THE POWER OF STOUR

A world class line-up of mu­si­cians will be de­scend­ing on Kent this week for the start of the Stour Mu­sic Fes­ti­val. Fes­ti­val di­rec­tor Mark Deller spoke to Kathryn Tye about what will be in store for au­di­ences at this year’s event.

Kentish Gazette Canterbury & District - What's On - - MUSIC -

A re­mote 13th cen­tury pil­grims’ church might seem an un­likely set­ting for one of Kent’s ma­jor mu­sic fes­ti­vals. But dur­ing the fi­nal two week­ends of June each year, hun­dreds of clas­si­cal mu­sic lovers flock to All Saints in Boughton Aluph for the an­nual Stour Fes­ti­val. Founded in 1962 by Mar­gate­born counter-tenor Al­fred Deller, prin­ci­pally as a fes­ti­val de­voted to early mu­sic, it takes its name from the River Stour, which runs along the val­ley be­tween Ash­ford and Can­ter­bury. The early fes­ti­vals were held in a num­ber of venues along the Stour Val­ley, and ini­tially in­cluded exhibition­s of paint­ings, or­gan­ised by the late artist John Ward, who lived in Bilt­ing near Ash­ford, and in­tro­duced Al­fred to All Saints. Al­fred’s son Mark Deller took over the fes­ti­val in 1974 from his fa­ther, who died just five years later at the age of 67, and be­lieves that the unique set­ting is one of the ma­jor rea­sons for the fes­ti­val’s huge ap­peal. Mark, who lives in Wye, said: “It’s the largest church along the Stour Val­ley and can seat nearly 500 peo­ple. It is quite a re­mote lo­ca­tion, stuck out in the mid­dle of fields, but it is very pretty out there, and the church also has spec­tac­u­lar acous­tics so it’s a nice place to per­form.” De­spite the re­mote lo­ca­tion of the church, Mark and his team en­sure that the fes­ti­val ex­pe­ri­ence is pleas­ant for per­form­ers and au­di­ences by in­stalling por­ta­ble toi­let fa­cil­i­ties and large mar­quees. He said: “We serve food be­fore and af­ter the main evening con­certs, and there are also record stalls and a bar. There is al­ways a nice so­cia­ble at­mos­phere, and even if the weather is aw­ful, our hardy au­di­ences still turn up.” In­deed, the fes­ti­val has at­tracted a very loyal fol­low­ing, with £57,000 worth of tick­ets sold for last year’s 50th an­niver­sary event. Mark said: “Our au­di­ences are al­ways very well-in­formed, and per­form­ers know that they are guar­an­teed to get a good re­cep­tion. Last year’s event was re­ally spe­cial, but I am pleased with the line-up we have or­gan­ised for this year’s fes­ti­val. “I’m par­tic­u­larly look­ing for­ward to Wil­liam Christie con­duct­ing the Orches­tra of the

Pulling the

strings... Mark Deller

Age of En­light­en­ment, as he is a big name in the early mu­sic field, and also played on my dad’s last record­ing.” Semi-re­tired, part-time mu­si­cian Mark, 74, who also con­ducts Ash­ford Choral So­ci­ety, says he is con­fi­dent that the fes­ti­val will con­tinue for many years to come, even af­ter he de­cides to step down. He said: “I have three boys, and al­though I don’t think any of them will take on or­gan­is­ing the event, I’m sure it will con­tinue as we have a very good team, and so many peo­ple love it. It is a typ­i­cally English event, some­thing spe­cial.”

Swiss en­sem­ble La Morra

Mark Deller with mem­bers of ash­ford Choral So­ci­ety in 1970

a mem­ber of the Swiss en­sem­ble Merid­i­ana, who will be per­form­ing at the fes­ti­val

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