Dartington Summers

It was in 1963 that the legendary French maestro Pierre Monteux lured Neville Marriner to his summer conducting school in Maine, USA. But it was in the rural and historic surroundings of Dartington Hall, Devon, between the years 1964 and 1970, that the director-violinist was able to mount the podium more frequently, away from the pressures of the recording studio and concert hall. This was the heyday of the Dartington Summer School, platform and playground for many of the most distinguished performers and composers of that era. This was also where the ASMF could play together – uniquely – for more than two days at a time; usually for a week, sometimes for a fortnight.

Down at Dartington Hall, alcoholic refreshment was a brisk 20-minute walk away at the Cott Inn. Here in black-and-white is Neville Marriner, chatting with fellow-violinist Colin Sauer, leading the band back to base.
Pub refreshment at Dartington involved a 20-minute walk; Marriner leads the way back with Colin Sauer

Marriner also experienced the novelty of conducting a choir – of summer school students – for the first time, in music from Purcell through Haydn and Mozart to Britten. This would have made excellent preparation for the choral recordings that he and the Academy would start to make in the 1970s. Dartington was also the venue for the acquisition of several players who were quickly to become key members of the ASMF family.

This colour photo, used on the LP sleeve for Argo’s ‘The World of the Academy, volume 2’ shows the 16-strong band in concert dress on the platform of the Great Hall at Dartington in 1970.
Argo record sleeve showing ASMF at work in the Great Hall at Dartington, 1970s