Hastings International Piano, the charity responsible for the Hastings International Piano Concerto Competition and the Hastings International Piano Festival is delighted to announce a new partnership with iconic piano maker Steinway & Sons for the 2021 Concerto Competition in the historic town on England’s South Coast.

The Hastings International Piano Concerto Competition is an internationally renowned biennial competition for young concert pianists from around the world, attracting 170 applicants in 2019 from across the globe, 40 of which came to compete in Hastings during February and March. Their prize: the opportunity to perform with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra on a two-night final and to win a first prize of £15,000.

The next competition dates are now confirmed to be the 17th – 26th June 2021 with successful entrants being selected from video auditions by a panel appointed by our President of the Jury Professor Vanessa Latarche, who is Head of Keyboard at The Royal College of Music in London.

Professor Latarche joined the competition team earlier this year to curate the 2021 competition, oversee the audition process, as well as to preside over the international jury who she has invited to join her in Hastings next summer.

Professor Vanessa Latarche says – “I am delighted that we have managed to re-schedule the Hastings International Piano Concerto Competition to June 2021. So many of the world’s musicians have had disappointment due to cancellations of events since Covid-19 began. Although they have become very adept at finding other ways of working, especially by video and streaming through social media, nothing replaces the thrill of live performance both for the artists, and the audience. The competition will provide a beacon of light for these young pianists to work towards, performing live, both solo and with orchestras to our audiences and my distinguished jury colleagues. I am thrilled to be working with Ian Roberts and the competition team to give the musicians these opportunities, and I look forward very much to welcoming them to Hastings, and to hearing them play in person in the summer.”


Managing Director of Hastings International Piano Ian Roberts says – “We are delighted that we have the opportunity to work closely with our esteemed colleagues and friends at Steinway and Sons in the lead up to and during our 2021 competition. Moving our competition dates to June 2021 enables us to provide a safe and secure platform for our young pianists to compete on, whilst protecting our audiences and family of volunteers, who give us their un-wavering support during each competition. During the June edition of Hastings International Piano Concerto Competition, we will provide enhanced performance opportunities for our pianists, including orchestral opportunities in both the semi-final and final rounds. Our partnership with The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra continues in 2021 and we look forward to announcing further news about our exciting competition changes in the coming weeks.”

Hastings International Piano is delighted to also announce today that our new media sponsor for the next competition is International Piano Magazine, a perfect partner for our competition offering a rich mix of inspiration and guidance to pianists and piano fans around the world, from dedicated amateurs and students to professional pianists, teachers and aficionados.

The next edition of Hastings International Piano Concerto Competition takes place in the cultural hub of Hastings, on England’s historic south coast from the 17th-26th June of 2021.


Robert Matthew Walker: Concertante on a Theme of Paganini for piano and double string orchestra Opus 168 (2020)


On Wednesday October 21st at St John’s Smith Square at 1.00pm Mark Bebbington with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Jan Latham- Koenig will give the world premiere of a new work of mine:

I completed this work in May of this year.  It is based on Paganini’s 24th Caprice and is a substantial piece (about 26-28 minutes) in one movement; It is largely intended as a divertimento-like work in four continuous sections. The piano writing is quite brilliant and virtuosic at times as well as containing light and popular elements alongside more serious an  contemplative sections.

The Concertante is to be recorded very soon by these forces for the SOMM label, and although the Government’s distancing regulations require the string strength to be reduced, I am convinced that the fine acoustics of St Johns, plus the excellence of the RPO players will do the work justice. Mark Bebbington is of course a superb pianist; he commissioned the Concertante which is dedicated to him. I am flattered that the admirable musician Jan Latham-Koenig will be conducting.

The programme is the British part of a French-UK pair of concerts – the first all-French is this coming Friday, October 2, mainly Poulenc, including the Aubade with the RPO  under Jan Latham-Koenig. The programme on the 21st also contains  Finzi’s profound Eclogue for piano and string orchestra and Doreen Carwithen’s admirable 1948 Concerto for the same forces of course. My new work comes in the middle.


Hever Castle Reopens for Live Events

A Summer’s evening with Gilbert and Sullivan

Sun 23 Aug 8pm

Join us for this spectacular programme of Gilbert & Sulivan favourites, that is sure to send you home whistling a happy tune.

Charles Court Opera, “the masters of G&S in small spaces”, present this summer concert of songs, scenes and ensembles from the comic operas of Gilbert and Sullivan, including well known favourites from The Mikado, The Pirates of Penzance, Ruddigore, Iolanthe and more.

The cast of Hever Festival favourites will include Llio EvansMeriel CunninghamMatthew KellettPhilip Lee and John Savournin, with David Eaton on piano.

Charles Court Opera is one of the leading chamber opera and music theatre companies in the UK. They are one of the champions of the current reinvigoration of Gilbert and Sullivan, recently receiving the award for Best Opera Production at the Offies for HMS Pinafore.  This summer, they were scheduled to co-produce The PIrates of Penzance with Opera Holland Park.

????? “From the opening explosion of energy this is a show that knows where it’s heading, and that’s to five-star heaven.” – What’s On Stage on The Mikado

???? “A winning blend of gusto and wit… ” – Evening Standard on The Mikado

????? ‘irresistible’ – The Stage on HMS Pinafore


Gates 6.30pm for picnics. The performance will take place on Main Lawn, arrive via the main car park the lawn is on the right as you walk through the main entrance gate with the stunning view of the castle at the bottom

Hever Castle in Red

On Monday 6 July as part of the national campaign #LightItInRed, Hever Festival Theatre turned red.

The campaign was inspired by Germany’s #NightOfLight2020 and is a joint project created and managed by Clearsound Productions Ltd in partnership with Backstage Theatre Jobs forum. The project encouraged venues across the country to light red on Monday evening to raise awareness at this critical time for venues and staff in the arts and live event industries.

Our Technical team did a fantastic job of making the Festival Theatre glow bright red, a symbol of us standing in solidarity and support of all our colleagues in the Arts and Live Events industry and made more poignant as the winter covering has not been removed this year, closing off the venue for the first time in 39 years.

‘We have been overwhelmed by the support of our audiences, they are very understanding but their message to us is clear – be back next year. Our Festival has been in existence for 38 years, we intend to be back, bigger and better. Most of our 2020 Season events have been moved to 2021 and we are adding more events to the summer programme over the coming months.’ Ailsa Molyneux, Festival Director.

Hever Festival Theatre work with the technical company Visual Elements Ltd. The Kent based company, also forced to lay dormant, who supply technical support to the live events industry were delighted to be able to highlight their creativity at a number of venues in their portfolio by lighting 10 of them red on Monday evening including: Chatham Historic Dockyards and Dulwich Prep in Kent, Tobacco Dock Wapping, The Bike Shed Shoreditch, Cromer Pier and of course they could not resist lighting Hever Castle and Hever’s famous ‘Blue Corner’ which was transformed into ‘Red Corner’ just for the evening.

BBC Proms 2020

From Bernstein to Benedetti, Haitink to Hvorostovsky, Mackerras to Kanneh-Masons Musical greats, from the past and the present, brought together in one extraordinary Proms season.

17 July – 12 September 2020

  • BBC Radio 3 opens this summer’s ‘Fantasy Proms’ with a programme of great Proms moments including Iain Farrington’s world premiere for the BBC Grand Virtual Orchestra putting Beethoven’s symphonies in a spin
  • Nicola Benedetti, Sheku Kanneh-Mason, Simon Rattle, Anoushka Shankar and Mitsuko Uchida, amongst artists performing live from the Royal Albert Hall
  • Live performances from the RAH to begin  with a momentous opening night conducted by BBC Symphony Orchestra Chief Conductor Sakari Oramo
  • A unique Last Night to unite the world led by Finnish conductor Dalia Stasevska with South African soprano Golda Schultz
  • BBC Four selects six momentous Proms from across the archive from the West–Eastern Divan Orchestra, Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra and Chineke! Orchestra
  • Katie Derham, Tom Service, Suzy Klein, Danielle de Niese and Josie d’Arby lead the line-up of TV presenters
  • An ambitious, challenging and celebratory multi-platform season

For full listings of the archival Proms being broadcast this season, please visit www.bbc.co.uk/proms

Garsington Opera @ Wormsley

A live concert from the Opera Pavilion at Wormsley, performed and filmed at a distance, is available to watch on YouTube, Garsington Opera’s website and Facebook from this Sunday at 6pm and thereafter for 6 months.
Members of the Philharmonia Orchestra and Douglas Boyd are joined by six star soloists and actor Samuel West in a programme of operatic highlights from past and future seasons. Full programme details and list of performers is attached.

Further plans for the near future will be announced in due course.

The Making of Handel’s Messiah: Andrew Gant

The English oratorio was, it seems, born almost by accident. Handel’s Esther, the first known example of the genre, began life as a masque in a Middlesex mansion in around 1718. It reappeared in London in 1731. These were private performances, staged and in costume. Then, in 1732 – partly because Princess Anne wanted to hear it – a revised and expanded version was presented in concert form with singers drawn from opera but without scenery or action at The King’s Theatre, Haymarket. Oratorio had arrived.

Andrew Gant stresses what he calls “the iterative nature of Handel’s compositional method”. Almost everything including Saul (1738) and, eventually Messiah (1741) was extensively reworked and developed.

Using texts and manuscripts from the Bodleian Library this is a book about context and genesis. Oratorio came into its own because the Protestant establishment forbad opera during Lent but oratorio was acceptable to most although, inevitably, there were those who said that Mr Handel was, effectively, blaspheming sacred narratives by dramatising them profanely in music and song.

Gant is good on Charles Jennens, Handel’s librettist and collaborator. He was an English patron of the arts, philanthropist, wealthy Leicestershire landowner, and passionate high church Anglican. He suffered from what we would now call depression and was a non-juror: someone who refused to swear allegiance to the Hanoverian dynasty because he did not recognise the legitimacy of the execution of Charles I or the overthrow of James II. He was therefore marginalised in public life. Gant observes that Jennens could be catty and finds some entertaining exchanges in the letters between him and Handel. Jennens also sometimes commented on word setting, or even the order of the numbers in the score, and his handwriting is visible in some of Handel’s manuscripts.

Surprisingly, given the range of Messiah examples he cites, Gant doesn’t mention the awkward wording and setting of “All we like sheep”. For years as a child I took “like” as a verb and couldn’t understand why anyone wouldn’t.

That’s a tiny gripe though (along with misspelling of “benefited” on page 13). This is an informative, engaging book which never patronises. It’s fascinating and detailed  on Handel’s “borrowings” (from his own work and others) and the ways in which Messiah has been presented and received for over 250 years from 2,765 performers at Crystal Palace in 1859  to spare, authentic performances which gained popularity from mid-twentieth century.

Susan Elkin

Bodleian Library, 2020
ISBN 978-1-85124-506-2
RRP £15.00 $25.00


this year’s Oxford Lieder Festival will go ahead, in a bold and innovative new format. Over a packed eight days, world-class artists including Benjamin Appl, Ian Bostridge, Sarah Connolly and Roderick Williams will present some 40 concerts and events, from venues across Oxford and completely live. From the comfort of your own home, you will be able to enjoy these concerts live-streamed in the highest quality.

It will explore live Q&As with artists will follow concerts; we’ll be taking you into special and unusual venues; tickets will also give access to two further weeks of viewing as well as a host of fascinating and informative pre-concert resources.

Find out more on Festival 2020 page.

Passes are on sale now, including special ‘Pioneer Passes’ for anyone wishing to lend extra support to this ambitious undertaking. Further details will be announced in July, when individual concert tickets (priced between £3 and £12) will be on sale.

Garsington Opera On Line

From Tuesday 9 June at 6pm GMT you can watch our 2018 production of Skating Rink, Garsington Opera’s opera commission written by leading British composer David Sawer with award-winning playwright Rory Mullarkey, and based on the novel by Chilean author Roberto Bolaño. 

Skating Rink will be free to watch for 6 months on our YouTube channel in partnership with OperaVision. No registration or booking is required – simply go to our youtube channel to watch. https://www.youtube.com/user/GarsingtonOpera

 The piece, the production and the performances were acclaimed by the press at the first performance. Particularly mentioned was the thrilling murder plot which keeps the audience on the edge of their seats. This production translates brilliantly to the small screen. Please click on the link below for cast and creative details, synopsis and for many more resources including an Insight Talk plus everything you would usually find in our season brochure. Do get in touch with me for pics and further information. https://www.garsingtonopera.org/performance/skating-rink


Unveiling the 2020 BBC Proms

17 July – 12 September 2020

  • This year marks 125 years since the first Proms season
  • The season will take on a unique format to reflect the times, with a compelling multi-platform offer
  • A unique First Night commission by Iain Farrington for a BBC Grand Virtual Orchestra to mark the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth
  • Plans for live performances later in the season culminating in the Last Night of the Proms to bring the nation together
  • The 2020 season will open on Friday 17 July on BBC Radio 3 and Sunday 19 July on BBC Four
  • 8 weeks of broadcasts on television, radio and online

All of us at the BBC Proms stand with music lovers everywhere and musicians around the world affected by COVID-19.

125 years on from its creation, the Proms will once again provide a remarkable summer of music, fulfilling founder-conductor Sir Henry Wood’s vision to ‘bring the greatest classical music to the widest possible audience’.

The current situation with COVID-19 means the season we had originally planned is sadly no longer possible. Instead the Proms in 2020 have been reconceived in a different format, but our aim remains the same – to create the world’s greatest classical music festival by reflecting world class music-making from leading artists around the globe, highlighting emerging talent, and featuring work by some of today’s most exciting and innovative composers.

The 2020 Proms will celebrate the past, reflect on the present and build for the future.

Making the most of our Archive

The past will play its part through the unrivalled BBC archive of Proms concerts, which we will delve into to deliver a broadcast festival across BBC radio, television, and online like no other. From Friday 17 July BBC Radio 3 will present past Proms concerts every evening, as well as a weekly Late Night Prom, and a Monday lunchtime offering.

This will be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reconnect people with concerts and artists from the past, as well as introducing these amazing performances to new audiences.

Joining the celebrations on the opening weekend, BBC Four will then broadcast stand-out Proms each Sunday throughout the festival. Further highlights of TV Proms over the years will also be available on BBC iPlayer for audiences to enjoy this summer.

Live Music

From Friday 28 August the focus of the Proms moves from the past into the present with the ambition to have musicians performing live at the Royal Albert Hall across the final two weeks of the season, culminating in a poignant and unique Last Night of the Proms to bring the nation together.

Working strictly within the government advice at the time we hope to present live performance to be broadcast on BBC Radio 3, BBC Four and iPlayer. The range of work will vary from solo performances to ensemble work and feature some of the greatest musicians of our time alongside emerging talent.

We will reveal the full schedule of events nearer the time allowing us to respond to the latest advice available.

Digital Proms

We look to the future this summer in a digital Proms season, beginning right at the start of the festival with a unique First Night commission performed by all the BBC Orchestras and BBC Singers. Featuring over 350 musicians, this Grand Virtual Orchestra will see all the groups performing together. To mark the 250th anniversary year of Beethoven’s birth, a new mash-up of Beethoven’s 9 symphonies has been specially created by Iain Farrington, which will be a spectacular digital springboard for the summer.

Every archive Proms broadcast will be available to watch or listen live and on-demand on BBC iPlayer or BBC Sounds. In addition there will be specially curated, on-demand music mixes on BBC Sounds and further TV highlights of Proms over the years on BBC iPlayer.

All About Audiences

Audiences are always at the heart of the Proms, but this year they will play a unique role in helping shape the programme. Radio 3 is inviting listeners to share their favourite ever Proms moments and will take inspiration from these and reflect them on air, making this truly the People’s Proms.

David Pickard, Director BBC Proms, said: “These are challenging times for our nation and the rest of the world, but they show that we need music and the creative industries more than ever. This year it is not going to be the Proms as we know them, but the Proms as we need them. We will provide a stimulating and enriching musical summer for both loyal Proms audiences and people discovering the riches we have to offer for the first time.”

Alan Davey, BBC Radio 3 and Classical Music Controller, said: “The BBC Proms every year heralds a summer of classical music and this year we will deliver the same joy, inspiration and transformation to peoples’ lives that such music brings, albeit  in a different way. We’ll be celebrating 125 years of the biggest classical music festival in the world by  connecting audiences through  a multimedia offering of incredible recorded gems in our PROMS Archive, together with audience suggestions of their all-time favourite PROM for our airwaves and  a return to the unique magic that real, live music brings   in the last two weeks of the festival.  The Proms will continue to mean summer for music lovers everywhere.”

Jan Younghusband, Head of BBC Music TV Commissioning, said: “As the nation unites in these unprecedented circumstances, BBC TV, Radio and Online all team up to support the PROMS’ mission of bringing classical music to as many people as possible. BBC Four and BBC Two will once more hold a unique place in this once-in-a-lifetime cross-platform celebration, providing audiences with the opportunity of enjoying weekly stand-out PROMS performances from our precious filmed Archives, leading up to the joyous return of live broadcast concert and a new-style but still glittering Last Night of the Proms on BBC Two and BBC One.”

The BBC Proms on television will be produced by Livewire Pictures and BBC Radio 3 content will be produced by BBC Production for Radio 3.