The Fressingfield Music Festival has become a significant annual event in the calendar of Fressingfield village, having grown in the number of concerts provided and maintaining a diverse yet high quality offering for classical and jazz music lovers.
It comprises five nights of live music presented during the last week of September, with the concluding concert on a Saturday night. Friday night has become jazz night and is becoming increasingly popular with audiences. Over the years, the Festival has attracted many highly renowned and world famous musicians to perform and remains committed to making high quality live music more accessible to its rural community and surrounding areas. It has twice been described by Gramophone magazine as “one of the best events worldwide”.
The venue for the concerts is the church of St Peter and St Paul, which has a capacity of 220 and a perfect ambience and acoustic for hosting live music. The Festival is fortunate in having the Bishop of St Edmunsbury as its patron and the stalwart support of the Reverend Susan Loxton and the Parochial Church Council.
The Festival came into being in 2006. Inspired by two voluntary concerts his baroque chamber ensemble Badinage had performed in the parish church to help raise funds for the restoration of the bells, Paul Carroll suggested that a mini festival of concerts might help reach the fund target more swiftly.
Paul, Ann and Keith Lawson and Pam Castro planned and organised the entire event themselves, while a small army of enthusiastic volunteers too numerous to mention manned the ticket desk, managed parking, served refreshments to the audience, prepared and cleaned the church before and after the concerts, brought cushions to make the pews more comfortable and tirelessly worked on all the important details that make such an event a success.
The first festival of three nights of music performed by Jacqui Dankworth, the Choir of Christ’s College, Cambridge and Badinage, was such a success it was decided to repeat the event a year later and each concert was sold out. The festival then became an annual event.
As competing commitments of the individuals involved have altered, the membership of the organising committee has changed, although its principles remain unchanged.
The Chairman, John Kelsall, brings his experience in the educational sector into play, not only in keeping the committee meetings under control but in the smooth management of the Festival’s Education Day which has become an integral part of its activities. In line with the Festival’s mission to make high quality music as accessible as possible, this day provides a highly engaging means of involving and inspiring children interested in playing music.
By 2009, the church’s Bell Fund achieved its aim reaching the £100,000 raised through the efforts of numerous individuals and a variety of events within the parish, including the Music Festival, of course. The Fressingfield Music Festival committee determined to continue to raise funds towards improving the church’s musical contribution to the village and since 2010 money raised by the Festival is donated to the restoration of the church organ fund.
In the meantime, the organisers continue their work to bring high quality, live concerts to the village with the intention of giving audiences from near and far some inspiring evenings of which Fressingfield can continue to be proud.