Baroque Week.  Patron: Trevor Pinnock CBE   Artistic Director: Theresa Caudle

Welcome from the Artistic Director

Welcome to Baroque Week 2024!

Today, as I sit down to write to you, the desperately sad news has just broken that Dartington Summer School, which has for seventy-five years inspired and encouraged generations of musicians; student, professional and amateur alike, has had to cancel its 2024 course, and the Artistic Director, Sara Mohr-Pietsch, and all her team have been forced to resign. Whether this will be the permanent end for the summer school is unclear but this is just another nail in the coffin for the Arts in this country in these difficult times. In the light of this news I am all the more happy and proud to say that Baroque Week seems to be going from strength to strength. 2023 saw our largest ever gathering and we certainly don’t plan to expand further, feeling that we are now achieving the ideal numbers to create a buzzing creative environment with an extraordinarily friendly atmosphere, and with an excellent balance of singers and players.

I feel so lucky to have established a wonderful team of tutors, who are not only such gifted performers and so well-informed but also hugely warm, generous and encouraging teachers. I know that everyone is extremely sad that, after six years, Steven Devine and Kate Semmens have decided that the time has come for them to move on with other projects, and I would like to thank them personally for the extraordinary expertise, energy and commitment they have brought to the course. And thank you to all of you who gave so generously for a leaving gift for them – I know that they were completely bowled over. I’m also sorry that Jacob Garside will not be able to join us in 2024 as Baroque Week conflicts with a long run of performances. However, I am thrilled that we have secured the very best replacements with Robert Howarth, harpsichordist and conductor; Daniel Collins, singer and conductor; and my brother Mark Caudle as our cello and viol tutor.   To learn more about them please visit the Tutors page.

I am very grateful to all of you who took the time to give us such useful, and overwhelmingly positive, feedback after the 2023 course. We consider seriously any suggestions you make for further improvement to the course, and try whenever possible to incorporate your ideas and to address your occasional criticisms! But virtually everyone seems to approve of the new, slightly more relaxed timetable we introduced this year, so we will be keeping this format.

We managed to give ten full or part bursaries in 2023, which was the largest number to date. I hasten to add that we don’t only give financial support to students and up-and-coming professional musicians but on many occasions help people at all stages of life who would otherwise be unable to come. But I felt that this year the recipients were an exceptional group of young singers and players who made a hugely beneficial contribution to the course, not only with the high level of their musical ability but in their willingness to interact with everyone, and in the way they threw themselves with enthusiasm into all that was on offer. We make them work hard in return by helping with tasks such as serving tea, shifting furniture and moving keyboard instruments, and they proved particularly willing and helpful this year.  I also really love the fact that we have such a range of age groups attending, from eighteen to eighty-something, and feel that the interaction between the generations brings something very special to Baroque Week. For 2024 we are introducing a new scheme whereby we keep the actual course fee as low as possible and ask you to give an extra donation alongside the basic fee if you are in a position to do so. This will benefit us even further if you are a UK tax payer and can add Gift Aid. So please give generously if you are able – your contribution will make a big difference to our funds, not only for bursaries but also other expenses such as hiring in extra keyboard instruments. And a huge “thank you” to all of you who have already made generous donations, which helped us to avoid a deficit for the 2023 course.

So to plans for 2024.......…

Whilst Baroque Week continues to give plenty of opportunity to form your own ensembles (with help from the tutors if necessary) without prescribing your choice of repertoire – and with our ever-growing library there is an extraordinary amount of music to choose from – in our tutor-led sessions we offer more structured exploration of a specific theme. After several years investigating music from continental Europe in our series of “Grand Tours”, this year’s theme is “Fairest Isle: A Musical Journey Around the British Isles” and will give us the opportunity to champion the rich and varied repertoire from around our own islands in the 17th and 18th Centuries. London was, for obvious reasons, the epicentre of musical excellence and we will include lots of great music by Purcell, Blow and Handel.  But there were pockets of important activity in other parts of the British Isles, in particular Edinburgh, Dublin, Oxford, Newcastle and Durham, and we will be exploring music by many composers who lived and worked far from the metropolis including Charles Avison, William Hayes, Richard Mudge and James Oswald.

There won’t be a “big band” with massed ranks of wind this time; instead I envisage more groups running concurrently in the first session of the day, including various orchestral and vocal/instrumental ensembles as well as projects for separate groups of instruments with their specialist tutors. There will be a broad range of repertoire, from the early and mid 17th Century with composers such as Locke, Lawes and Jenkins through to the late 18th Century with J C Bach and Abel. 2024 will be the 350th anniversary of the death of Pelham Humphrey and the birth of Jeremiah Clarke, and to celebrate both of their tragically short lives some of their music will be included in the vocal sessions.  And as I delve further into suitable repertoire a sub-theme is beginning to emerge – that of Coronation Anthems. Unsurprisingly, some of the best and grandest vocal music was written for these spectacular occasions and we will include Purcell’s I was Glad and Handel’s Let Thy Hand be Strengthened (from the Coronations of James II and George I) for the evening choir as well as anthems by Henry Lawes, John Blow, Jeremiah Clarke and William Turner in vocal sessions.

I am compiling a working spreadsheet of composers and possible repertoire for the purposes of planning tutor-led projects but you might also find it provides food for thought for material that you could explore in your own sessions. Here is a link to it: Repertoire suggestions

We will also gradually be adding new pieces to the library in the months to come so keep a look-out for new material by going to the Library page and following the links.

I do hope to see you in August! Book early to avoid disappointment as we are very optimistic that we will be fully booked again, and please do have a look at the Bursaries page if you might need financial assistance in order to attend.