Live Premier of a New Concerto Inspired by Sussex

Andrew Bernardi and the 1696 Stradivarius preparing for the live premier of Paul Lewis’ new Violin Concerto © Malcolm Green 2020

This week I am in the company of Andrew Bernardi bathed in the dappled light in his garden. The Shipley Arts Festival has commissioned a new Violin concerto by the acclaimed Sussex composer, Paul Lewis.

I ask Andrew about this exciting new commission. He replies “Paul Lewis who’s been a friend now for well over 10 years and a part of the festival is a composer who lives in Sussex. He’s written a wonderful violin concerto. The minute we began to rehearse it we knew it was going to be a hit.

We’re going to be playing the whole concerto which is very cleverly written. The opening movement is titled 1696 Stradivarius. The intervals at the beginning are one-six-nine-six after the year the Stradivarius was made.”

The second and third movements are titled Shipley Idyll and Chinese Adventure.
Andrew says “This [concerto] is a real story that comes out of Sussex. Paul’s very cleverly also continued our journey which, as you know, has gone across Asia, so the concerto ends with Chinese Adventure.” Andrew’s important cultural dialogue with China has continued throughout the pandemic as have his performances with the Shipley Arts Festival embracing the opportunities of online concerts during lockdown. Andrew is delighted by the opportunities the technology has provided and to be performing in front of audiences once again now restrictions are easing.

I remark that he is rooted and sent from Sussex. Andrew smiles and agrees. Shipley has such big place in his heart I ask him what it is like to play the Shipley Idyll movement. He pauses to reflect and says “It’s very beautiful, very witty, brilliantly written and very challenging to play I might add.”

He continues “It reminds me of going down the river from here at our house which carries on to the church and goes through the Knepp Estate and eventually ends up in the sea. And that kind of describes what music does. That idea of something small becoming something huge. I think the river system brilliantly reflects this. So that’s what I think the Shipley Idyll reflects. You go out and find all these beautiful places and then you meet all these wonderful people on your journey and then you’re part of the sea, this amazing thing that you never knew was so large.”

As Andrew talks it seems to me that this could also be a metaphor for the growing national and international reputation of the Shipley Arts Festival here in Sussex.

Andrew plays me the Shipley Idyll movement. It is deeply moving, hope filled, shimmering descriptive, like the changing seasons, it seems to capture the passage of time and love – the pilgrimage of life in a Sussex landscape.
Andrew describes how for him the character of Sussex is born out of its people.

He concludes “My friends, the people here in Sussex are really warm hearted, hospitable, open and sharing, like the countryside. That’s what it’s all about.”
Andrew Bernardi’s generosity of spirit is at the heart of the Shipley Arts Festival with its community of musicians and supporters. Paul Lewis’ beautiful Violin Concerto’s live premier will be at Nuthurst Church on 18th July 2021. To book tickets for this and other concerts in the 2021 Shipley Arts Festival season visit