23 Nov

Presteigne Festival Composer Development

The Presteigne Festival has long been celebrated for its commissioning of new music from a wide range of composers. Thanks to generous financial support from organisations including the John S Cohen Foundation, the PRS Foundation, the RVW Trust and Tŷ Cerdd, the Festival has been able to intensify efforts to support composers at critical points in their professional careers.

In 2013, the Festival expanded its activity into composer development, and began a fruitful and ongoing partnership with the Royal Philharmonic Society Composers Programme.

More recently, in 2020, inspiring Scottish composer Ninfea Cruttwell-Reade was appointed as the Festival’s first ‘Evolve’ composer; over a period of five years, the Festival will feature her music, also regularly commissioning new works. The first of these, Reginald: The Musings of an Edwardian Gentleman, was premiered online as part of Presteigne Digital 2020, with narrator Christopher Good and the Nova Music Opera Ensemble under George Vass – the performance can be viewed via this link. Ninfea’s commission for the 2022 Festival is for a new violin and piano piece, to be premiered by Benjamin Nabarro and Tim Horton.

Such has been the success of ‘Evolve’, that the Festival is now embarking on a further post-graduate composer development scheme. We are delighted to announce that, from 2022, Sarah Frances Jenkins joins the Presteigne Festival as its ‘Emerge’ composer for a three-year period. Winner of the 2017 BBC Proms Inspire Young Composers’ Competition, Sarah already has a number of high-profile commissions to her credit.

Uniquely, the Presteigne Festival ‘Emerge’ programme will offer performance opportunities for Sarah’s extant works, commissions for new pieces, major involvement in an exciting community education project, alongside regular mentoring and a chance to work with the Festival’s board. She is currently writing a new orchestral work which will be premiered at the 2022 Festival conducted by artistic director, George Vass.

26 May

Presteigne Premieres CD release 28 May

The Presteigne Festival Orchestra’s first commercial CD on the Resonus Classics label is released on Friday 28 May. Made in August 2020, the disc features a collection of  Presteigne Festival orchestral commissions.





Including world premiere recordings from no fewer than 11 living composers, the album features performances from four outstanding soloists – Amy Dickson saxophone, Rebecca Afonwy-Jones mezzo-soprano and flute and harp duo Katherine Baker and Suzy Willison-Kawalec. The orchestra is conducted by George Vass, artistic director of the Presteigne Festival.

Physical CDs and digital downloads are available from the usual retailers or directly from Resonus Classics via this link

The full programme is detailed below, but for all lovers of British string music, this is a must have release.

Variations on ‘Lovely Joan’ (2017)

Concerto for soprano saxophone and string orchestra (2009)
Amy Dickson saxophone

Beginnings: Three Early Songs, for mezzo and string orchestra, Op 54 (2010)
Rebecca Afonwy-Jones mezzo-soprano

Mnemonic, for flute, harp and string orchestra (2004)
Katherine Baker flute | Suzy Willison-Kawalec harp

Divertimento, Op 51 (2007)

Presteigne Festival Orchestra
George Vass conductor



03 Aug

Presteigne Digital | 24-27 August 2020 programme announcement

The programme of events for Presteigne Digital 2020, the Presteigne Festival’s online festival, has been announced.

Though something of a mammoth operation for the organisation, performances were absolutely outstanding during the recordings last month – the eleven specially filmed concerts and literary events are currently being edited.

We anticipate that everyone will enjoy the results and hope that our online content will not only go some way to make up for the fact that there can be no ‘live’ Festival in Presteigne this summer, but will also introduce music lovers from around the world to some fabulous music and brilliant music-making.

We’ve tried to keep the essential Festival ethos alive in Presteigne Digital, being particularly pleased to have incorporated all but two of our 2020 music commissions in the programme – no fewer than 7 brand new pieces. There are also three literary events, filmed in the wider Presteigne area.

We’d like to take this opportunity to thank our amazing funders for their foresight in allowing us to re-purpose grant funding. This has enabled us to film eleven videos, plan a string orchestra recording of past Presteigne commissions to take place later this month and also prepare for the first ever Presteigne Winter Festival Weekend in November.

Please follow this link to the Presteigne Digital homepage; for information on the individual programmes, simply click on the ‘watch now’ links.

An online Presteigne Digital programme book will be available nearer the time for download with notes, biographies and other information – all will be ready to start broadcasting on 24 August. If you are away at the end of August, don’t forget that Presteigne Digital will be available, free to view until 31 December, though we hope you’ll want to support us by donating to our Festival Futures fund.

We wish all of you continued good health and hope to be able to see you in person at the 2021 Presteigne Festival.

19 Jun

Presteigne Festival ‘Lunch and Learn’ project goes online

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Presteigne Festival’s  ‘Lunch and Learn’ art workshops for senior members of the community have been transformed into an online project, thanks to COVID-19 Resilience Funding from the Community Foundation in Wales.

Artist Lois Hopwood is leading weekly virtual art workshops demonstrating how to interpret scenes from our immediate surroundings into paintings – a selection of the resultant artwork is available to view via this link.



The project was initially planned as a series of weekly events from February to April at the Bleddfa Centre, intended to reach senior members of the community and to provide social and learning interaction, centred on the visual arts. The project proved extremely popular, with a waiting list for each session.



Lois co-ordinated a team of workshop leaders, to cover painting, spinning, ceramics and singing. The home-made lunches served at each session were hugely appreciated and the workshops enabled participants who, in the great majority, did not know one another or the workshop leaders, to relax and socialise whilst exploring new skills.



One of several complete novices said ‘I hadn’t done any painting before and was delighted to discover how much I enjoyed it. I now have a new hobby!’

Lunch and Learn was launched with support from PAVO Small Health Grants and The Oakdale Trust.


For information on how to participate, please contact Lois Hopwood directly via email – loishopwoodwales@gmail.com

31 May

2020 Presteigne Festival COVID-19 update

The Presteigne Festival board recently made the difficult decision to cancel the 2020 Festival. Whilst this is extremely sad both for our regular audience and all the artists, support staff and volunteers involved, it is imperative that the health and safety of the wider Festival community should be of paramount importance.

However, the organisation has managed to arrange an exciting alternative to the 2020 Festival comprising Presteigne Digital (a series of specially-filmed mini-concerts to be streamed via the Presteigne Festival website), a Winter Festival Weekend and the Festival Orchestra’s first commercial recording project for the Resonus label, highlighting past Presteigne commissions.

Presteigne Digital, which runs from 24-27 August and will be available to view at any time after that, features performances from the Carducci Quartet, Amy Dickson, Christopher Good, Clare Hammond, Tim Horton, Mathilde Milwidsky, Bradley Smith, Oliver Wass and members of Nova Music Opera in repertoire which was to have been featured at the 2020 Festival – six newly commissioned works from Martin Butler, Amelia Clarkson, Ninfea Cruttwell-Reade, Robin Haigh, Joseph Phibbs and Emma-Ruth Richards, contemporary British pieces and music by Beethoven, Britten, Janáček and Schubert.

The programme for the first ever Presteigne Winter Festival Weekend will be announced in mid-August. A nine-event celebration of string and vocal chamber music supported with literary and music talks similarly comprises content originally programmed for the 2020 Festival. All events, which are planned to take place from 27-29 November (coinciding with the first Sunday of Advent), will be given to a small, socially distanced audience at St Andrew’s Church, the Festival’s spiritual home.

The Festival is extremely grateful to many of its grant funders and individual patrons for agreeing to maintain financial support at this difficult time. These alternative projects, and the 2021 Festival, would be impossible to realise without their understanding. Irrespective of this generous assistance, ticket income so vital to our organisation could be reduced by as much as £24,000. Finances and the Festival’s future are delicately poised.

Many freelance artists are struggling financially due to the effects of COVID-19. In arranging the activities outlined above, the Presteigne Festival is now able to guarantee much needed performance or cancellation fees for all the artists who had been engaged to appear at the 2020 Festival.

Whilst this imposes extra financial stress on the organisation, artists and composers form the very core of our activity; without them the Festival would be nothing at all – now is the time to support them all we can.

This is the first time in 38 years that the Presteigne Festival has been forced to cancel. It is hoped that it will be the last – plans are currently being made for the 2021 edition, which will run from 26-30 August next year.

George Vass ARAM
Artistic Director | 31 May 2020

21 Dec

Beethoven Celebration in aid of the 2020 Presteigne Festival

Beethoven Celebration in aid of the Presteigne Festival | Wednesday 5 February

Our London fundraising event, taking place on Wednesday 5 February 2020 at the beautiful home of Bob and Elisabeth Boas, will celebrate the 250th birthday year of
Ludwig van Beethoven.






Xiaowen Shang (l), Fenella Humphreys (r)                     

The popular all-Beethoven programme includes the ‘MoonlightSonata, played by rising Chinese star Xiaowen Shang, who also accompanies the brilliant violinist and Presteigne favourite Fenella Humphreys in the beautiful ‘SpringSonata. Finally, Xiaowen is joined in a performance of the early Quintet for piano and wind instruments by James Turnbull (oboe), Catriona Scott (clarinet), Tom Oxley (bassoon) and Paul Cott (horn).

Artistic director George Vass will be on hand to talk about the 2020 Festival programme and, after the concert, there will be an opportunity to chat with the artists over wine and canapés.

We are hugely grateful to Bob and Elisabeth Boas for hosting this annual event once again – full booking details are available here – please book early, space is limited and we expect huge demand for this event.

04 Oct

Presteigne Festival Autumn Tour 2019

Our popular Autumn Tour takes to the road this month and next with a great programme of music for percussion and piano by Steve Reich, Hannah Lash and Howard Skempton, also featuring exciting new works from Mark David Boden, Gregory Rose and 2018/19 RPS Emerging Composer, Liam Mattison.

GBSR Duo – George Barton and Siwan Rhys

The virtuoso percussion and piano recital by George Barton and Siwan Rhys at Presteigne this year was one of the stand-out successes of the Festival. If you missed the duo in the summer, here are two excellent opportunities to hear them in some fabulous repertoire – click on links for full details:

Friday 18 October at 1pm
Barber Institute of Fine Arts, Birmingham University B15 2TS

Friday 22 November at 7.30pm
Jacqueline du Pre Music Building, St Hilda’s College, Oxford OX4 1DY

05 Sep

2019 Presteigne Festival reviews

A huge thank you to everyone who attended events at the 2019 Presteigne Festival this year – a fabulous programme of world class music-making from a roster of superb musicians, engaging talks on music and musicians, not forgetting art exhibitions, literature events, films and popular for the third year, Presteigne Open Studios.

Audience numbers continued to grow, with 81% of all available tickets sold and we again welcomed a great number of people to the Festival for the first time.







Cheryl Frances-Hoad, composer-in-residence

The American theme offered a particularly wide choice of music from Bartók and Stravinsky via Barber, Copland and Gershwin to Richard Rodgers and music from the Great American Songbook – all interspersed with contemporary British works and pieces by composers-in-residence Cheryl Frances-Hoad and Hannah Lash, with a wonderful collection of no fewer than nine specially commissioned pieces.

Here are the reviews currently available:

Classical Source, 23.8.19
Classical Source, 24.8.19
Classical Source, 24.8.19
Midlands Music Reviews, 24.8.19
The Guardian, 26.8.19
Midlands Music Reviews, 26.8.19
Western Mail, 30.8.19
Wales Arts Review, 31.8.19
Hereford Times, 2.9.19
Musical Opinion Quarterly, October 2019


22 Jul

2019 Presteigne Festival | Box Office now open for telephone orders and personal callers

With just over four weeks to go until the opening night of the 2019 Festival, there is a real sense of excitement in Presteigne. Some 50% of the tickets have already been sold, and a number of our daytime events at smaller venues are very close to selling out – please book as soon as possible to avoid disappointment.

Situated at the Assembly Rooms, Broad Street, Presteigne LD8 2AD, the Festival Box Office is now open for telephone sales and personal callers. Please do not send Presteigne Festival mail to this address but instead use P O Box 30, Presteigne LD8 2WF

2019 Presteigne Festival Box Office Opening Times

15 July – 17 August
Monday – Saturday, 11am – 2pm

19 – 27  August
Daily, 10am – 5pm

Telephone 01544 267 800

If you wish to book tickets out of Box Office hours, Online Booking is available here

29 Apr

2019 Presteigne Festival | Online booking now open

Presteigne Festival
22-27 August 2019

The 2019 Presteigne Festival was launched earlier this month – six days of exciting Arts events with a fabulous American theme running throughout and, as always, a focus on the music of living composers.

There is an exploration of the work of composers-in-residence – Cheryl Frances-Hoad and American composer and virtuoso harpist Hannah Lash (pictured above) – including major new pieces.

Also premiered are Festival commissions from James Francis Brown, Harriet Grainger, Liam Mattison, Freya Waley-Cohen and Adrian Williams.

A rich variety of supporting events extends the American theme still further with Sarah Gabriel’s delightful one-woman show, Dorothy Parker takes a Trip, a tribute to Richard Rodgers – The Sound of His Music, three legendary American movies and talks from Stephen Johnson, Ian Marchant, Fiona Sampson, Nicholas Murray and Peter Lord.

The artist line-up sees the welcome return of Festival favourites Tom Poster, Alice Neary and Sarah-Jane Bradley, whilst Presteigne first-timers include the Albion Quartet, virtuoso flautist Katherine Bryan, outstanding young violinist Mathilde Milwidsky and silver-voiced soprano Elizabeth Cragg.

General online and postal booking is now open – book here

View or download the Festival Brochure here