These days our audiences enjoy a fully established and richly varied festival offering; but it was not always so. Despite the best efforts of organisers and artists alike, the early concerts were not always well attended. But thanks to the tireless efforts of the festival’s supporters, our reputation for putting on a high quality summer event in a friendly and welcoming atmosphere grew with artists and concert-goers alike. The word spread that the Stavelot Festival was a special event, one that celebrated the best that the region and indeed the country had to offer; and our guest artists gave us some of our best publicity as they also began to report their experiences of performing here.
As of now, the programming usually consists of four evening concerts, each one repeated; four morning concerts, and a main concert held in the Church of St. Sebastian. In addition there is a concert given for the Friends of the Festival, one with a family theme organised through the Festivals de Wallonie, a conference based around the annual festival theme, the Artists’ Mass held on a Sunday morning, a concert to open the Masterclass, and one given by the participants at the end of the class.
Our total audience numbers for each festival now regularly surpass four thousand, despite only the Church of St. Sebastian being able to accommodate more than two hundred. We think that this is down to our mix of programming, of mainstream repertoire and less well-known works deserving of a hearing, performed by the best musicians whether from the locality or from around the world. It is not often that any concert is not sold out.
We have found that in general, by composition, around 25% of our audience members are from Stavelot or the local area; a further 60% are from elsewhere in the country, either staying locally in one of the villages or towns in the locality or travelling especially to attend the festival; and the remaining 15% come from abroad, in particular Germany, Luxemburg or Holland, given Stavelot’s location. There are also the chance visitors, perhaps the day-tripper come to see the Abbey, who happens to be in Stavelot during the festival and buys a ticket to a concert that day, and enchanted by the whole experience, returns again and again.
Modern technology in ticketing and publicity has allowed the festival to expand its reach. Without it, last year’s event could not have been put on at all. Attendance in person was simply impossible, but the festival was still able to go ahead with concerts being streamed online. So no matter the situation, we remain open to all, as we gather once again in 2021 to celebrate the wonder and glory that is music.
Finally, no effort is spared in making the Festival open to all who want to enjoy what we have to offer. Careful thought has been put into disability access, and there is a range of ticket pricing to suit all pockets.