Course Talk: Terry Barfoot introduces Arts in ResidenceListed on January 19, 2015 in Spotlight
Weekend house parties for music lovers – Terry Barfoot gives us an insight into the events taking place in country houses and hotels organised by “Arts in Residence”
LC – How long have you been running Arts in Residence weekends ?
TB – Arts in Residence began about eighteen years ago, but it has grown into its present form, using hotel venues, during the past six or seven years.
LC -What sparked the idea to host ‘musical house parties’ ?
TB – The idea was originally the suggestion of my friend John Couth, who had experience of literary and writing weekends with the Arvon Foundation. He knew that I ran successful evening class lectures on music and suggested we try a weekend of our own at the Beaford Centre in North Devon. This proved popular and things went on from there, and we hired a series of country houses, with me and some others giving the lectures, and John and his wife Jill as hosts and caterers. When they decided to retire to their house in France, I kept the business going and started hiring hotels, since when the business has grown and grown.
LC – How many people usually take part – do you they need any previous experience ?
TB -The events are intended as conferences rather like large-scale house parties, and if you come you can bring to the occasion whatever you wish to bring. It’s mainly an opportunity to share a love of music and the other arts with like-minded people. You certainly don’t need to be an expert, you need to be an enthusiast.
The numbers attending vary according to the size of the venue and the popularity of the subject. Our highest number was 72 last year at Horsley Towers in Surrey, whereas Sheafhayne Manor is a Grade 2 listed manor house in Devon that can only accommodate 25.
LC – What is the typical format for a weekend – do participants need to play an instrument or sing ?
TB – While there is sometimes some live music this always takes the form of concerts by first-rate professional musicians – we are a music appreciation organisation. If the event takes place, as most do, over a weekend, it will start around 5pm on Friday afternoon. This is the scheduled time of arrival at the chosen house or hotel. Clients will be welcomed, and after settling in, there will be aperitifs before dinner. This will give everyone the chance to meet and get to know the other members of the party.
After dinner, there will be the chance to hear some music relating to the topic for the event. During Saturday there is the opportunity to explore the music in more depth with our lecturers, who are all experienced and experts in their field.
After a light lunch the afternoon is kept free, so that people can explore the countryside and local places of interest. There is more music after tea, and before the centrepiece of the weekend: the Saturday evening dinner with wine. (Wine with both dinners is included in the price.)
On Sunday there will be more opportunities for exploring music. Sometimes there will be a traditional Sunday lunch, while on other occasions the pattern of the day will be similar to that on Saturday. Departure will take place either on Sunday afternoon after tea, or on Monday morning after breakfast, for those who take up the special rate available from the venue for an additional night.
LC – How many events are you planning this year (in the UK or abroad)?
TB – There are fifteen events, and all those scheduled before Easter are now full. The trip to Finland for the Sibelius Festival at the beginning of September has proved very popular, and we are already full with 63 people. I may add another shorter event in a French château or hotel, some time in the autumn.
LC – What do you look for when choosing a new venue ?
TB -A combination of things. First of all, the venue needs to be in a good location that itself is an attraction. Then the building should have plenty of character: many of them have historical interest and are listed accordingly. The conference room needs to have the right atmosphere and facilities, likewise the residential accommodation and the dining room. The social and gastronomical aspects of an event are as important as all the other aspects.
LC – Many of your 2015 dates are already fully booked – what do you think makes the weekends so popular ?
TB -I think the events are popular because a lot of people return, perhaps 75% of those attending at any given event. At the same time new people can join in and feel welcome, because everyone has a lot in in common. The recorded music is heard on excellent hi fi equipment and it is a good opportunity for people to listen really attentively without interruption and to get the most from the experience. The lectures are designed to increase people’s enjoyment too, and we provide a substantial programme book, usually of 20 to 30 A4 pages.
LC – You are based in Hampshire – are you planning any weekends outside of the UK ?
TB -I am based in Hampshire but Arts in Residence operates throughout England and Wales and so is not a regional organisation in that sense. Also every year we go to major musical centres in Europe, with this year’s trip to the Sibeius Festival at Lahti in Finland, where all the symphonies will be performed.
LC – Which has been your favourite weekend so far this year and why ?
TB – I’d like to think they have all been favourites. However, I was particularly pleased that the Martinu weekend at Sherborne in Dorset was so popular, and sold out with 35 people attending. He’s a wonderful composer and an occasion like this encouraged many people to get to know his music for the first time.
LC -You rarely host an Arts in Residence weekend alone – who are the other hosts ?
TB -I try to make each event different from the others, so having a range of guest speakers and musicians is a good way of doing this. Gwyn Parry-Jones and Ian Lowes are among those who work regularly with me and they have developed a following of their own as a result. The Brodowski String Quartet have taken part in several events, as has the pianist Peter Rhodes, This year for example they will be performing music by Mozart, Debussy and Ravel.
28-30 April Dumbleton Hall, Evesham
DEBUSSY AND RAVEL (with Peter Rhodes & Terry Barfoot)
5-7 June Abingworth Hall, Storrington, West Sussex
EXPLORING ENGLISH MUSIC (with Andrew Burn & Terry Barfoot)
19-21 June Sheafhayne Manor, Honiton, Devon
THE SYMPHONIC POEM (with Ian Lowes & Terry Barfoot)
30 June-2 July Makeney Hall, Belper, Derbyshire
GERSHWIN & BERNSTEIN (with Gwyn Parry-Jones & Terry Barfoot)
18-20 September Chartridge Lodge, Chesham
THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE SYMPHONY (with Terry Barfoot)
2-4 October Lee Wood Hotel Buxton
RACHMANINOV (with John Leeman & Terry Barfoot)
16-18 October Hitchin Priory
BRUCKNER & MAHLER (with Roy Westbrook & Terry Barfoot)
3-5 November Bartley Lodge New Forest
HEROES & VILLAINS
BRITTEN: Billy Budd & PUCCINI: Tosca (with Terry Barfoot)
20-22 November Royal Hotel Winchester
BACH AT LEIPZIG (with Graeme Kay & Terry Barfoot)