About Chiltern Arts

At the heart of Chiltern Arts is a commitment to excellence, opportunity and innovation, as well as a belief that the arts are central to the quality of life and should be accessible to all. We aim to inspire audiences, create new work, and create a community that adds to and supports the rich tapestry of culture in the area.

Chiltern Arts is an exciting and distinctive initiative to bring music, literature and art to the towns and villages in and around the Chiltern Hills. Every February, churches, stately homes and outdoor spaces across the region will be transformed into stunning concert and arts venues, as a varied and exciting programme unfolds in beautiful surroundings: the Chiltern Arts Festival.

Over time, Chiltern Arts will provide a platform for the next generation of performers, reaching out to the community through education, outreach and schools programmes, and providing opportunities for young people and children to engage with the arts in a practical way.

It will also feature an annual young professional artists scheme, ‘Take Note’, to champion emerging instrumental and vocal ensembles, enabling them to learn from those at the top of their profession and giving them the opportunity to perform at the festival.

We have a vision for a vibrant winter festival that promotes artistic excellence in a way that is widely accessible. There We hope you enjoy Chiltern Arts as much as we’ve enjoyed creating it; don’t hesitate to give us feedback or to get in touch. There are plenty of ways to get involved – from becoming a member or a volunteer, to being a participant in our choral events or taking part in poetry competitions or art installations. Join our mailing list to find out more, and request a brochure to read about the upcoming Festival.

Naomi Taylor

Founder and Creative Director

 

Tell us a bit about yourself
I live in Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire, with my husband Alex and daughter, Annabel. Alex and I met singing in Hertfordshire Chorus, lived in St Albans, and then moved to Yorkshire together in 2012 while I studied music at the University of York. We moved to Berkhamsted in 2015 to start a family – and a festival!

How did you get into the arts?
My mother was the musical one in my family, and she encouraged me to start piano lessons with the local music teacher when I was five; from there I learned French Horn and Bassoon (initially with the same, very talented teacher!) and started singing in choirs when I was eight. Taking after my project-manager father, I organised my first concert with a choir, big band and various chamber groups when I was fifteen.

Amongst other projects during my time at University, my biggest was running a multi-event choral festival, and during my last year I became Event Manager at the Ryedale Festival – it was there my love for arts festivals developed into something more focused.

Can you tell us about some of your most memorable musical experiences?
There are so many moments that stick in my mind of instances where I’ve been completely absorbed by music, or been overwhelmed by the phenomenon of groups of people being drawn together through music in some way or another – it’s so hard to single out the most memorable.

The first time I sang the St Matthew Passion (in the ripieno chorus) is pretty high on the list. I had a bit of an epiphany during one of the chorales; and performing Moli Hua (Jasmine Flower) in several of China’s huge auditoriums (on tour with a small choir from university) and hearing what felt like every single person in the room gasp, then began to clap and cheer as they recognised the song from the first few notes was pretty amazing.

But some of the best times have been unplanned instances of breaking into song with friends – simply to see what it sounds like to sing in a cave or a stairwell, or under a bridge whilst sheltering from the rain!

And what about in your career in events?
My favourite moment of any event I’m managing or organising is that second or two of calm immediately after you’ve shown the artist in, the applause has died down and the doors are closed. Time to close your eyes, breathe in deeply, enjoy the silence and take stock of everything. That, and being privileged enough to hear the rehearsals before the concert itself – there’s something quite intimate about hearing the way they explore the music without an audience to perform to.

And I’m not sure if it counts as a career experience (except learning where the light switches are!) but as Event Manager of a recent concert I accidentally turned off all the lights (and couldn’t do anything about it because they were those halogen bulbs that don’t come back on immediately) and we sat in almost pitch black, with just the performers illuminated, listening to Dvořák’s American Quartet – that really was something special for me (although not so much dealing with the audience members who hadn’t been able to read their programmes!)

 

What made you want to start a new festival?
I wanted to create something special that would add to and support the already thriving artistic life of the area, and evolve year after year to capture audiences’ imaginations time and time again. I was delighted when Christopher Glynn – pianist and Artistic Director of the Ryedale Festival – accepted my invitation to be Artistic Partner for Chiltern Arts, and so a new festival was born.

Why the Chilterns?
I’d been living in the area for about a year before I really began to explore it (new babies seem to have that effect) but, as soon as I did, I began to fall in love with its gentle rolling hills and beautiful market towns and villages that are full of character. My mind began turning the ideas I’d had into a festival in the Chilterns so I began exploring churches and stately homes across the area (Dunstable, High Wycombe, Amersham, Marlow and everywhere in between) on my child-free afternoons (or sometimes dragging my daughter and various other family members with me!)… and here we are!

And finally, tell us what your personal long-term vision is for Chiltern Arts?
I hope Chiltern Arts will give as many people as possible access to the arts. The festival will be our centrepiece, and around that, other initiatives can grow, creating a community that adds to the rich tapestry of culture in the area.

I’m gradually building a team of people that are key to the success of this organisation; starting of course with an Artistic Partner with a unique programming style, but also the other board members, His Honour Christopher Tyrer and Alex Taylor. Christopher has a wealth of knowledge and local connections and is an invaluable member of the team. Alex is offering support in several areas, but specifically has experience in web development and has been working closely with our designers (the wonderful Design House in Berkhamsted) to create the final product that you see here today.

I hope to continue to build partnerships with individuals and organisations who will form the basis of the Chiltern Arts community and create a thriving, modern, constantly evolving organisation – and I look forward to hearing from anyone who would like to be involved in any way!

His Honour Christopher Tyrer DL

Chairman of the Board

Tell us a little bit about yourself and why you wanted to be involved with Chiltern Arts

I have been passionate about music, particularly choral music, since I was about six years old: quite by chance I was overheard singing and the listeners opined that I had a very promising treble voice. There followed what has become a lifelong passion for singing and listening to good choral music. I was trained at school by Maurice Lanyon and then, at Wellington College, by David Epps before successfully auditioning for the University of Bristol’s renowned XXXII Choir under Professor Willis Grant. I consider myself as having been extremely fortunate as being enabled to sing as a soloist, a member of choirs and in choral societies for over sixty years. My musical performing and listening experiences have taken me far and wide both at home and abroad and have included spells with the New London Singers and the English Baroque Choir.

The opportunities that The Chiltern Arts Festival will offer to all ages and abilities to hear and appreciate outstanding musical talent are beyond the measure of mere words. Whilst recordings, broadcasts and streaming offer excellent opportunities for enriching experiences, it is in live performances, available locally, that the full engagement of the senses can be satisfied. The prospect of world and national class talent coming to the Chilterns promises to be very exciting indeed.

I have lived and worked in the Chilterns for the whole of my professional life and I consider that I am hugely privileged to be a part of the foundation of this new and brave initiative. I look forward to its establishment as part of our local fabric and its future successes.

Alex Taylor

Chiltern Arts Trustee

Tell us a little bit about yourself and why you wanted to be involved with Chiltern Arts

While I may be an engineer and entrepreneur in my career, my heart has always been in music and the arts. Our government seem to be trying to focus our students on Maths and Engineering, but I’ve long felt that creativity is a critical part of our country’s success, in any field that we operate, even non-arts subjects.

By far the best way for people to gain an appreciation for creativity and the arts is to be surrounded in it from an early age and to witness the dizzy heights which great performances can reach. So often, these opportunities are only available to those near a major arts venue, so an organisation such as Chiltern Arts, that focuses on bringing high-quality music to more rural areas as well as the bigger arts centres, is incredibly important.

I am tremendously excited to have a small part in bringing to life an exciting new festival in the Chilterns – an area in which I am so proud to live.

Christopher Glynn

Chiltern Arts Trustee

Christopher Glynn is a Grammy award-winning pianist and accompanist, working with leading singers, instrumentalists and ensembles in concerts, broadcasts and recordings throughout the world. He is also Artistic Director of the Ryedale Festival, programming around 60 events each year in the many beautiful and historic venues of Ryedale, North Yorkshire. He is delighted to be part of Naomi Taylor’s exciting vision for a new festival.

www.cglynn.com