Return to Thaxted Festival 'emotional' after 2020 break

A picture of an octet at Thaxted Parish Church: Voces8. Inset: A woman in red - Laura van der Heijden

Thaxted Festival took place between June 24 and July 4, 2021. (Pictured: Voces8, Inset: Laura van der Heijden) - Credit: Archant/Thaxted Festival (Inset: Chris Gloag)

Thaxted Festival was the antidote to a year of live music deprivation during the Covid pandemic, its chairman has said.

At a downsized event, Thaxted Festival returned this summer after a year's hiatus with eight days of classical music between Thursday, June 24 and Sunday, July 4.

Festival chairman Peter Donovan said the event, held at Thaxted Parish Church, was an "emotional experience" after a year of disruption for the classical music industry.

Peter said: "Most of our artists had not performed live for well over a year, and our audiences had been similarly deprived.

"Being together again was an emotional as well as an uplifting experience.

"It was wonderful to be able to welcome our audiences back to Thaxted Festival after months of careful planning to provide a safe environment for everyone."

A smartly dressed octet: Voces8 at Thaxted Parish Church

Voces8 at Thaxted Festival 2021 - Credit: Supplied by Thaxted Festival

This year's festival featured a cappella group Voces8 and 2019 BBC Music Magazine Newcomer Award winner Laura van der Heijden with Jâms Coleman.

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Van der Heijden said: "The return to live music has been incredibly emotional.

"Music should be shared, lived, breathed together.

A woman in a red jumper against a plain white background

Laura ven der Heijden. Picture: Chris Gloag  - Credit: Supplied by Thaxted Festival/Chris Gloag

"Playing with Jâms Coleman at Thaxted Festival was exactly such an experience - it was very special to feel the presence of the audience and to perform in such a beautiful venue."

Cambridge organist Robin Walker led a special 200th anniversary recital on the Parish Church's Lincoln organ.

A man wearing yellow stands in front of a large organ in a church

Cambridge organist Robin Walker at in front of the Thaxted Lincoln Organ - Credit: Archant

Organisers said festival attendance was close to 90 per cent, all in all, with most events sold out.

Peter said: "Organising a successful festival as volunteers during the pandemic has been down to great teamwork by everyone involved.

"We’ve had to be creative in how we do things, and we’ve learned a lot which will help us develop the festival in future."

Festival organisers also worked with the Covent Garden Sinfonia and Thaxted Primary School on a Carnival of the Animals project, based on Saint-Saëns' famous suite.

Thaxted Parish Church is filled with children. At the front: Covent Garden Sinfonia

Covent Garden Sinfonia and leading conductor Timothy Redmond led an education project with Thaxted Primary School - Credit: Supplied by Thaxted Festival

Thaxted Primary headteacher Michelle Hughes said: "The children really enjoyed the rehearsal and came back full of enthusiasm for art and music."

Next year's event will run from June 17 to July 10 across four weekends.