Orchestra of the Swan is set to lead a classical programming at a new 500-seat green venue, in the heart of the Cotswolds this summer: The Amphitheatre at Berrybank Park.
Two concerts by the orchestra feature a celebration of the life of Gloucestershire-born writer Laurie Lee and the combined Eight Seasons of Vivaldi and Piazzolla.
On Friday 22 July, the orchestra brings to life a musical programme woven around the writing of Laurie Lee, from the lush Gloucestershire countryside Lee made famous in Cider with Rosie, to the dry landscapes of Spain, via the music of Vaughan Williams, Elgar, Britten, Albeniz, De Falla and Turina.
Laurie Lee was a talented musician, and made a living as a young man playing his violin in a local band. When he set out for Spain, he took his violin, wrapped in a blanket, and supported himself by playing. Lee was intensely proud of Gloucestershire’s rich musical heritage, citing Holst, Vaughan Williams, Finzi and Ivor Gurney. In later life, Lee took his friend, the great classical guitarist Julian Bream, to one of his old haunts in Spain and delighted in recounting how the local flamenco musicians marvelled at ‘this Englishman’ who played like a dream.
David Le Page, Artistic Director of the Orchestra of the Swan, said:
“I have been tracking down Gloucestershire folk songs, and it is a fascinating process, moving from English pastoral music to Spanish rhythms, as Lee’s story darkens with the coming of the Spanish Civil War. In many ways, it is a haunting, and very moving, echo of what is playing out now in Europe.”
Actor Charlie Hamblett (Killing Eve, Around the World in Eighty Days, The Secret Agent) joins the Orchestra in the role of the young Laurie Lee, as well as actor Anton Lesser (Game of Thrones, Endeavour).
The Amphitheatre at Berrybank Park in Oddington offers a panoramic countryside view onto the ancient wold between Stow, Moreton and Chipping Norton. In addition to classical music, it will host jazz, opera, outdoor cinema, family events and cabaret in its opening season running from June to September, and launches with Shakespeare’s Globe on Tour’s production of Julius Caesar.
The long history of the countryside surrounding the Amphitheatre at Berrybank Park stretches from the prehistoric King’s Men stone circle – which has hosted productions by Mark Rylance – to the Fosse way and to Jeremy Clarkson’s viral Diddly Squat Farm.
The family-run venue has been created in memory of Janet Cockell, whose love of telling stories, the performing arts, and the Cotswolds inspired her husband and daughter to create the venue, which is sculpted in harmony with the surrounding topography. A Pavilion on the site offers a bar and restaurant championing local produce and provides an alternative performance space in case of bad weather.