Festival in tune with all kinds of music lovers

Last Night of the Proms from last year's White Rose Music Festival.
Last Night of the Proms from last year's White Rose Music Festival.
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Next week’s White Rose Music Festival has glamorous offerings that could banish the November blues, says Sheena Hastings

IT takes a certain amount of confidence, determination and positivity to launch a brand new arts festival during the bleakest economic crisis the UK has seen for decades, but that’s what Shan Robinson and her business partner Emma Ramply did last year, when they staged the first White Rose Music Festival at Ripley Castle near Harrogate.

Tenderly nursing a new baby through its first outing is tricky at the best of times, but that first extravaganza also had to contend with the worst ice and snow the country had seen for decades, with Yorkshire suddenly snowbound and grit supplies to make the roads passable tested to the limit. Shan and Emma kept calm and carried on, and found that Yorkshire folk are nothing if not stoical.

Many who’d booked tickets for the first night soldiered on through the blizzard; some didn’t venture out and were given tickets for other performances, and over all the festival was judged to be a success, in terms of ticket sales, audience feedback and the opinion of the artists and organisers. White Rose Festivals and sponsors Welcome to Yorkshire are hoping the event will attract audiences from Yorkshire and beyond for three glittering evenings that will brighten up the winter season.

This year’s festival takes place at a more permanent home in the 900-seat Pavilion Theatre at Harewood House next Thursday, Friday and Saturday. The programme of much-loved music should cater to many tastes, and the Northern Camerata, a new orchestra of top-notch professional musicians mostly from Yorkshire, will be led by conductor and musical director Ben Crick. The festival offers three themed evenings of festive entertainment. “The main ingredients are a heritage venue – our stately homes look so magical around Christmas; a social event that people can go to town and dress up for if they want to; great music; and an incredible environment in terms of decoration and atmosphere,” says Shan Robinson.

“Our aim is to bring something different in musical entertainment to Yorkshire, with singers and musicians who perform at the top venues and with some of the best companies in the country. We want to appeal to the masses, giving a fun night of music to people who may be opera or classical buffs as well as those who simply love good music. We’re very keen to show that great music is not just for culture vultures but can be enjoyed by all sorts of people brought together because they enjoy it.

“Each year’s programme will be different, and this time there’s a night of popular operatic pieces, a West End musical evening – from West Side Story through to Mamma Mia! – and a Prom Night, which will have its own special atmosphere and a finale that will bring the house down. Last year we were supported so well by people in Yorkshire, but music lovers also came from further afield, including London. We think there’s great scope in the future for packages that bring festival goers to Harewood and boost business for our great local hotels and restaurants, too. We’re showing off the best of Yorkshire.”

The Opera Night of the festival will include, apart from many popular selections of music (see box below), an appearance alongside professionals by Emma Harte and Rav Patel, two Harrogate school students who won a contest run by White Rose Festivals to find budding stars of the future.

White Rose asked Skipton-based conductor Ben Crick to assemble a 45-strong resident orchestra for the festival, which was easily done thanks to the wealth of musical talent in the country and in the north of England – players whose other regular bookings include the Halle and the Proms at the Royal Albert Hall. Ben says he has no reservations about serving up the accessible ‘best of’ picks from the classical repertoire.

“There’s an idea around that professional musicians don’t like those pieces, but Carmen has mass appeal because it is fantastic music – so why wouldn’t we be pleased to play it? A couple of the pieces, like Bernstein’s Candide, are slightly less well known, but stupendous. We’re all very happy to play the music that people want.”

Information/booking: www.whiterosefestivals.com or 01423 563 563

Festival highlights – Opera, Musicals and Proms Night

Opera Night, November 17 – among selections are pieces from Bizet’s Carmen, Verdi’s Rigoletto and Mozart’s Cosi Fan Tutte and Marriage of Figaro, The Barber of Seville, and Die Fledermaus.

Night in the West End, November 18 – The Sound of Music, South Pacific, Phantom of the Opera, The King and I, Miss Saigon, West Side Story, My Fair Lady, Chess, Les Miserables and others.

Proms Night, November 19 – includes Candide Overture (Bernstein), Blue Danube (Strauss), Nessun Dorma (Puccini), Elgar’s Nimrod and Jerusalem (Parry).