The Retreat

Posted on 12th November 2014 by Svend McEwan-Brown

This summer I want to tempt you to attend 2 very special concerts. I can’t tell you what will be in the programmes. I can tell you who will be playing – well, not exactly. Sound risky? Life is nothing without a bit of adventure, but let me tempt you some more. The performers will include 10 rising stars of classical music and they will be performing alongside some of the most admired and respected musicians in the world. All of them will have been working intensively on the music to be performed as part of a special new ENF initiative that we launch for the first time in 2015: the East Neuk Retreat.

We at ENF have been talking and thinking for some years about ways in which the Festival can play its part not only in putting on concerts, talks and public art – but in nurturing the younger talents that give us such pleasure each year. Chamber music is at the heart of what we do and we are aware that it is a phenomenally exacting kind of music making. Everyone is playing one to a part – it is utterly exposing, which takes courage. The amount of personal practice and ensemble rehearsal required to achieve a true chamber performance far exceeds that of the average orchestral concert. Musicians who want to do it accept that it will be labour intensive, and to add insult to injury, fees are rarely lavish and concerts are hard to come by. It is tough, but this heritage of masterpieces is also thrillingly rewarding to play and listen to. Remember, that aside from opera, every great composer before the 20th century wrote far more chamber music than they did orchestral music. Young musicians who commit to exploring and performing this repertoire deserve all the help they can get.

ENF has been supporting young chamber musicians since the very first festival by offering concerts and working behind the scenes to promote and connect them to other opportunities. This year we take a step further by creating our Retreat. Now, what’s in a name? A lot, apparently. ‘Retreat’ has not been universally popular, perhaps being associated with ‘beating a retreat’ or ‘retreating into yourself’ – the negatives are plain to see. Nonetheless, I stick to my guns on it, because Retreat’s other sense to me expresses exactly what we want to offer.

The idea is simple: 5 senior musicians will select up to 10 outstanding young musicians who will be invited to come to Elie, turn their backs on the world and spend a week playing, talking, exchanging ideas, benefiting from the best coaching, masterclasses and one-to-one attention anyone could ask for. In short, we want them to forget about everything except the music. At the end of the week we invite them to give 2 concerts to share the music they have been working on with our festival audience – and that is where you come in. The two concerts are on 2nd and 3rd July at Crail Church at 11.30am. I am anticipating these concerts with such an incredible level of excitement. Hope to see you there.

Svend Brown