Dartington International Summer School & Festival 2018

Booking will open early December 2017, when we release our latest Courses and Concerts brochure. Watch this space!

Joanna MacGregor

It’s the Summer School’s 70th birthday this year: and there’s a bumper programme, packed with acclaimed and innovative artists throughout four weeks. Imogen Cooper, Jane Glover, Felicity Lott, Tom Randle, Adrian Brendel and Oliver Knussen – as well as the brilliant folk duo Harbottle and Jonas, Trio Gaspard and the fabulous Heath Quartet – will be part of  the celebrations. There are workshops and masterclasses, coaching and concerts, premieres and new collaborations.

Our choral projects are even more colourful and ambitious, from Bolivian Masses and Bach’s St Matthew Passion to Haydn’s Creation and Verdi’s Requiem. We thrill to music resonating with liberation: Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro, as well as Byron Wallen’s cool jazz project celebrating Martin Luther King and the Harlem Renaissance. Composition is buzzing with Eleanor Alberga, Oliver Knussen and Freya Waley-Cohen. Neil Brand presents film and music, Adriano Adewale and Luiz Morais delight us with Latin American rhythm – all this and flamenco, too. I’m delighted to welcome a distinguished group of writers and poets including James Runcie, Alice Oswald, and the award-winning Helen Mort on wild landscapes.

Dartington is a place of extraordinary beauty and creativity, and its ancient buildings and dream-like gardens resonate and shimmer with generations of musicians, artists, dancers, poets and writers. Each year the Summer School sets out to do something unique: to create a community of all ages and backgrounds, coming together in a fantastic atmosphere of study and friendship, celebration and performance. We’re a music school by day, and a concert hall by night; you can listen to up to three concerts each evening.

I look forward to welcoming you all to what will be a wonderful summer party –the 70th anniversary of the Summer School!

Joanna MacGregor, Artistic Director

Week 1: 28 July – 4 August

Dawn choruses and Bolivian Masses with Jeffrey Skidmore and Ex Cathedra; Elizabethan Astronomy and Magic

A fantastic week for singers. The Big Choir is directed by ineffably stylish Jeffrey Skidmore, launching the 50th anniversary of Ex Cathedra with summer music by candlelight, and a celebration of the summer solstice. There’ll be Midsummer Liturgy for Vocal Ensembles with dawn choruses, madrigals and birdsong; and Hymns at Heaven’s Gate from the tower. The Chamber Choir sings William Byrd’s The Great Service, and Dartington Choir performs Christmas in the Sun: stunning early music from Bolivia, Peru and Mexico, including Missa Pastoril by the Brazilian composer Nunes Garcia.

Vocalists can study with the glorious countertenor Nicholas Clapton. Instrumental tutors include the virtuosic and boundary-breaking The Brook Street Band, as well as the Atéa Quintet, tutoring wind ensembles and soloists. Summer School favourites Fretwork and The City Musick return; there are workshops for viol consorts, reeds and recorders, cornets and sackbuts, as well as lute, guitar and theorbo classes. Creative improvisation and composition is led by Welsh jazzer Huw Warren and hurdy-gurdy player extraordinaire Stevie Wishart. Jon Banks explores medieval secrets and codes, and the music of Levant; and Alice Oswald delves into oral poetry and performance.

The City Musick

Week 2: 4 – 11 August

Gillian Keith (c)Clare Park

Bach’s St Matthew Passion with Tom Seligman; Wild Landscapes, Flamenco and Folk music; Gillian Keith and Tom Randle

Week 2 is a feast of brilliant Baroque music and opera, folk music, wild landscapes and poetry. Tom Seligman directs the Dartington Choir in a St Matthew Passion for our times: a semistaged version that will be exciting, all encompassing and moving. The soprano Gillian Keith is joined by the acclaimed tenor Tom Randle in this, and Tom’s new song cycle Los Nacimientos, with young flamenco dancers from Barcelona-based dotdotdot dance company – a collaboration inspired by the Nobel prize-winning Chilean poet Pablo Neruda. We’ll be singing and staging James Runcie’s The Great Passion, the story of the first performance of the St Matthew Passion in Leipzig, directed by Robert Howarth and Marilyn Imrie, and starring Simon Russell Beale, and Andrew Watts provides expert vocal tuition.

There’ll be masterclasses and workshops in Baroque strings, winds, brass, early keyboards and piano; a daily Bach Brandenburg Concerto session for all; recorder ensembles with Jill Kemp, and vocal tuition with bass Martin Nelson. The sensational young duo Harbottle and Jonas lead our folk courses, alongside Dartington’s Folk Choir. James Runcie teaches Historical Fiction and Landscapes, while the brilliant young poet Helen Mort inspires creative writing on wild landscapes.

Week 3: 11 - 18 August

Haydn’s The Creation with Jane Glover; Imogen Cooper, Harriet Walter and Felicity Lott; Brazilian music; Oh, What a Lovely War and West Side Story

Jane Glover conducts the Dartington Choir in Haydn’s magisterial masterpiece The Creation, narrated by the wonderful Harriet Walter. The Dartington Festival Orchestra begins its two-week residency with the Conductors Programme; the Advanced Opera Course, Mozart’s beautiful and witty Marriage of Figaro, is coached by the much-loved soprano Felicity Lott, visiting Dartington for the very first time.

It’s great week for pianists, with masterclasses from the great Imogen Cooper, piano concerto classes with Joanna MacGregor, and tuition in four-hand and two-piano repertoire with Florian Mitrea. Alfred Brendel brings his wit and wisdom, and Adrian Brendel directs the strings faculty. There’s be a packed programme of chamber music tuition all week.

Sarah Gabriel and Richard Williams celebrate Leonard Bernstein’s centenary directing all-comers with Scenes from West Side Story, as well as Lerner and Loewe’s Kiss Me Kate; and the Advanced Music Theatre Course marks the end of the First World War with Joan Littlewood’s searing Oh, What a Lovely War. There’ll also be classes in Brazilian music, dance and song.

Imogen Cooper (c) Sussie Ahlburg

Week 4: 18 - 25 August

Lee Reynolds

Verdi’s Requiem and Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro; Jazz, Ragtime and Composition; Byron Wallen Celebrates Martin Luther King

Young Glyndebourne conductor Lee Reynolds directs Verdi’s explosive Requiem. You’ll be coached in the exhilarating choruses for Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro, the climax of our two-week opera course. There’ll be a Ragtime and Beyond course, to mark Scott Joplin’s 150th birthday, and chamber music coached by the Heath Quartet and Tritium Trio.
Byron Wallen, one of today’s most innovative and exciting trumpeters, creates a major jazz ensemble course around Martin Luther King and 1950s Harlem, and Black Voices lead the Gospel Choir. Paul Archibald and Brett Baker run the brass faculty in workshops and ensembles; and Steve Dummer directs the Big Band, as well as an open conducting course.
Eleanor Alberga is our Advanced Composition tutor and Freya Waley-Cohen welcomes everyone to Open Composition; the great Oliver Knussen also mentors young composers. Neil Brand is back, to direct his popular Improvising to Film course. We celebrate the Summer School’s 70th anniversary with archive films performed with specially-created live music; with a concert telling the story of William Glock and the Summer School; and with Sarah Gabriel’s new immersive show about Dartington’s great founding spirit, Dorothy Elmhirst.


Images on this page by Kate Mount, Clare Park, and Sussie Ahlburg

Summer School archive

If you’re looking for something from previous years, you can find it here.

Visit the archive

2017 Gallery

A selection of images from the 2017 Summer School, taken by Aubrey Simpson.

Richard Tunnicliffe rehearses in the Great Hall - Summer School 2017
Vocal Masterclass and Lutenists outside - Summer School 2017
The Vocal Ensembles perform at the end of the week
Cornettos in the Advanced Renaissance Wind Band - Summer School 2017
Vocal Masterclass students enjoying the sun - Summer School 2017
Jane Chapman teaching harpsichord - Summer School 2017
Viol Consorts with Fretwork - Summer School 2017
Hannah Coutts (trog) at medieval party  - Summer School 2017
King Arthur Dress Rehearsal with Baroque Orchestra - Summer School 2017
Jennifer Tsang recorder workshop with Jill Kemp - Summer School 2017
King Arthur Dress Rehearsal with Baroque Orchestra  - Summer School 2017
Dartington Summer School & Festival 2016: Gallery
Adriano Adewale rehearsal
Conductors workshop with Sian Edwards (4)
Sweeney Todd (2)
Big band rehearsal (1)
Dead Rat Orchestra outside workshop (3)
Dead Rat Orchestra outside workshop (8)
Lee Reynolds and big choir (1)