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Meet David Hill, artistic director of Cambridge Summer Music Festival

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2018 Cambridge Summer Music Festival artistic director, David Hill. Picture: John Wood
2018 Cambridge Summer Music Festival artistic director, David Hill. Picture: John Wood

Mr Hill is the new man at Cambridge Summer Music (CSM) and as the director he has a tough task facing him in the festival’s 40th year.

Top of his list of duties is making sure he continues the success of the festival – and give the event a 40th anniversary to remember.

The 16-day event does not receive Arts Council funding and relies solely on ticket income, its friends’ scheme, sponsorship and fundraising from trusts and foundations.

It’s a remarkable achievment that it returns each year.

David, who is a well-travelled musical director, now primarily based in Rutland, will be taking over from Juliet Abrahamson, who organised her last Summer Music Festival in 2017 and who was also festival director from 1994 to 2015.

“I was contacted by the chair, Howard Mason, and I know a number of people who are trustees, or who have been trustees, and I know Juliet who did a wonderful job for so many years,” recalled David, who says he’s very happy to be a part of the festival.

He continued: “Curiously, I think I may have even been involved in the very first Cambridge Summer Music Festival when I was an organ scholar at St John’s.

“We’re talking about 1978, when I believe St John’s College Choir was part of the festival – so I’ve known it all my professional life, really.”

One of Britain’s leading choral conductors, David became a Fellow of the Royal College of Organists at the age of 17 and has directed, among others, the choir of St John’s College, Cambridge – where he was also an organ scholar for four years – Yale Schola Cantorum, The Bach Choir and The BBC Singers.

Other positions he has held include master of the music at Winchester Cathedral, master of the music at Westminster Cathedral and artistic director of the Philharmonia Chorus.

David also makes regular guest appearances with leading orchestras worldwide, from Minnesota to Copenhagen, from Sydney to Zagreb.

He says he was asked to take on the role of artistic director, and is doing so on an honorary basis.

“I’m very happy to put in my thoughts and share them with the trustees,” he said, “and hopefully we can put something together which really works for this wonderful festival which takes place at a great time of the year, in July when a lot of people are around.”

David added: “It is yet to be agreed by the trustees, but I think I could go as far as to say that it is going to encapsulate ‘40’, through the opening concert with Mozart’s 40th Symphony.

“Also, Leonard Bernstein would have been 100 next year so we’ll hopefully be doing the Chichester Psalms by him and then Fauré’s beloved Requiem.”

As well as classical music, the event will showcase other musical styles: “If people love chamber music, there’s something there for them, if they love jazz there’s at least one or two things they can dip into – Daniel Cainer is going to come.

“But if they want formal concerts, they’ve got, for example, the Fauré Requiem and hopefully at least two 40-part motets, which of course chimes in with 40 for the celebration of the festival itself.”

On his long association with Cambridge, the Carlisle-born musician concluded: “I owe so much to it. I was so lucky to have been at St John’s with the late, great George Guest, who was the organist for many, many years and who taught so many of us.

“And just to be in Cambridge for the four years I was there was an amazing experience. I could mention the names of people who were there at the same time and they’re all incredibly well-established and successful.

“It is an amazing environment in which you have an opportunity, if you like, to start growing as a person and as a musician.

“I had four very, very happy years, between 2003 and 2007, going back as director of music at St John’s and I continue to make lots of friends there.”


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