Justin Doyle is appointed Chief Conductor and Artistic Director of the RIAS Chamber Choir from 2017/18

You may have heard that last week, Justin Doyle – who will be conducting Bellini’s I Capuleti e i Montecchi at this year’s Festival – has been named Chief Conductor and Artistic Director of the RIAS Chamber Choir in Berlin! Huge congratulations to Justin on such a prestigious appointment!

RIAS Chamber Choir was founded in 1948 and is known both as a leading chamber choir in historical performance practice, but also for performing a huge breadth of repertoire, publicising twentieth-century and present-day musical genres and composers. The fact that new works have premiered with the choir and now continue to be performed is testament to the choir’s commitment to new music. The choir is known for its expressive sound and quality.

More info on Justin’s new appointment can be found here.

Justin will be conducting Bellini’s I Capuleti e i Montecchi alongside the careful directorship of Harry Fehr. Performance dates are: 9, 13, 16, 20 and 23 July.

Buxton Poetry Competition – Now Open!

Buxton Poetry Competition is now open!

Our annual poetry competition is now accepting entries on the theme of Hidden. Here we talk to the competition organiser Claire Barlow.

Hi Claire, please can you tell us a bit about the history of the competition?

Hello, I’ve been running the competition for eight years now and every year it is a delight to be involved! The competition started when Buxton Festival and the University of Derby got together to create a joint project which would encourage people from across the country to have a go at creative writing. We had no idea that we would get so many great entries over the years and from people as far away as Australia, the United States and Brazil!

Wow, do people really enter from Brazil?

Yes they do, and we get entries from across Europe too. Every year I look forward to getting a parcel of entries from the same school in Slovenia, it puts me to shame that the young people can write poetry in English when I can’t say ‘hello’ in Slovenian!

But you don’t judge the competition do you?

No I don’t (thank goodness, with 600 poems to read!) We have a great team of judges each year who do take the time to read all the poems entered and to create a shortlist of poems. Then the judges whittle that list down further to choose a first, second, third, Highly Commended and Commended winner from each category. We have three categories allowing poets of all ages to enter, there is Children’s Poetry for those under 12 years old, Young People’s Poetry for those aged 12 to 18 and our Open Category for poets over the age of 18. What’s great is that the Children’s and Young People’s Categories are free to enter so young people from all backgrounds can enter the competition without any financial barriers.

Are the judges the same each year?

Matt Black
Poet Matt Black

No, I like to have a few new faces each year to keep things fresh and fair. All judging is done totally anonymously, I make sure of that, but it is nice to know that we get new perspectives and opinions from our judges each year. This year we welcome Matt Black as our Open Category judge. Matt won the competition in 2013 so we’re delighted to welcome him back as a judge this time.

This year’s competition theme is Hidden, can you tell us why the poetry competition has a theme?

The idea behind having a theme is to focus writers’ attention and to provide a stimulus to spark the imagination. We want people to create new work for the competition not to just enter something that was written a few years ago that they submit to every competition going. I also really like the idea that we are creating a collective body of work. Each year we publish an anthology of the shortlisted poems and I feel that a theme gives that document added purpose and impact. It is also fascinating to see how poets interpret our theme. I usually have a few ideas of what people will write about, but each year there are winning poems that surprise me in the way they answer our brief, and that’s great!

Can schools enter the competition?

Yes, we love getting entries from schools from across the country. The entries can’t be group efforts though, each child needs to write their own poem. I think kids will love the theme this year, I imagine poems from the younger entrants about hidden treasure, hide-and-seek and lost toys.

What do people need to do to enter the competition?

You need to visit http://www.buxtonfestival.co.uk/outreach/poetry-competition/ to download an entry pack. This has all the competition rules and entry information plus a form to fill in to send back with your poems. The closing date of the competition is 26th August, so you have plenty of time to perfect your work. For any more information please send me an email at claire@buxtonfestival.co.uk.

When will the winners be announced?

The winners will be announced at the Buxton Festival Book Weekend in November 2016. At this special event we’ll hear all the shortlisted poems read by their authors, plus some work from our current and past judges. Then our Patron Lady Jasmine Cavendish will announce the winners of the competition for 2016. This year our top prize in the Open Category has been increased to £500 so it’s really worth having a go at entering the competition.

Thanks Claire, we’re off to write our entry now…

In association with

Derby Uni logo


Jackie Campbell goes through to semi-final of BBC Young Musician 2016

Buxton Festival were delighted to hear that Jackie Campbell – who will be appearing at this year’s Festival – won the Keyboard category of BBC Young Musician 2016 last week and will be going to the semi-final! Viewers of the BBC Young Musician currently running on BBC4 will have been amazed by the versatility of the young pianist. We’re excited to be welcoming Jackie to Buxton on Sunday 10 July, when Festival audiences will be able to hear this amazing young pianist for themselves in a programme containing works by Bach, Beethoven, Scriabin, Chopin, Debussy, Ravel and Rachmaninov. To book tickets now click here, or to see the video of Jackie in action, click here.

Vacancy: Book Festival Intern

This is a unique opportunity to gain direct experience at one of the UK’s leading book festivals. We are looking for a talented individual who will play a key role in every aspect of the book festival. As the Book Festival Intern, you will report to the Festival’s Literary Manager. You will be first point of contact for our speakers and you will:

  • welcome high profile authors to our events
  • manage event schedules
  • work closely with professional venue management and technical teams
  • set-up venues and manage speakers’ riders
  • lead a team of Festival interns in microphone handling during event Q&As
  • liaise with accommodation and transport providers
  • write features for Festival blog and social media
  • liaise with Festival partner Waterstones to provide book signings at events

This is a hugely rewarding role that will help you on your way to a great job in the creative industries. Previous interns now work in the arts, events, publishing, media, education and travel and tourism sectors. We are looking for an enthusiastic, friendly, self-motivated person who will thrive on the long days, variety of roles and pressure of the Festival.

Buxton Festival is a 17-day celebration of opera, music and books. Every year we welcome over 30,000 people to our diverse programme of events. The book festival draws large audiences to talks by a range of the UK’s best authors. You’ll get to meet politicians, comedians, historians, actors, academics, novelists, biographers and much more! This year features comedian Alexei Sayle, bestselling novelist Paula Hawkins, TV personality Julia Bradbury, historian Dr Lucy Worsley and politician Vince Cable.

The placement will run from 4th July – 27th July in Buxton.  While the placements are unpaid we do provide simple accommodation in Buxton and £500 towards your food and travel expenses.

If you would like to apply please send a CV and covering letter telling us why you would be perfect for this exciting role to lily@buxtonfestival.co.uk

Closing date – 13th May 2016

Shirley Williams ITV interview
Baroness Shirley Williams being interviewed about her mother, Vera Brittain, by ITV in 2014
Peter Hennessy talking about his book Establishment & Meritocracy at the 2015 Festival
David Starkey on the Magna Carta at the Buxton Festival Book Weekend 2015
Andrea Wulf signing her book The Invention of Nature at the Buxton Festival Book Weekend 2015

As Seen On TV

This week the Kaleidoscope Choir have been filming with the BBC for a forthcoming episode of Escape to the Country. Regulars to daytime TV will know that Escape to the Country follows city dwelling house-hunters on their quest to find a rural idle. This episode guides a music loving couple around the highlights of the Peak Districts’ property market, including a visit to Buxton Opera House to sample entertainments that their new life may offer. Kaleidoscope Choir will be seen welcoming the house-hunters to a rehearsal on the Buxton Opera House stage. Our 30-second moment of fame was the result of an hour or so of takes and re-takes, during which we repeatedly belted out an Hallelujah round that will now stay firmed embedded in our heads for weeks to come. Although we’re not heading for Hollywood just yet, the choir did all really enjoy the experience and look forward to seeing ourselves on the small screen in about six weeks time. Stay tuned!

Claire Barlow Outreach Manager

An interview with mezzo soprano, Jennifer Parker

This week, I caught up with mezzo soprano, Jennifer Parker who will be singing in the Buxton Festival Chorus this year. She has recently completed her Masters degree at the Royal Northern College of Music.

Have you always known you wanted to be a singer, or did it develop over time?

When I was a little girl I was desperate to be a writer, and was always reading and scribbling. Comparatively I came to singing very late in life and didn’t start having proper lessons until I was 24 years old, and I had an amazing teacher who was a real inspiration. It wasn’t until I was accepted at the RNCM in my late twenties that I began to imagine I could be lucky enough to make singing my career!

How did you land your first opera role?

My first opera role was that of Valencienne in Lehar’s The Merry Widow at the RNCM, and Stefan Janski once told me that he had cast me for my naughty personality – which I suppose is open to many interpretations!

What made you apply to audition for the Buxton Festival Chorus?

I was really eager to audition for the Buxton Festival because of its fantastic commitment to young singers like myself as it offers a host of opportunities to cover roles and perform a variety of repertoire in a range of settings, whilst always maintaining the highest standards of singing.

You are covering a role in one of the Festival’s operas this year. Could you tell us a little more about the role?

I am really excited to be covering the role of Tamerlano, the Emperor of the Tartars at this year’s festival. For those who don’t know the opera, Tamerlano is a mighty leader who is very accustomed to getting his own way no matter what; so when he decides he wants to marry the daughter of his most illustrious prisoner, the Sultan of the Turks, and things don’t go according to plan, he behaves very badly indeed – until he finally sees the error of his ways and his true love talks some sense into him.

Is there a particular opera in this year’s Festival programme that you are looking forward to performing in?

I am particularly excited about the performances of I Capuleti e i Montecchi because the music is so wonderful and it appeals to my former life as an English Literature student – especially given it is 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death.

How do you start learning a role? Do you approach a role differently each time?

My approach to learning a role varies based on the different demands it places, though for me the most important thing is having a very clear plan. I like to work very methodically through the role and have specific milestones in the process so I am never tempted to leave anything to the last minute or rush anything. As a general rule I always start with the recit as I like to learn it as a script without music first to get the speech-like qualities and language just right; and then anything with coloratura as the quicker I can get that into my muscle memory the better as I will then use these parts of the role to warm up before starting work.

For people who are less familiar with opera, is there a particular album or show that you’d recommend?

For those who are less familiar with opera I would always recommend something funny and English – something like Albert Herring or The Old Maid and the Thief. These pieces are just brilliant, and hopefully would serve to dispel the illusion that opera is stuffy and boring!

What has been the most memorable opera production or concert that you have performed in?

I was fortunate enough to work at Opera Holland Park last year and was part of their wonderful production of Aida. Their re-imagining of the story reset the action to the 1980’s and a decadent party in an antiquities museum. As the party went on we all got wilder and wilder until during the triumphal march scene when all hell breaks loose and, following a strip tease, I ended up upside down and crowd surfing! It was memorable to say the least!

What would be your dream operatic role and why?

I would love the chance to sing the role of Charlotte in Massenet’s Werther one day. Not only is the music breathtakingly beautiful and fascinating to perform as the composer is so specific in his notation, but she is also a very nuanced and intriguing character – someone who has always tried to do the right thing but ends up completely heart broken because of it.

Is there a particular opera singer you really admire?

I am an ardent fan of Sarah Connolly and am a great admirer of her dramatic talents as well as her outstanding musical ones – and I had the incredible opportunity to perform in a masterclass with her whilst at college. Needless to say I was very star struck!

The Tamerlano cover show is on Tuesday 19 July 2-3pm at the Palace Hotel.

Lily Bracegirdle Executive Assistant