The 2023 Petersfield Musical Festival drew a near-record audience of more than 2,000 people across ten varied concerts and proved the ‘Covid bounce-back’ has well and truly arrived for live performance.  

Altogether the Festival (PMF) hosted more than 700 performers from a brass band to four full orchestras, with ten different conductors taking the stage, demonstrating its position as one of the most inclusive and successful music festivals in the area. 

Four concerts were sold out, with a queue for return tickets.

Festival chairman Pam Buckley said: “The enthusiastic response from our audience proved we offered something for everyone, from a lecture-recital through choral and orchestral concerts, to a fun evening of song and dance, engaging all age groups.

“It was great finally to be back with a full nine days of community music-making inspired by professional musicians.”

This year, PMF underlined its ongoing commitment to supporting young musicians at school and in their early careers, giving a platform to choirs drawn from 11 local schools, in addition to several instrumental groups. 

It also presented a special family concert, welcoming children aged four to 11, which explored the theme of dance with audience participation. 

The Michael Hurd Fund for young musicians received record donations through its non-ticketed lunchtime concert.

The Fund, run by the Festival, helps young musicians with the cost of instruments or music tuition. 

Four full orchestras performed this year – The Basingstoke Symphony Orchestra, SouthDowns Camerata, Southern Pro Musica and the Petersfield Orchestra. 

They played a range of music from a Handel oratorio to Elgar’s famous Enigma Variations

Renowned pianist Cordelia Williams was soloist in the Schumann piano concerto, one of nine professional soloists to take the stage at the Festival this year. 

On a different note, singers and dancers from the Guildford School of Acting staged a fully-choreographed performance of dance and song, including popular classics from Broadway. 

Green A Team arranged spectacular sound and light effects to accompany the dancers, and the show delighted the audience.

The Festival chorus – drawn from Rogate, Fernhurst and Petersfield choirs, together with independent singers – sang at the two Saturday choral concerts alongside soloists from London conservatoires, directed by world-class Festival conductor Paul Spicer. 

The Petersfield Community Choir kicked off the Festival with the popular Liss Band and raised money for local charity Home-Start Butser.

Two small-scale chamber concerts were performed in St Peter’s Church, including the Anemos wind ensemble with Karen Kingsley who played piano quintets and a sextet, while Angela Zanders, a local pianist, drew a capacity audience for her lecture-recital on Shostakovich and a complete performance of his piano trio no.2 

Sarah Hard