In just 3 days last weekend I enjoyed great poetry and sublime music. Friday saw the opening of Poetry-next-the-Sea, that fantastic feast of poets and poetry at Wells-next-the-Sea. Organised pretty well single handed by Burnham Market's remarkable patron, Fiona Fraser, the star of the show was undoubtedly the late lamented George Barker. Kicking off with an extraordinary and very moving archive video of the great man reading some of his work towards the end of his life - accompanied by booze and fags lit from a candle - it was followed by readings of his work from Oliver (brother of Jeffrey) Bernard. Now in his late 80's, Bernard's performance, for this is what it was, was a tour de force and a fitting tribute to possibly Norfolk's greatest poet. Barker's rehabilitation was confirmed by tributes and readings from his daughter - and now author - Raffaella Barker followed by a powerful tribute to her late husband from Elspeth Barker. A stunning evening and, I would have thought, a very hard act to follow. I shall certainly be looking out for next year's festival.
Just two days later, courtesy of my former business partner, I headed east to Ludham, St. Catherine's Church to be precise, for an evening of sublime music from the Academy of St.Martin the Fields. A programme of Elgar, Britten, Arvo Pårt and a new commission by Sally Beamish combined to make the trip on a dark and damp evening more than worthwhile. Elgar's Introduction and Allegro never fails to please and excite, whilst the Sarabande in Britten's Simple Symphony came as an unexpectedly moving high point. Pårt's - to me unknown - Cantus in Memoriam Benjamin Britten proved mesmeric in the darkening Church. More Britten in the shape of his Variations on a Theme by Frank Bridge provided further proof of the quality of the performance and that we don't need to go to London to hear the best.