A noteworthy programme for classical music fans

King Charles The Martyr Church

This coming Friday (September 8), a special baroque recital at King Charles the Martyr Church will set the scene for this year’s Royal Tunbridge Wells International Music Festival, launching in October. Here the event’s Chair, Rupert Preston Bell, tells Eileen Leahy more about the event and what else to expect from the renowned festival when it takes place next month…


“Founded two decades ago, by Michael Waggett [now the festival’s President], the aim of the Royal Tunbridge Wells International Music Festival is to deliver an engaging annual music festival that features and showcases the classical and other related forms of music performed live by different bodies in Tunbridge Wells. It also introduces notable international artists and ensembles to audiences both young and old,” explains the event’s Chair Rupert Preston Bell.

“In our 2022 season, we featured a major symphony orchestra concert performed by the Royal Tunbridge Wells Symphony Orchestra (with whom we now collaborate as partners) in front of a large Assembly Hall audience. There were also two well-attended chamber music concerts by famed international soloists James Gilchrist (tenor) and Michael Collins (clarinet), and a CODA concert in memory of CODA founder Arthur Boyd plus a linked masterclass for young pianists.”

A busy time of it then, I quip! “Yes indeed,” responds Rupert. “There is no comparable group in Tunbridge Wells providing this type of service dedicated mainly to classical music and centred on an annual festival format.”

The Tunbridge Wells International Music Festival has been taking place each year in the autumn for two decades and as in previous years, the church of King Charles the Martyr forms a key venue for performances, which is where Rupert also happens to be the Director of Music.

He describes the forthcoming Fiddlers Three recital by the Musical & Amicable Society as “an exuberant Baroque concert” which will feature several continuo instruments.

“This programme involves an unusual combination of three violins, together with lutes, guitar, a spinet and chamber organ. It promises to be an exuberant Baroque concert. Based in the Midlands, this is one of the country’s premier Baroque ensembles. It is led by Dr Martin Perkins, who is Head of Historical Performance at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire.

“It will feature some pieces never heard before in modern times. The venue, the church of King Charles the Martyr which is Tunbridge Wells’ oldest building, dates back to the late 17th century and the Restoration when the other arts were flourishing again after the Puritan years of the Civil War.”

Rupert tells me that the group is made up of violinists Kate Fawcett, Catherine Martin and Anna Curzon. They will be joined by renowned lutenist Lynda Sayce, with Martin Perkins playing the two keyboard instruments, spinet and organ.

“This concert will include works by Henry Purcell and his contemporaries and as the music is from the same period, it will certainly transport you back to the wit and excess of the court of Charles II!”
adds Rupert.

“With its oak galleries, celebrated plaster ceiling and excellent acoustics, King Charles the Martyr church is the perfect venue for chamber music of any kind, but it’s very special to hear music of the same period as the building. It feels like it’s come home! And when played by experts in historical performance, you really get a sense of what it might have been like hearing this wonderful music for the very first time.”

Fiddlers Three: A Concert of Rare Music from the Restoration Court is on Friday September 8 at 7pm, King Charles the Martyr Church, Tunbridge Wells.

To book, visit: twellsmusicfest.co.uk

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