The first Clun Valley Music Festival will take place in and around the Shropshire village of Clun over the weekend of 9–11 November 2018. It takes its theme, ‘Voices from Darkness’, from the First World War centenary commemorations, and features music by composers from that era, including George Butterworth, Vaughan Williams, Sir Edward Elgar, Frank Bridge, Ivor Gurney, Rebecca Clarke and Maurice Ravel. The final concert of the festival will celebrate the rich heritage of English folk song.
Performers are the baritone Giles Underwood, pianist Gretel Dowdeswell, the Auric String Quartet (Pavlo Beznosiuk and Oliver Cave, violins, Luba Tunnicliffe, viola, and Richard Tunnicliffe, cello), folk musician John Kirkpatrick and the Handbell Ringers of St George’s C of E School, Clun. Concerts will take place in St Mary’s Church, Hopesay; St George’s Church, Clun; and the Memorial Hall, Clun.
The festival is presented by musicians Richard Tunnicliffe and his daughter Luba. Richard Tunnicliffe said: ‘As we both grew up in Clun and attended Clun School, the beautiful church of St George's with its fine acoustic has been a formative part of our lives. We both feel that it is high time the Clun Valley, with its many beautiful churches, had its own festival.’
The inaugural ‘Voices from Darkness’ programme has a particular focus on the music of George Butterworth, who was killed at the Battle of the Somme in 1916, leaving behind a small but very eloquent and highly-regarded collection of works. Among them is the song cycle A Shropshire Lad, setting poems by A E Housman, who was born in Bromsgrove and died in Cambridge but is buried in the churchyard of St Laurence’s, Ludlow. The poems were written to highlight what Housman saw as the waste of the Boer War, but became immensely popular during the First World War. Six songs from Butterworth’s cycle will be performed by Giles Underwood and Gretel Dowdeswell in the second concert of the festival.
‘George Butterworth’s relatively few works seem to grow in stature as the years go by,’ said Tunnicliffe. ‘Alongside these, we present great works of the chamber music repertoire from both sides of the English Channel and, for our final concert, something rather different, reflecting Butterworth’s great interest in folk music. We shall be joined by John Kirkpatrick, who needs no introduction to folk music enthusiasts in Shropshire, for a concert that places tunes from the George Butterworth Collection at the English Folk Dance and Song Society alongside works by the Hungarian and Polish composers Béla Bartók and Witold Lutoslawski, who were also very much influenced by the folk music of their native countries, and the English composer Rebecca Clarke. The music will be interspersed with readings of First World War poetry by the actor Christopher Good.’