Tom is leaving Langvad

After twelve (I think) wonderful Jamborees as Artistic Director stretching back to 2003 I felt this year that the event needed new energy and direction.  With a growing festival here in the UK to look after and other commitments taking more and more of my energy it seemed the right time to hand on the honour to a new team.  I am delighted that the Jamboree is in the very safe hands of Mina Fred and Oscar Perks to say nothing of the wonderful team of people at KK museum.

Looking back at my time as Artistic Director of the Jamboree I am struck by several things, but, above all, just how much freedom I was given by John and Harald to make the thing as I wished.  They showed approval (or not) in their way but never sought to censure what I wanted to happen.

Much has been written and said about Kirsten Kjaer and the remarkable and unique museum which is a homage to her work, life and aesthetic, and I regard it as a very special privilege to have witnessed the growth of this project over many years.  I had got to know John and Harald back in the early 80’s and first heard and then seen for myself as the museum and its concerts and music making took shape.  But it was not until I announced to John that ideas for founding a modest chamber music festival were beginning to come into focus for Eleanor and me, that he and Harald came back very quickly with – ‘Well you can do it here at Langvad!’

‘Can’ of course meant, ‘must’!

And so I embarked on the adventure that has brought so much joy to me and I think many others.

And what a vibe there is at KK museum.  In this fertile atmosphere so much has happened.  So much that is good about humanity has been given a chance to live and breathe here, and I understood quickly that it was my job to amplify this and to protect it at the Jamboree.  To allow things to happen with just enough structure and framework and to give a shape and a focus.  So the great privilege of choosing and bringing a group of musicians was given to me; to choose and shape the programmes, and to look after all aspects of how the musicians worked and interacted.  I must say, I am perhaps most proud of being able to bring living composers into the event in a really meaningful way.   A significant number of works have been played and heard for the first time at the Jamboree and from composers of such differing backgrounds, traditions and nationalities. 

It has also been a joy to witness the young and inexperienced in their baptism into the world of chamber music.   An induction all the more interesting and touching to witness for being with those of more worldliness and experience.  I have taken part in and heard from other Jamboreans so many unforgettable performance of music by Beethoven, Schubert, Haydn and Mozart to Messiaen, Bartok and Schoenberg and so many others.  Until 2007 the concerts were in the delightful intimacy of the museum building itself, with the elderly Bechstein piano and surrounded by Kirsten’s pictures; then from 2008 in the splendid acoustics and radiant atmosphere of John’s Hall. 

I well remember the end of the 2007 event and pouring over a few drawings of a proposed new concert hall with Harald.  Hearing no more about it until my final checks with Harald about travel arrangements a year later, there was a pause in the conversation and then rather sheepishly he said, ‘by the way, the concert hall…..we’ve built it…’.  What a moment and what a gift.

I have no doubt that for nearly all Jamboreans their time at Langvad exists in a sort of glow of cherished remembrance, with levels of fun, creativity and intimacy rarely matched in the professional world.  Countless friendships - and indeed some more intimate unions - have had their beginnings at Langvad over these intense few days of Northern European summer. 

But this was, of course, part of the recipe from John’s world and the music making he had himself so enjoyed in his youth.  He admitted that an invitation to a large household in a remote region of Wales to play chamber music had been a life changing event for him.  ‘It was like an extended house party with music’, was how he described it and of course this was the prototype of what the Jamboree – John’s word  – became.  

I shall miss this party from now on; it has been an essential part of my summer for such a long time.  Apart from the concerts; the meals, those manic late night sight reading sessions, the moonlit walks, the sea bathing, the forest, the cake………to name just a few of the delights.  But I have no doubt that the atmosphere of Langvad will ensure the Jamboree will have a long and healthy future and that musicians will continue to come to Langvad to breathe a lighter air, and to become themselves in that fullest of ways, through music and art.

Thomas Bowes

March 2017