It was an emotional moment when we were able to introduce our opening concert on Thursday 24 June. Months of planning in an uncertain environment had preoccupied all of our team. Would our audiences feel safe to return? Would our artists be able to perform? Would the regulations change at the last moment? What would the course of the pandemic be by June? In the end, the applause which greeted the opening of our new season said it all: yes, our audiences were overwhelmed to be back to hear live music, and our musicians were delighted to be performing on stage again, many of them for the first time in 18 months.
Thaxted Festival’s usual mix of classical, vocal, orchestral, and chamber music, infused with jazz and other offerings, again formed our programme this year. But having to present our concerts with safely distanced seating and performance areas meant that we had to re-think all our planning. With reduced audience numbers and smaller-scale ensembles we were able to keep our finances in balance. Happily, Thaxted Parish Church offers such a splendid space that we were able to adapt easily to suit the current conditions; something other venues had more difficulty with. We compressed our season into two long weekends rather than the usual four weekends, and we were delighted that our audiences returned in such significant numbers, with many concerts full to our reduced capacity.
Until near to our opening, we had hoped to be able to offer our usual interval catering, with our renowned home-made cakes and liquid refreshments. Unfortunately, government regulations were not relaxed in time and we missed out on this social element of our season. However, it was a small price to pay for the overall enthusiasm and delight of our audiences and artists at getting back to live performances. The standard of performance throughout this year was second to none, and we feel we have enhanced Thaxted’s reputation as a festival where you can be sure to enjoy the highest musical standards across all our events.
So, what have we learned from these difficult times? Above all, we’ve been assured of the great support from our audiences who want to hear live music in our superb surroundings. Our volunteer teams have come up with new and creative solutions for how we do things – from ticketing through to staging and managing everyone’s safety. With almost everyone now accustomed to supporting their lives online, we have been able to extend our reach in promotion and ticketing, and our profile across the music profession, through social media, emails and our online ticketing. Our new design, created by Vrve of Thaxted, has given new strength to our website and our overall ‘brand’, while conveying what is unique about our Festival. We’ve learned to do some things differently, and we will continue to innovate in future seasons.
There are many people to thank for bringing us successfully through the past year and a half. Our volunteers have worked hard in front of and behind the scenes, and the Festival Board has worked thoughtfully and meticulously to oversee all our planning. The Vicar, Churchwardens and congregation of the Church have been understanding and accommodating. Thaxted United Reformed Church were able to offer spacious ‘green room’ facilities for our artists to prepare and refresh themselves. We have benefitted greatly from the support of our Thaxted Music Lovers through their annual subscriptions, and also from their many messages of support and appreciation. Our ‘TMLs’ are part of our close Festival family, and receive benefits including priority booking periods and special events, from as little as £15 per year. Details are here, and new subscriptions will be available for our 2022 season from the beginning of the year.
Thaxted Festival now continues throughout the year, as well as during our summer seasons. Don’t miss our autumn recital, with star young pianist Iyad Sughayer, in Thaxted Church at 3.00pm on Sunday 17 October. Tickets for this are already on sale to Thaxted Music Lovers, and will be on general sale from Monday 6 September at 9.30 through this website, priced at £17 each. In early 2022 we will have a preview event for Thaxted Music Lovers for our summer season, which will be back to our regular format of four weekends, Friday through Sunday, between 17 June and 10 July.
This website carries a report of our education project, which we were delighted could go ahead with Thaxted Primary School together with Covent Garden Sinfonia during the Festival. Go to the Festival News page, for this and other news, past and present. You can also see a Gallery of images from our 2021 summer season, and also read the Saffron Waldon Reporter account, including a video of our Lincoln Organ soloist Robin Walker, by clicking a link. You can also sign up to receive our news and update emails, if you are not already registered.
Thaxted Festival will continue to offer something for everyone as we return to our regular format in summer 2022, when we plan to have some larger-sized ensembles again, and audiences back to full capacity. We even dare to hope that our renowned home-made cakes will return! We look forward to having you join us at any of our events.
Actress Selina Cadell, conductor Timothy Redmond, and our Festival Patron Zeb Soanes, who performed Walton’s Façade with Covent Garden Sinfonia on 2 July.
Thaxted Primary School project: Carnival of the Animals, displayed in the Thaxted Festival office window this summer.
Autumn recital: Iyad Sughayer, piano, on Sunday 17 October 2021.