Review of our Winchfield Festival, 2023

Winchfield Festival Review2023

The very last night of Winchfield Festival arrived on Saturday 1st July to a fanfare of electrifying music from ABBA Revival, voted the UK's Number 1 Abba Tribute Band.Over nine nights of the Festival, hundreds of festival-goers enjoyed six wonderful performance nights in St Mary's and three dazzling nights in the Festival marquee. Friends met up, picnicked in Festival Meadow and danced the night away to thrilling music in the marquee. On Church nights the whole audience was blown away by the skill, imagination and performance of the musicians, all within the candle-lit setting of the beautiful Norman St Mary's Church.

A very big thank you to our wonderful musicians, everyone in the audience for supporting us and huge thanks to our army of volunteer helpers. Do come back to this website soon to see some photographs from this year's Festival. Festival-goers and the performing musicians all agreed that it had ‘surpassed all expectations’, ‘punched above its weight’ and ‘delivered a brilliant week of music - perhaps the best ever?’. With something for everyone, the music covered a wide range of styles with six chamber concerts in St Mary’s church followed by three bands and dancing in the marquee.

For the third Festival in a row Brian Thompson and his wife came from Suffolk and attended all the concerts.  Brian said “The Winchfield Festival is a true gem – wonderful music, a warm welcome and a beautiful setting – long may it prosper”. And we were blessed with warm sunny evenings too. Here are just some of the highlights:

Tim Kliphuis (violin), Roy Percy (bass) and Nigel Clark (guitar) played a mixture of gypsy jazz (Django Reinhardt), jazz based on classical music (Mussorgsky Pictures at an Exhibition) and Tim’s own compositions(Earth, Fire and Water). The trio sounded (and looked) wonderful in the church.

Guy Johnson (accompanied by Mishka Rushdie Momen) played cello sonatas by Beethoven, Britten, Mendelssohn and Schumann. The Britten Op 65 (composed for Rostropovich) was the highlight and the pizzicato second movement sounded wonderful on his Stradivarius cello. 

MartinJames Bartlett was the sensation of the Festival, making the Steinway piano resound throughout St Mary’s. He played a mostly French programme ranging from Couperin and Rameau up to Ravel, and his performance of Ravel’s demonic La Valse M.72 was an experience that we’ll never forget (and inspired a standing ovation). Martin declared: ‘‘An absolutely wonderful experience, with an immensely generous audience and in such a beautiful, intimate venue. A must-see festival for up-close music-making with a very welcoming atmosphere!’

Suntou Susso comes from a very long line (over 70 generations) of Gambian ‘Griot’ Kora players. His recital covered the history of the Griots, the mechanics of the Kora, and the wide range of Kora music(from traditional songs for weddings, funerals, up to the modern jazz-inspired‘ cross-over’ music. We hope to be able to bring Suntou back soon with his jazz sextet.

The Blues Brothers 11-piece band got the marquee nights off to a memorable (and noisy) start, which included great music, dancing, and a lot of audience participation. Superb! Sam, part of the sound and light team said ‘We come back every Festival and its always exciting and a joy to be part of the team and every year there is something different, we love it.’

The Ambassador Band, a 9-piece showband, had the whole audience up on its feet, singing along and dancing. The Festival ended with a sold-out ABBA Tribute band concert which saw more or less the whole audience of almost 500 people dancing in the aisles and singing along to all the Abba songs. A great and memorable finale to another fantastically enjoyable Winchfield Festival. Huge thanks to an army of local volunteers who helped it all run smoothly. Do keep an eye on our website for details of occasional concerts in St Mary’s, one in September this year and photographs from this Festival.