Ashburton Chamber Music Festival 2023

UPDATE: Friday 21 July: After 5 and a half days of solid rehearsal, and some performances, on Wednesday morning the worst possible news arrived when we learned that cellist Seb van Kuijk’s mother is gravely ill in Paris. He left immediately to be with her. Our thoughts are with them. After a couple hours of frantic phone calls, we managed to reach Cecilia Bignall, who was available and who drove for 5 hours to arrive yesterday (Thursday) at 10.30am. She and the other musicians spent the rest of the day rehearsing, in time to play the full advertised programme at Bremridge for Concert No 2. Seb was key for the advertised piece by Ligeti. It’s not possible to devote enough rehearsal time to this to be able to perform it, so we will be replacing it in the remaining programmes with Shostakovich’s Quartet No 13. For Concert No 1 on Wednesday, Sara, David and Stefan performed solo, duo and trio music by Bach, Bartók and Dvorak. Young cellist, Finn Gonski was able to join us to perform Tom Vigieri’s Walk With Me (for tenor sax and string quartet) and Arvo Pärt’s Summa – and he was fab!

In tonight’s concert No 3 at Holne Church (for which there are just a few tickets left, we will be performing the advertised programme, plus Tom Vignieri’s Walk With Me for sax and strings.

Musical Director, David Yang started this unusual type of festival in Newburyport, near Boston in 2002 where it continues to thrive. Fate, a chain of musical connections and air miles brought him to Ashburton where this festival began in 2019, and here we are for our fourth year of glorious music.
He invites world-class musicians who don’t normally play together to come and live in Ashburton for the festival. Intensive rehearsals (some open to watch) achieve an amazing musical and emotional connection between the musicians, and the music they’re playing, which includes some of the most complex of the string quartet repertoire.  
Chamber music is intimate stuff. There’s nothing to match the experience of being in the same space as these great musicians when they play, just a few metres away from you. Every time, it’s a truly unique, magical experience. Please join us – and if you can help to spread the word about this festival to friends, colleagues, anyone who you think would like to be part of it.

Tickets for this year’s festival are £16 full price, £12 or £8 if you prefer for each of the main events – please pay what you can. There’s a FREE family concert on Tues 18 July and a FREE ‘Meet the Musicians’ event on Sunday 16 July. They’re all now available at where there’s a 10% booking fee. Or you can email and reserve tickets and pay on the door. Email the same address if you’d like to buy a Festival Pass for EVERYTHING, at £75 or £50 or £40, again, please pay what you can.

It all starts on Friday 14 July, and runs until Sunday 23 July. Here are all the key events:

Fri 14 ACMF Hausmusik #1 Greenaway Lodge, Blogishay Lane, Ashburton 7.30pm
Sat 15 ACMF Hausmusik #2 Bigadon Cottage, near Buckfastleigh 7pm
Sun 16 ACMF Meet the Musicians – Panel Discussion and Excerpts (free) 4pm
Mon 17 ACMF Howl Quartet 7.30pm – the odd one out! See below…
Tue 18 ACMF Family Concert – all welcome (free) 5pm
Wed 19 ACMF Concert #1 (Kapustin, Haydn, Vignieri, Shostakovich) 7.30pm
Thu 20 ACMF Concert #2 at Bremridge (Kapustin, Haydn, Pärt, Shostakovich) 7.30pm
Fri 21 ACMF Concert #3 at Holne Church (Haydn, Vignieri, Greenway, Ligeti) 7.30pm
Sat 22 ACMF Concert #4 at St Andrew’s Church (Ligeti, Greenway, Kapustin, Haydn) 7.30pm
Sun23 ACMF Concert #5 Highlights of the Festival 5pm
More details below…

You can download the 2023 Chamber Music Festival brochure (pic below) here as a PDF file (747kb). The printed version is available at the Arts Centre, and around the area. If there’s somewhere you think should have some, email

The odd one out in all the concerts is by Howl Quartet on Monday 17 July. These four musicians from Wales sound like this: Life As We See It on Bandcamp. Two saxes, a double bass and drums. Their music, I think, really complements the classical string quartet, and even if you’re a died-in-the-wool classical music fan who doesn’t normally go to jazz concerts, I urge you to give them a try. They’re great musicians, playing some really wonderful original music. This is very definitely ‘chamber music’. Andy Williamson, Arts Director, Ashburton Arts Centre

The Music

Here’s the repertoire for the first four concerts, with most pieces making at least 2 appearances. The two Hausmusiks will feature other quartets from a very wide selection. For the final 5th concert we’ll choose our favourites from across all of the performances in the festival. Do let us know what you’d like to hear again.
David Yang writes: “This summer is an exploration into the range and potential of the string quartet. Haydn’s convivial Opus 20, No. 3, is part of the set that established the string quartet as an independent genre. Shostakovich’s minimalist 13th quartet is a paean to isolation from a man tormented relentlessly by the Soviets. Ligeti’s first quartet pushes the quartet to its very limits of sound in an endlessly inventive series of variations appropriately titled Metamorphoses Nocturnes. Kapustin throws himself wholeheartedly into the irrepressible influence of American jazz with a virtuosic display for saxophone and cello. Vigneri’s perennial favourite Walk with Me, was written as a showcase for Andy Williamson and his sax back in 2019 and features variations on a soulful American spiritual. Legendary Estonian composer Arvo Pärt brings his distinctive modern take on medieval spiritualism to the string quartet, Summa. Finally, the world premiere Mitnor Remains by local composer, Mike Greenway, mines the rhythms and spirit of the people of Devon (Joint Mitnor is a cave full of fossils found at Buckfastleigh).

Franz Josef Haydn (1732–1809): String Quartet Op 20 No. 3
György Ligeti (1923–2006): String Quartet No. 1
Dmitri Shostakovich (1906–1975): String Quartet No. 13
Tom Vignieri (b. 1961): Walk with Me (tenor sax & string quartet)
Nikolai Kapustin (1937–2020): Duo (alto sax & cello)
Mike Greenway (b. 1955): Mitnor Remains (string quartet) World Première
Arvo Pärt (b. 1935): Summa (string quartet, repeated with guest saxophone)

We’re delighted this year to include the first performance of Mitnor Remains written for this festival by composer Michael Greenway who lives near Buckfastleigh. Born 1955 in Hampshire, he was brought up on a mixed musical diet of the classics plus pop, rock and soul. While studying piano and violin, he also picked up the guitar. He became a songwriter and, published by Chappell Music, played in several bands during the late 1970s. With an urge to explore twentieth century composition, in 2006 he graduated from Kingston University with a BMus (composition) 1st class. Finding an affinity with the ideals of minimalism and building on his own leanings towards melody and rhythm, he has since composed orchestral work alongside pieces for theatre. Recently returning to songwriting and completing an album Backstory under the name Strangers Of Fiction, he continues his ambition to explore and create music that is rooted in his influences but speaks to today.

The Musicians

Sara Trickey, violin (UK) enjoys an exciting and diverse career as a solo violinist, chamber musician and teacher. Her most recent album, of solo violin music, From An Empty Room, received a double five star review in BBC Music Magazine. Food is a big passion and she makes her own kefir. She’s also a Tai Chi and Pilates ninja.

Stefan Hersh, violin (USA) After many years in principal positions in top US orchestras and in the Chicago String Quartet Stefan performs around America as a guest artist. He’s an expert appraiser of rare violins and bows, also produces digital music content and runs a Chicago specialty coffee company, Buzz Coffee Roasters.

David Yang, viola (USA) has been called “a conduit for music” and his playing described as “lithe and expressive” in the Strad Magazine. He founded a similar festival in Newburyport near Boston 20 years ago which continues to thrive. When he isn’t practising you might spot him whizzing across Dartmoor on his bike!

Sébastien van Kuijk, cello (France) Prize winner of the Prague Spring, Rostropovich and Casals competitions, Seb is co-principal cellist of London’s Aurora orchestra, who are famous for performing major works from memory, like Stravinsky’s Firebird at a BBC Prom. He played here in 2021 and we’re delighted to have him back.

Andy Williamson, saxophone (UK) has spent his life involved in music of all kinds: orchestral, choral, jazz and more, and loves to combine these where he can. In 2015 he started the campaign to turn Ashburton’s old Methodist Church into an Arts Centre and is now the Arts Director.