It gives me great pleasure to present the programme for 2016, our 15th annual festival.Once again we have some of the world’s greatest musicians with us for two weeks of glorious music. For some it is their first visit, for others a return to one of their favourite venues. Making their festival debuts here in a wonderful early music programme are Trevor Pinnock, Sophie Gent, Matthew Truscott & Jonathan Manson. The great Austrian mezzo soprano Angelika Kirchschlager also appears for the first time alongside festival regular Julius Drake, and Katherine Jenkinson & Martin Cousin make their debut here joining Ruth Rogers in the Aquinas trio Piano.

St James Church - photographer TJM Shots

The superb Belgian vocal ensemble Vox Luminis arrive at the end of week one, and the following week the Serbian pianist Aleksandar Madzar partners Adrian Brendel in a duo recital. Finally, the acclaimed German violinist Isabelle Faust and harpsichordist Kristian Bezuidenhout give us an evening of JS Bach.In addition we see the return of many old friends of the festival; our president Paul Lewis, Lucy Parham, the Nash Ensemble, Imogen Cooper, Ronan O’Hora, Elisabeth Leonskaja, Alfred Brendel, and of course the Festival Academy Orchestra now in its ninth year, and such an important part of the festival. As always, the orchestra will be conducted and led by husband and wife team, Thomas Hull & Ruth Rogers. I hope you will agree that we are set for another fortnight of truly worldclass concerts.Despite ever-increasing costs we have decided to hold ticket prices for an unprecedented sixth year running and student tickets remain a nominal £1.

We have, however, made a slight change to the ‘Friends’ category. Over the years the list of ‘Friends’ has grown enormously and we now find it increasingly hard to accommodate all the requests for tickets for some concerts. We considered limiting the number of tickets ‘Friends’ could purchase for any one concert but felt that was not the route we wanted to go down. Although the minimum donation had remained £100 for 14 years, in practice some people were donating £100 whilst others as much as £450. The position in the ‘ticket queue’ was based solely on the date the form was sent in rather than the level of donation, which seemed slightly unfair on those donating at a higher level.

So we have decided to instigate two levels of the Friends category from this year onwards. We appreciate that no system is absolutely fair but we hope you agree that this is the best way to resolve the ever increasing demand for tickets.If you have not signed up for one of the schemes before I hope you will consider doing so this year. ‘Sponsors’ & ‘Patrons’ enjoy a three-week priority booking period, Gold Friends a two-week priority period, and Silver Friends a one- week priority period. Increasingly, being a member of one of these schemes is the only sure way of obtaining reserved seating for many concerts.The provision of on-line booking, with a ‘select your own seat’ facility, proved extremely popular last year, particularly with overseas and last minute bookings, and it will be available again for 2016.However, after a lot of consideration, we have again decided to keep to the traditional postal system for the Patrons’, Friends’ & Season priority booking periods, and for those who like to send their General booking forms in early. As all forms come in they are dated and put in the appropriate folder (Patrons, Friends, Season & General) and as each period opens they are then processed in the order in which they were received. So please send in your forms ASAP.

As soon as the priority bookings and early ‘General’ bookings have been processed we will then activate the online & telephone booking system.

I hope you will agree that the 2016 programme is one of the most exciting to date and I look forward to seeing many of you next May.

Charlie Bennett, November 2015

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