Coming of age
KEITH BRAMICH was at the twenty-first
Presteigne Festival of Music and the Arts
If you were asked to list works that most completely summed up the USA, its people
and its music -- a tall order, to be honest, for such a vast, complex and
multicultural nation -- you might choose Elvis, Rock'n'Roll,
Sousa's Stars and Stripes, Samuel Barber's famous Adagio,
in one of its many and various arrangements, something by Gershwin --
Rhapsody in Blue, Porgy and Bess, or maybe Leonard Bernstein's
West Side Story
or Charles Ives' Fourth Symphony.
To capture the simplicity, purity and strength of the early settlers and
their folk heritage, though, you couldn't do better, in my humble opinion, than
Aaron Copland's Appalachian Spring, that famous Ballet for Martha
(Graham) of 1944. A truly powerful piece, this, which resonates deeply
with something simple and primordial in the depths of the human spirit.
It's with a super performance of this particular American 'Icon'
that George Vass chose to end the
first concert at the 2003 Presteigne Festival on the Welsh/English Borders,
a festival designed to celebrate Anglo-American connections and several
important anniversaries, including the festival's own twenty-first birthday.
Resonances were set up which spanned the six day festival,
and there was Shaker as well as Border Marches magic in the air.
George Vass with the Presteigne Festival Orchestra at the end of the Morris Dodderidge Memorial Concert on 26 August 2003 in St Andrews Church, Presteigne. Photo: Keith Bramich
The very special atmosphere of this up-and-coming
festival, centred in the old capital of Radnorshire on the
Welsh/English Border Marches, was apparent on the day it opened -- the friendly feel of
the town, the quiet buzz of preparation and arrival, the joy of pure silence
in St Andrew's Church, the meeting of old friends from the town and from
Lynden and Gareth Rees Roberts celebrate the twenty first anniversary of the Presteigne Festival. Photo: Keith Bramich
Founded in 1983 by, amongst others, Adrian Williams and
Lynden and Gareth Rees-Roberts,
it really did feel this year that an important milestone had been reached.
George Vass took over the Artistic Director's role
in 1993, and has built on Adrian Williams' earlier work to forge an event
that many now compare with Cheltenham
and Aldeburgh for its programming of contemporary classical music.
Copyright © 5 October 2003
Keith Bramich, London UK