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

Shipley Arts Festival at Twenty

Shipley Arts Festival Director Andrew Bernardi with his 1696 Stradivarius at Toovey’s Auctioneers.

I meet up with the Shipley Arts Festival Artistic Director, Andrew Bernardi at Toovey’s Washington auction rooms. Andrew Bernardi is putting the finishing touches to the 2020 Shipley Arts Festival season. This important Sussex music festival is celebrating its 20th anniversary.

I ask Andrew how it all began, he replies “I met Christina Maude and Ginny de Zoete at a Charity Concert at Shipley Parish Church. The idea took shape when we all met up at Gordon Lindsay’s home and the festival was born!”
Andrew explains that 20 years on the festival’s distinctive foundations remain the same saying “At the Shipley Arts Festival’s heart is the inspiration of English music, in particular continuing John Ireland’s tradition of music inspired by Sussex.” The composer John Ireland is famously buried at Shipley. Andrew continues “We continue to commission new music for Sussex and the festival from many of the nation’s leading composers and musicians.”

Commissions and works written for the Shipley Arts Festival have included pieces by Cecilia McDowall, one of one of the country’s leading female composers, Roderick Williams OBE, the English operatic baritone and composer, Malcolm Singer, the former Director of the Yehudi Menuhin School of Music and current Professor of Composition at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London, and the late John Lord of Deep Purple.

To mark the festival’s 20th anniversary Andrew and his musicians will be performing a number of Opus 20s by Elgar, Mendelssohn and Chopin, as well as works by Bach, Purcell, Beethoven and John Ireland.

One of the things I most value about the festival is how it remains generous and outward facing supporting our county’s young musicians through its String Academy who, together with Maria Marchant, Fuensanta Zambrana Ruiz, Victoria Greenwood, Jonathan Hennesy Brown, Bruce Martin and Christina Maude, moved us all with Elgar’s Serenade for Strings Op.20 and Bach’s Sonata Movement in C minor at the Sedgwick Park 2020 launch on Sunday evening hosted by Clare Davison.

Rupert Toovey with Andrew Bernardi

At the opening Andrew remarked “The festival has exceeded anything we imagined and hoped for at the start. There are so many magical parts to the festival and not least the Churches and great country estates which host our concerts. And all of you for being with us on our journey.”
Andrew, like me, is passionate about building communities through heritage and the arts here in Sussex.

The festival celebrates the local, national and international qualities of our nation and is building an important exchange program with supporters from China and Hong Kong.

Speaking about the festival’s sponsors Andrew says “What we have in common with our sponsors is that we care about people – that’s what we do.”
As the longest standing sponsor of the Shipley Arts Festival I am delighted that Toovey’s and myself remain at the heart of this remarkable celebration of music and community. Together with our fellow sponsors Kreston Reeves, Nyetimber, NFU Mutual, Wakefields and Rossana, we look forward to West Sussex continuing to be at the centre of our nation’s musical life thanks to the determination and talent of Andrew Bernardi.

For more information on the forthcoming Shipley Arts Festival concerts go to

Building and Supporting Communities through the Arts

From left to right: Andrew Bernardi, Maria Marchant, Jonathan Few and George Robinson
From left to right: Andrew Bernardi, Maria Marchant, Jonathan Few and George Robinson

The 2019 Shipley Arts Festival opened with a concert at the Grade II listed mansion at Leonardslee Gardens.

The concert, hosted by headline sponsors of the 2019 Horsham District Year of Culture, Leonardslee House & Gardens, was accompanied by an auction and a game of heads and tails which raised £2300 for the important Sussex charities Chestnut Tree Hospice and the Sussex Arts Academy.

Guests arrived to enjoy a tour of the recently reopened Grade I listed gardens and drinks before returning to the magnificent hall where the musicians, framed by the sweeping staircase, performed a program of international music which included the Argentine composer Astor Piazzola’s series of four tango compositions ‘Four Seasons of Buenos Aires’.

It was a treat to see the Stradivarius Trio with Andrew Bernardi, Maria Marchant and Jonathan Few returning to Sussex joined by a young talent, the classical guitarist George Robinson.

I arrived to find the audience gathered in the company of Shipley Arts Festival patron, the Lord- Lieutenant of West Sussex, Susan Pyper and her husband Jonathan. The music was at once exciting and sublime.

As the first session of music concluded the auction began. The audience were in generous form and the bidding rose and my gavel fell to applause.

Both of the charities benefiting from this fund-raising, care for and create opportunities for our young people.

Chestnut Tree House is the children’s hospice for the whole of Sussex, Brighton, Hove and South East Hampshire. It has in its care some 300 children and young adults from 0-19 years of age with progressive life-shortening conditions.

Chestnut Tree House Fund Raising Development Manager, Juliette MacPherson explained how important events like this are to the Hospice, not only for vital fund raising but also in building relationships and awareness of their work in our communities. It often means that families who need their help become aware of their vital services whilst others choose to make Chestnut Tree House their charity of the year.

The Sussex Arts Academy is a charity which provides access to the very best in arts and cultural education to children and young people in schools and colleges across West Sussex. They also support disadvantaged young people who would otherwise not be able to engage with these opportunities.

I have long been a passionate advocate of building and supporting communities through arts and heritage and I am therefore delighted that together with Kreston Reeves, Nyetimber, Rossanna, Wakefields and NFU Mutual, Toovey’s are once again supporting the 2019 Shipley Arts Festival series of concerts.

For more information on all the forthcoming Shipley Arts Festival concerts go to Tickets are on sale at The Capitol, Horsham box office, telephone 01403 750220 or go to Demand is always strong for these concerts so don’t delay!

By Rupert Toovey, a senior director of Toovey’s, the leading fine art auction house in West Sussex, based on the A24 at Washington. Originally published in the West Sussex Gazette.

Celebrating Heritage and Arts in West Sussex in 2018

From left to right: Toovey’s Director, Nicholas Toovey, artist, Humphrey Ocean., RA, and Jeremy Knight in conversation at the Horsham Museum & Art Gallery

As 2018 draws to a close it provides a moment to reflect on what an exceptional year it has been for Heritage and the Arts in West Sussex and to look forward to 2019.

West Sussex is blessed by its rich history, culture and artistic offering which is made possible by the inspiration, dedication and hard work of a number of key individuals.

The Horsham Museum & Art Gallery’s reputation continues to grow under the leadership of Jeremy Knight whose outstanding contribution to heritage and the arts was marked this year with a High Sheriff’s Award. This growing reputation attracted the attention of the Royal Academy in its 250th anniversary year and the artist Humphrey Ocean., RA. The Horsham District Council’s continued commitment to the Horsham Museum and Art Gallery is deserving of praise.

Sheep handling at The 2018 West Grinstead Agricultural and Ploughing Match Show

The West Grinstead Annual Plough Match and agricultural show celebrates the work of our farmers and their important contribution, through their stewardship of the countryside, to our county’s rural landscape. At the heart of the Society which runs it is its Honorary Secretary Rowan Allan of H. J. Burt. He has spent his life celebrating and professionally supporting the work and life of the countryside.

Parham House and its gardens are amongst the most beautiful in all England. Lady Emma Barnard is the house’s current custodian and celebrated 70 years since her family first opened the house in 1948 to share it with the public. This generous tradition continues today.

The high point of this year’s Shipley Arts Festival for me was the world premiere of the Shipley Psalms at Steyning Parish Church. The inspiration for this commission came out of a conversation between myself, Andrew Bernardi and the composer Malcolm Singer. We were discussing the American composer Leonard Bernstein and his choral work, The Chichester Psalms. This new commission was made possible by the generous patronage of The Shipley Arts Festival and Mr John Snelling.

These artistic, cultural and heritage threads preserve and add to the evolving identity of our county and its rich tapestry of life in town and country.

My brother Nicholas and I are delighted that through Toovey’s we have been able to play a part in bridging these artistic and heritage communities together, adding weight to their vision and work, whilst also offering financial support and professional advice.

These individuals along with so many others are deserving of our thanks. They enrich the quality of our lives whilst contributing enormously to our economy through the visitors and businesses they draw to our county.

I am looking forward to celebrating with you the best artistic, cultural and heritage events our county has to offer in 2019, and wish you all a very happy and peaceful New Year.

By Rupert Toovey, a senior director of Toovey’s, the leading fine art auction house in West Sussex, based on the A24 at Washington. Originally published in the West Sussex Gazette.

World Premier of the Shipley Psalms

The Shipley Arts Festival performing at Steyning Parish Church
The Shipley Arts Festival performing at Steyning Parish Church

This week I am in the company of the composer and conductor Malcolm Singer who is putting the finishing touches to The Shipley Psalms which will be premiered on Sunday 3rd June as part of the Shipley Arts and Steyning Festivals at Steyning Parish Church.

The inspiration for this commission came out of a conversation between myself, Andrew and Malcolm. We were discussing the American composer Leonard Bernstein’s choral work, The Chichester Psalms, which was commissioned by the cathedral’s organist John Birch and The Very Revd. Dean Walter Hussey for the 1965 Southern Cathedral Festival at Chichester Cathedral. Bernstein incorporated some of the motifs from his most famous work, West Side Story, particularly in the second movement. This new commission has been made possible by the generous patronage of The Shipley Arts Festival and Mr John Snelling.

The composer and conductor, Malcolm Singer
The composer and conductor, Malcolm Singer

A Reform Jew (rather like Bernstein) Malcolm Singer has spent a lifetime in the service of music as a composer, conductor and educator encouraging and teaching the finest young musicians as the former Director of the Yehudi Menuhin School of Music and now as Professor of Composition at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London. He talks about the importance of music in education and how he admires the Shipley Arts Festival Director, Andrew Bernardi’s work with young musicians in Sussex through the Festival’s String Academy. His involvement with the Shipley Arts Festival over many years came about through the outreach work of the Yehudi Menuhin School of Music supporting the String Academy whilst Malcolm was Director.

Our conversation moves to Malcolm Singer’s time in Paris as a young man. He says “I was taught by Mademoiselle Nadia Boulanger. A devout Catholic she was like a guru to me as we explored spirituality and philosophy through music. She developed an understanding of the importance of awareness and memory in me. When I arrived she told me I was very talented but unprepared, which I knew. Her lessons were very tough but loving – she was always challenging you – a tender tyrant. She taught many of the 20th century’s leading musicians and composers including Aaron Copland. Yehudi Menuhin and Leonard Bernstein worshipped her. Mademoiselle Boulanger sent me to observe Bernstein’s rehearsals, recordings and for one to one sessions with him. I observed the discipline in his compositions, conducting and control.”

Malcolm acknowledges that there is no freedom without discipline and the importance of acquiring the vocabulary to express yourself to the fullest extent.

He tells me how he has often conducted Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms which will be sung by The Royal Holloway University choir together with his new Shipley Psalms. I ask him to describe his new musical settings and he responds “They are reflective and fun. The Psalms in liturgical Hebrew are beautiful, poetic and inspiring. Together with the choir Andrew and his Stradivarius violin will have a prominent role.” I remark how empowering the familiar repeated rhythms of worship can be to our spirituality. Malcolm responds “…spirituality by making and listening to music which you rarely get anywhere else – it’s a form of prayer.” I agree.

It is exciting to see new music being composed for the Church in the year in which we celebrate the centenary of Leonard Bernstein’s birth. The evening will also include Mozart’s Flute and Harp Concerto conducted by Malcolm Singer with soloists Bruce Martin (Flute) and Cecily Beer (Harp).

With such a rich patchwork quilt of relationships and talent it promises to be a remarkable evening. To find out more about the 2018 Shipley Arts and Steyning Festivals visit, or To book tickets for the Steyning concert go to or telephone 01403 750220.

By Rupert Toovey, a senior director of Toovey’s, the leading fine art auction house in West Sussex, based on the A24 at Washington. Originally published in the West Sussex Gazette.