West Kent’s Music at Malling festival is back with live concerts for all

Nusrat Ghani
MUSIC TO OUR EARS: Live concerts in amazing venues

“It’s brilliant to finally be able to return to live concerts again…”

Artistic Director Thomas Kemp. Photo: © Rita Flanagan


This year’s festival marks the return of in person live events, as Music@Malling adopts a hybrid festival delivery model that allows everyone to experience an eclectic programme of classical, jazz, world and vocal music at various venues in and around West Malling, and then later online.

A spokesperson for the event told the Times: “Music@Malling’s 2021 season features the same musical variety as previous years. From a performance of Mark-Anthony Turnage’s brand new work Concerto for Clarinet with the renowned Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, to an enthralling music education project based on Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, recorded in lockdown by Chamber Domaine with music by Eleanor Alberga, OBE, and art by artist Rosie Brookes.”


Chamber Domaine


They added that other highlights for this year’s festival include: a suite of Jazz offerings, with performances by Callum Au with Jazz legend Liane Carroll, and Ronnie Scott’s The James Pearson Trio. A world premiere of Brain Elias’ Capriccio for Bassoon and Strings, with Opera North’s Adam Mackenzie and Chamber Domaine. And finally a captivating programme of Henry Purcell’s Fantasias with Viol consort Fretwork interwoven with contemporary classics from composers Alexander Goehr, John Woolwich, and Gavin Bryars.

The festival’s Artistic Director, Thomas Kemp, tells us more…

So Thomas, how does it feel to be back preparing for a live Music@Malling after lockdown?

It is brilliant to be able to return to live concerts again, and I am very proud of the fantastic line-up of performers and music for this year’s festival. I think what we have learnt during the pandemic has been very useful in informing future plans for Music@Malling. It has also made me more determined to ensure that great music is available to all in concerts and outreach.

How did you get on last year when pretty much everything had to be cancelled?

It was very difficult – all concerts and tours were cancelled and there has been a lack of clarity which often affects planning. But I kept busy editing a critical edition of Richard Strauss, developing online concerts and outreach for Music@Malling. I also conducted some livestreams for the BBC and Wigmore Hall and was able to record in London after the initial lockdown. It was a great time to reflect on things and develop new skills, particularly embracing digital media which will be much more integrated with concerts moving forwards.

Did you put concerts online instead, and if so how did that work – and feel?

In 2020, all our concerts and outreach were online – it was a very steep learning curve. But I think some things worked really well, notably the outreach which attracted participants from across the country. We also had tens of thousands watching clips from our concerts on social media. The main issue is that filming a concert without an audience is not a substitute for a live event with in-person audiences! Also the costs of filming far outlay the return from people paying to watch events. Having said that, it kept the organisation going and we reached new audiences and participants from a much wider area. Also, people who were self-isolating or in care homes were able to watch our concerts from the comfort of their own homes. We are incorporating this in our plans moving forwards.

Can you tell us what is on the agenda for this year? What are the personal highlights for you?

Personal highlights include conducting a programme of Mark-Anthony Turnage, Eleanor Alberga and Rebecca Saunders with one of the great contemporary music ensembles, The Birmingham Contemporary Music Group. The programme went down a storm earlier this month in Birmingham and it is fantastic to bring such a world class group to West Malling and provide an opportunity for audiences to see and meet some of Britain’s leading composers. The music is stunning, accessible and thought provoking – it will be fabulous. Other highlights include conducting the world premiere of Brian Elias – Capriccio in a ravishing programme of music inspired by the British Isles. This concert is presented by Aled Jones, MBE – well known to audiences as a brilliant singer and presenter on Classic FM.

Is there anything else you are looking forward to for this year’s event?

I am looking forward to playing the Ravel Trio – which is one of my favourite pieces and to the jazz events which are always great fun! We have a partnership with the Royal Academy of Music – one of the world’s leading conservatoires – and it is fantastic that we have two ensembles (selected from 20) giving concerts, outreach and receiving mentoring across 2021/22. It is great to be supporting young musicians at the start of their careers – especially given the many difficulties young musicians currently face.

Has this year’s programme been relatively easy to put together logistically?

The 2021 festival has been complicated to put together but I think will be our best festival yet. It took a while to know when we could have physical audiences and we have put a lot of effort into planning to make sure our audiences and musicians are as safe and as comfortable as possible.

And finally, what do you think audiences will enjoy most about the concerts?

I think audiences will love the range of music – from Telemann to Turnage and Purcell to Cole Porter. The programme is designed to take you on a musical journey or dip into different periods and styles of music. As a kid growing up in West Malling, I would have been blown away to have this on my doorstep!! It is also brilliant for people to reflect and try music that they might not otherwise know. The venues and setting are stunning, too, and there are lots of great places to go for a meal and to have a drink! I hope that the festival will bring the community together, provide creative inspiration and be a truly memorable series of live events after the last, very difficult months!

Venues for the concerts include St Mary’s Church, The Cowshed, Malling Abbey and Pilsdon, all based in West Malling.

For more information and tickets, visit: musicatmalling.com

Share this article

Recommended articles


Please enter a search term below.

Subscribe To Our Newsletter