SEAN Sweeney is excited about the return of the Tavistock Festival — the chairman of the arts and music event’s organising committee can’t wait to showcase all the fabulous talent there is locally and across the South West.

With covid putting paid to many public events over the last two years, Tavistock Festival is back with a bang at the end of this month including elements of the 2020 festival which had to shelved last minute when the pandemic hit.

Although covid is still a factor — for example The Mount Kelly Choral Society concert planned for the opening day on April 30 has been called off due covid related absences at rehearsals — events will be taking place over a 21-day period ranging from the North Devon Sinfonia orchestra in Tavistock Parish Church to folk choirs, soloists, choral workshops, a concert by the Tavistock’s own Stannary Brass Band, a creative writing workshop, Drawn to the Valley Art Exhibition and a children’s concert.

In the run up to the big event itself a series of recitals and smaller events are giving people of taster of what’s to come (see review left).

Dr Sweeney is himself a trained pianist and organist and will be playing music by Bach, Dupre, Elgar, Franck and Guilmant on May 3.

‘I am very excited about the festival,’ he said. ‘We have broadened the range of venues and we are encompassing the newly refurbished Guildhall, the Bedford Hotel where there will be jazz and an afternoon tea and the Roman Catholic Church Our Lady of the Assumption where Mount Kelly Chamber Choir and Levowan XII will perform.

‘With the festival we want to complement what is already provided in the town which is why we don’t have rock music as that is catered for at the Wharf,’ said Dr Sweeney.

‘We are about promoting all the wonderful talent we have in Tavistock and the surrounding areas. We have a wealth of talent in the Westcountry and we will be celebrating it at the festival.

‘We know we have to be careful about covid but we also want to give people some enjoyment in this big bad world in which we live.

‘Many people in the entertainment industry have lost their careers due to this pandemic or have had to put them on hold and go out and get other jobs to bring in income.

‘This country does support the arts more than perhaps it used to and we have a great culture of arts. We want to do all we can to keep that reputation going.’

Dr Sweeney who has been at the helm of the Tavistock Festival for three years, follows in the footsteps of Christopher Kirwin who he praised for ‘keeping the festival going for many many years’.

A retired secondary school headteacher Dr Sweeney has returned to his first love of playing music after retiring from the day job and is musical director of the University of Plymouth Choral Society and organist at the Britannia Royal Naval College at Dartmouth. He was once in a staff rock band called ‘Night School’ which used to regularly perform on the music scene.

He has lived in Tavistock since 1993 and been involved in Tavistock Festival for more than ten years. He is also chairman of governors at Tavistock College.

The Stannary Brass Band of Tavistock will be celebrating 25 years of playing music with a belated anniversary celebration at St Eustachius Church on Saturday, May 7. The band’s patron Angela Rippon will be hosting the event.

A special part of the evening will be the premier of a piece of music commissioned by the band and composed by music teacher and former player David Gray. David has called the piece Changes and he has dedicated it to Les Tucker.

Les was one of the founding members of the band, a valued teacher of beginners of all ages and a cornet player. In 2003 he was awarded a Diploma of Honour for his contribution to the teaching of musicians. The band was saddened to learn of Les’ passing in 2019.

During the evening Angela will talk about the development of Stannary Brass Band, its highlights and the achievements of some of its former players.