Highlights of Pennine Spring Festival

AMONG exciting innovations in this year's Pennine Spring Music in Heptonstall during Spring Bank Holiday week (May 27 to June 2) is an evening on Sylvia Plath, Ted Hughes, Heptonstall and the Calder Valley, on Tuesday May 29, which will be a fusion of words and song.

One contributor, Donald Crossley, was a boyhood friend of Hughes. He has told the BBC : "Ted was a great fisherman. He dearly loved fishing. It was his greatest love, salmon fishing, and it all began here when we were boys." He does not think the film 'Ted and Sylvia' tells the right story. He thinks that they ought to have done more on the early life of Ted. "This is where it began, up on these hillsides". Another contributor, John Billingsley, Editor of the Northern Earth Journal, leads walks in the hills above Hughes' home village, Mytholmroyd, pointing out the influences on his writing - moving up from the industrialisation of the Calder Valley to the nature and mysticism of the moors. Billingsley himself is a leading authority, having written such pieces as "The Myth of the 'Celtic' Head".

Newcastle-based writer, actor, director and cultural commentator Colin Sharp will give a very personal take on the life of Sylvia Plath, who is buried in Heptonstall churchyard. Sharp sees Plath as amongst the pantheon of female icons who died young, including Virginia Woolfe, Janis Joplin, Marilyn Monroe, Judy Garland and Billie Holliday. Among Sharp's recent plays are 'Heaven and Hell', performed by Northern Stage, and 'Dalek, I Love You', broadcast by the BBC. As for music, he was lead vocalist with the legendary Durutti Column and then formed his own band, The Roaring 80s. His biography of the late/great music producer Martin Hannett is about to be published. He is producing a short film for Pennine Spring.

Heptonstall actress Yvonne Collins, who has performed several leading roles for Hebden Bridge Little Theatre, will be reading from work by Lancashire born poet P Viktor who is now based in Oxford. He sees his 'Fitzroy Road' and 'Familiar with Glass' as reflections on the life of Sylvia Plath.

Music for the evening will be resonant of the lives of Plath and Hughes and of the Heptonstall area. It will feature sopranos Mandy Doyle and Viv Burr, who sing as 'Due Voci', and baritone John Ramsdin. Currently studying under Pennine Spring's own Musical Director, Bridget Budge, Viv and Mandy have been delighting audiences for several years at Pennine Spring, Mrs Sunderland Music Festival and Holmfirth Music Festival and are leading members of the Hepton Singers. Specialising in classical duets, their performances are characterised by beautifully blended harmonies. John was born in Halifax. A member of the Halifax Choral Society, he recently sang a principal role with a Leeds opera group in Edouard Lalo's opera, Le Roi D'Ys.

The first 2007 concert by the Pennine Spring Music Orchestra and Chorus will be on Wednesday May 30. The exciting Greek pianist Panos Demopoulos, who has appeared in Heptonstall with his ensemble on two previous occasions, will this year be the soloist in Beethoven's Piano Concerto No 5 (the Emperor). Panos comes from a musical family in Athens, making music from his early years. As a pianist, he has performed extensively across Europe both as a soloist and an ensemble player. His compositions have won prizes in competitions and have been performed by the Britten Sinfonia and the Quintessensis Quintet. He has studied at the RNCM and Cambridge and is now completing a doctorate at York.

The fantastic local young violist Martyn Jackson who is currently studying at the RNCM will play Brahms' Violin Sonata in A Major and Tchaikovsky's 'Melodie' from Souvenier d'un Lieu Cher, accompanied on the piano by Emily Smith. Wednesday's concert will also include 'Requiem for Margaret' by Pennine Spring's Associate Director, Mel Sutton, who will also conduct the evening, with the orchestra led by Elizabeth Taylor, formerly Leader of the Calderdale Youth Orchestra, who now teaches and performs in Lincolnshire.

Programmes for the festival, designed by Studio Burnop, will shortly be widely available. For further details please contact Jean Leach on 01422 843995.