical music forever, Charles promises exciting collaborations that blur the lines between genres and involving some of the world’s leading musicians. Those already revealed include Mercury-nominated folk group The Unthanks, king of drum and bass Squarepusher, members of Goldfrapp, Cornwall-based harpist Ruth Wall and “house band” The Philharmonia orchestra.
It’s a weekend affair on July 19 and 20, with camping available, set against the lakeside backdrop of the Bath and West Showground at Shepton Mallet. Two years ago Charles launched his vision of making great symphonic music accessible to all with the highly successful Orchestra In A Field; this is its natural progression.
Somerset-dweller Charles has also recruited his Cornwall’s Kneehigh company, as his theatrical partners – he is working with them on their new summer production Dead Dog In A Suitcase. Their collaboration for Orchestival involves creating a “pop-up” opera company to produce a groundbreaking version of Benjamin Britten’s Noye’s Fludde, the epic story of Noah’s flood. Members of the local community and festival-goers are being invited to take part in what will kickstart the weekend with a stirring the opening performance.
There will be plenty more opportunities for participation with a bustling talk tent and creative workshops, all fuelled by the best of locally-sourced food and drink.
Charles says: “Music is the most universal language we have, it lifts us up and it unites us. Given the horrendous experiences of so many in the Somerset community with the recent flooding, I see Orchestival as a wonderful piece of good news, a weekend of jaw-dropping music to bind us all together.”