We have already touched on the popularity of the Morning Concerts which started in 1970. This series arose as our response to feedback from audiences who were looking for a concert experience with an educational element. This year we celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the first morning outing, performances that provide a superb musical experience to the early-rising festival goer, of works and by artists that are the equal of the evening concerts.
The distinctive feature of these concerts is their focus on exploring particular works, instruments, or composers. As well as giving a performance, artists will often go on to detail how their instrument is constructed, its range and qualities, playing techniques and particular repertoire. Who can forget the occasions when master French violin maker Etienne Vatelot carried out the construction of a violin from the disassembled parts lying on a table! Nor the wonderful performance by Arthur Grumiax given immediately after a demonstration, which so added to our appreciation of the particular sonority and timbre of his instrument.
For a younger audience in particular, the programme has included concerts highlighting unusual instruments, or those which are normally heard in another musical genre - to show that, for example, the saxophone is not limited to the jazz scene. This is the time and space in which specialised repertoire for the harp, the guitar or harpsichord might be heard, or recently rediscovered and revived early and mediaeval instruments played by specialised early music groups. Sometimes the focus is on a particular composer, or a movement or school of composers; sometimes it is the space for contemporary artists and compositions to be heard. The spoken word is also celebrated: poetry recitations from many genres with thoughtful and sensitive musical accompaniment have proved very popular.
Finally, over the past few years and thanks to a remarkable restoration, a new venue has been available for the use of amateur or professional groups and artists. The Espace Culturel des Capucins, attached to the College of St. Remacle and comprising the chapel (Chapel of the Capuchins), entrance hall and attendant rooms, provides a flexible performance space for a variety of cultural events including drama, musical theatre and exhibitions. In addition, this is the place where our renowned Masterclasses are held. These are organised throughout the festival by I Cambristi to provide expert tuition to amateurs and young professionals alike in the art of chamber music. As many as fifty students in any class from around the world and at all stages of development have benefitted from the experience and artistry of performers of the calibre of the members of the Zemlinsky quartet.