Forget the Concert Hall… Orchestral music now has an exciting new venue! On the 30th June and 1st July the stunning Glastonbury Abbey was host to the latest Festival to hit Somerset – Orchestra In A Field. With numerous outstanding performances that were perfectly suited to all ages and musical tastes, this was a weekend not to be missed. The eclectic mix of musical genres featured at Orchestra In A Field created a relaxed atmosphere that was very welcoming. It was very family friendly event with a children’s area that offered numerous activities to keep the young people entertained. Along with an interesting range of high quality food and drink stalls, this event was an exciting day out. The weather was also very kind with just a few light showers that failed to dampen the spirits!

The day started with the finals of the Community Choir Competition, where the Avalonian Free State Choir were crowned the Champions of 2012, after standing out in the X-Factor style ‘sing-off’ on the Main Stage.

Many fantastic performances throughout the day came from within the Tea Tent. Talent from the youngsters was showcased through numerous performances by local schools such as the Wellington School Choral Group, the Charlton Mackrell Primary School Orchestra and the Perrott Hill School Choir. There were also some exceptional performances by young musicians being supported by the Awards for Young Musicians Scheme. Laura Powell, a 16 year old pianist who is supported by the scheme gave a wonderfully mature performance that included a fabulous rendition of Chopin’s Nocturne in B. Laura joined the Awards for Young Musicians Scheme after receiving an exceptional mark in her Grade 8 piano exam last year. The Scheme has encouraged Laura to find more performance opportunities and helped her pursue her future musical career by guiding her towards Music Colleges.

Music Awakes, a music therapy business in Somerset were a new organisation also at the event. Open to clients from the very young to the elderly, this enterprise aims at supporting people with learning difficulties, dementia, terminal illnesses, mental health problems and Autistic Spectrum disorders. By building relationships, developing interactions and building confidence, this fantastic business gives many the opportunity to express themselves through the power of music.

A charming selection of compositions came from The Book Shop Band performing also in the Tea Tent. The trio of musicians - Beth Porter, Poppy Pitt and Ben Please - write their own songs based on books after meeting the authors at Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delight’s in Bath. With truly heart felt lyrics the passion in this performance was very evident. Along with the beautiful accompaniment on guitar, cello and ukulele this was a marvellous portrayal of British talent at its best.

But not only was this a weekend to satisfy the tastes of classical music enthusiasts; designed to ‘bring together the best qualities of the Concert Hall with the best qualities of the Pop Festival’ Orchestra In A Field certainly did not disappoint. The Talk Tent was host to some explosive performances in the finals of the nationwide Rap Slam competition. The three finalists - Half Nelson from London, Katie and Emily from Somerset and Bianca from Surrey -had to perform a one-minute rap over a classical piece in front of the judging panel. Each finalist was individual in their own way but in the end Bianca Sarafian came out on top and won herself a slot at Glastonbury Festival next year. Performances from rap stars Professor Green and Labrinth certainly got the younger generation of the audience going too! And Russell Grant also entertained crowds by busting some moves with his extravagant answer to zumba! Along with his pink feather boa, this lively performance got the crowd on their feet and brought many laughs and smiles.

The world premiere performance of the Great British Paraorchestra took place on the Main Stage. This is the UK’s first orchestra featuring world-class musicians with disabilities, founded by Charles Hazelwood. The Paraorchestra’s debut performance included a unique yet incredibly enchanting improvisation around the main themes of Ravel’s Bolero and the folk tune Greensleves.

The Flying Colours Appeal for Yeovil Women’s Hospital were the Charity Partners of Orchestra In A Field and had a stall at the event. Described as a “wonderful weekend with a great atmosphere” the charity were aiming to raise £500 over the weekend by mainly selling candy floss!

Bizet’s Carmen was also performed on Sunday evening on the main stage. Featuring a young international cast and chorus drawn from Wells Cathedral Chapel Choir and the Wellensian Consort, and two local primary schools, Charlton Mackrell and Keinton Mandeville, this was a powerfully rousing performance. Three performers from the Wells Cathedral Chapel Choir, Hattie, Annie and Honor described being a part of the chorus as “an overwhelming yet amazing, learning experience. The soloists are inspirational and inspire me to pursue a classical music career. It’s very different singing outside though, as it is quite cold and you really have to shout everything out!”

Overall, Orchestra In A Field was an astonishing event that was thoroughly enjoyed by many. The superb performances were totally memorable and this will be an event I shall remember for a long time. I cannot wait until next year!

Eleanor Roda, aged 14

Orchestra in a Field, Sunday, July 1st 2012