Since its first season in 1983-84, Shropshire Music Trust has brought some of the world's best live music to Shrewsbury and surrounding Shropshire towns and villages: orchestral concerts to solo recitals, early music to cutting-edge contemporary work, folk and jazz, workshops, masterclasses, lunchtime concerts, participation for young musicians and musical outreach to young and old alike.
In October 1983, Shrewsbury Music Series – as it was then known – held the first of four concerts in the Music Hall in the Square, now the town's museum. It was set up under the direction of freelance professional arts manager, Kate Hogwood, who was soon joined by a group of business and professional people also eager to establish a regular programme of good quality arts for everyone in the area: they were formed into a charitable trust using the services of the director and a growing body of volunteers.
From the outset the Trust has booked the best professional musicians. The first series featured The Nash Ensemble, Peter Donohoe, the Wallfisch Weinberg Trio and the Coull Quartet – all internationally renowned performers.
In 1991 the series and trust was renamed 'Shropshire Music' and concerts were held in Bridgnorth, Telford, Whitchurch and Little Ness, as well as in Shrewsbury; the performers ranging from Steeleye Span to Bournemouth Sinfonietta and Evelyn Glennie, with Richard Stilgoe and the Britannia Building Society Band along the way.
The 2013-14 series – Shropshire Music Trust's 30th anniversary – featured the now established 'trademark' and popular eclectic mix of 'traditional' classical, new and unusual (not to mention the challenging!), including the Britten Sinfonia, Pasadena Roof Orchestra, London Baroque, Kasai Masai African music and dance, along with current favourites Ex Cathedra and the Carducci Quartet.
The Trust has been fortunate to have the regular support of Arts Council England, local authorities, a range of private grant bodies, business sponsors and, in more recent years, a strong body of individual donors through the SMT Supporters Scheme, as well as a small army of volunteers helping at front-of-house and behind the scenes.
SMT's involvement with numerous national touring programmes, together with work with other partners, has vastly enhanced its scope and has included the City of Birmingham Touring Opera (Jonathan Dove) national portfolio scheme, the Contemporary Music Network, the Early Music Network and THF's Music at Leisure Weekends (at the Lion Hotel's famous Adam Ballroom). Most recently, the Orchestras Live scheme has enabled larger scale groups to visit the area, such as the London Mozart Players, English Chamber Orchestra, Academy of Ancient Music and prestigious soloists such as Tasmin Little, Nicola Benedetti, Freddy Kempf and Alison Balsom. Other 'names' have included Stephan Grappelli, John Williams, Rada Lupu and Jacques Loussier, alongside a regular stream of young up-and-coming artists – many on Yehudi Menuhin's 'Live Music Now' and the Countess of Munster Schemes.
Beat-boxing has rubbed shoulders with Schoenberg, and traditional Welsh Harp and cross genre 'world' groups such as Ske'koyokh klezmer & Balkan Band with classical 'Experience' days and String Quartet weekends, in projects at all times of day: coffee time, lunchtime, afternoon, dusk and evening – appealing to a wide range of audience. And amongst the eclectic range has been visits by Fascinating Aida and Prunella Scales, soloists including John Lill, Peter Donohoe, Paul Lewis, Imogen Cooper, Joanna McGregor, Julian Bream, Jennifer Pike, Jennifer Bate and Igor Oistrakh, ensembles such as the Allegri, Alberni and Wihan Quartets, the Academy of St Martin-in-the-Fields, Black Dyke Mills Band with Paul & Huw Watkins, and jazz personalities such as Marian Montgomery and Joshua Rifkin.
Outreach has always featured strongly and been core to the Trust's programme and mission, taking visiting artists into schools and care homes as well as villages, halls and smaller centres, often in collaboration with local centres enterprises such as Wem Town Hall and ‘Music in Quiet Places'. Occasional longer-term projects have taken place too, including a three-year project on the Meole Estate engaging young people in live music-making and singing supported by Shrewsbury & Atcham Borough Council and, for many years, the regular professionally run annual Jazz Days in collaboration with the innovative Shropshire Youth Jazz Ensemble enabled by the Helen Sanders Jazz Fund.
Browse the Season Leaflet Archive.
Shropshire Music Trust and Covid 19
Sadly, in March 2020, the season was brought to an abrupt end after an excellent first half with the advent of the Covid-19 virus. During the summer and autumn of 2020, SMT promoted fortnightly online episodes titled "The Music Room" directed by Shropshire-based violinist Beyers, in which Zoë interviewed renowned musicians, with performances of their music.
Following the end of the lockdown SMT was able to begin operations again in October. Covid restrictions severely hampered the Trust’s capacity to take on outreach work but a full programme of 11 concerts was given, although performances had to be restricted to Shrewsbury venues. The season’s core programme came from the Carducci Quartet which gave a series of three concerts exploring the musical link between Vienna and Moscow featuring the music of Beethoven, Haydn, Mozart, Schubert and Shostakovich. Ex Cathedra gave two concerts and there were also concerts from a wide range of musical talents including Fretwork, Moishe’s Bagel, and Lizzie Ball with Miloš Milivojević. A lunchtime concert from Michael Poll on guitar playing Bach’s lute suites won wide acclaim as did the Young Artists recital given by Galin Ganchev and Anthony Poon. Despite COVID restrictions two schools performances were arranged.