‘…. a highlight of the Musical Year’
‘To have such easy access to such brilliant performers is really a wonderful bonus’
‘A key date in my Spring diary’
The story of our festival dates back to 2009 when two young pianists – our Artistic Director Wu Qian (founder member of the Sitkovetsky Trio and former Menuhin School pupil) and co-founder Tessa Marchington, Festival Director 2009-19, – dreamt up the idea of bringing their musician friends back to the area where they both grew up, the Surrey Hills, for an annual world-class musical gathering to showcase this beautiful region and give local music-lovers a chance to hear the very best classical performers right on their doorstep.
Since its inception, the festival has attracted artists and orchestras of the highest calibre – from our patrons violinist Nicola Benedetti and singer Dame Sarah Connolly, to saxophonist Jess Gillam, Tenebrae, The Tallis Scholars, Modigliani Quartet, Sitkovetsky Trio, jazz legend Clare Teal, the Philharmonia Orchestra, English Concert and Britten Sinfonia.
Over the years, the festival has grown from a long weekend of music-making into a full fortnight of events each May, including talks, young artist performances and guided walks alongside four major performances. During that time, our immensely friendly and engaged audience has grown from a loyal core of local supporters to a much broader community of eager concert-goers, with a very active Friends organisation at its core.
Key to our appeal is the variety of intimate venues we use, each one carefully chosen to complement the programme and allow the audience a very real sense of involvement and engagement with the musicians – from lutes and period keyboard instruments in historic country houses to glorious choral music in baroque churches and lofty chapels, jazz in a vineyard, and chamber ensembles in splendid auditoriums!
The Festival’s Artistic Director has developed a superb programme for the special celebratory 15th season in 2024, to include the second edition of our Surrey Hills Young Composer Competition. The first competition attracted an incredible standard of entry in 2022, with the winner, Matty Oxtoby’s work being performed by the internationally renowned Sitkovetsky Trio as part of the festival in May 2022. We are very grateful to an individual sponsor who will support the 2024 competition.
As an organisation promoting the arts and culture, the Festival is a registered charity, but our charitable activity goes beyond just the presentation of world-class concerts. Through the support of the Festival Friends, we have enabled the extension of the local String Scheme to two local State primary schools, enabling dozens of Year 4 pupils to receive weekly group instruction on loaned violins and cellos. This fantastic Scheme (set up by RGS Guildford and supported by the Community Foundation for Surrey) plugs the curriculum gap. It gives vital exposure to music and music-making to local school children. In addition, the festival creates invaluable performance opportunities for young and emerging artists as they work towards establishing sustainable careers.
The Management Committee is hugely grateful to all our wonderful Friends and generous business supporters, without whom there would be no Festival.
Julia Pearson, Chair SHIMF
Surrey Hills International Music Festival is a Registered Charity No. 1171264