Local musicians young and old are to have pride of place at the final concert of this year's High Barnet Chamber Music Festival and their event is in memory of a celebrated local music teacher, the late Jean Middlemiss.



Practicing together at the parish church of St John the Baptist are four of the youngest due to take part – from left to right above, Hannah (9), Evelyn (9), Noelle (6) and Hannie (7) – who are members of the Barnet Suzuki violin group.

Reaching out to the community to encourage young musicians is one of the key objectives of the festival which is now in its third year, and which has just released details of the five concerts in this year’s programme (see below).

Joshua Ballance, the festival’s artistic director, said that after two successful years, the festival was delighted to bring first-class performers to Barnet once again.

“There is something for everyone with familiar orchestral music, including Suk’s Serenade and Grace Williams’ Sea Sketches, a piano recital and Schoenberg’s Pierrot lunaire.”

One highlight will be the first performance of a new piece by Australian composer Rob Hao who was chosen from 60 entrants in a successful composition competition.

Hao’s composition will be performed by the ensemble Mad Song with Joshua Ballance conducting.

The festival opens at the parish church on Friday 30 June with a return performance by the New London Orchestra.

Another highlight is an afternoon recital given by pianist George Xiaoyuan Fu at Queen Elizabeth’s Boys’ School will be held on Sunday 2 July.

There will be a performance by the Brompton Quartet at the parish church on Friday 7 July and by the ensemble Mad Song at the parish church on Friday 14 July.

Local musicians and singers will close the festival with an afternoon concert at the parish church on Saturday 16 July in celebration of the life of Jean Middlemiss who gave unstinting assistance to local musicians and an who was an enthusiastic supporter of local concerts and events.

Throughout her life she gave every encouragement to very young children to learn to play instruments by ear.

Joshua has welcomed the support of Patricia Yorke (see above) who has taken the lead in helping to organise the final charity concert to raise funds for Barnet Carers and contribute towards a prize in the name of Jean Middlemiss which will support a young violist at the Royal College of Music.

“Our charity concert will feature local musicians aged from six to sixty – and over – and is our chance to commemorate the life of a renowned music educator.”

Jean, who lived at Ravenscroft Park with her sister Barbara, died at the age of 94.

In an obituary in The Guardian, Jean was described by Sally Beamish as a distinguished musician and teacher who had made a major contribution to British musical life.

She was appointed head of music at South Hampstead High School in 1957 where she was said to have been an inspirational teacher.

In 1971 she went to Japan to study the innovative method of music teaching inspired by Dr Shinichi Suzuki.

On her return she became music adviser for East Hertfordshire and drew of Suzuki’s techniques both during her teaching career and in her support for Barnet Suzuki group established by Hannah Biss.

Hannah recalled that after leaving college and setting up Suzuki workshops, Jean gave her endless support and encouragement and attended every single concert.

“When I set up my Suzuki group in Barnet, I realised that Jean lived round the corner, and had a stream of children she knew who should learn with me.” 

Programme for 2023 High Barnet Chamber Music Festival:

30th June • 7.30pm • St John the Baptist Church

The New London Orchestra open the festival with music by Suk and Grace Williams, as well as new versions of pieces by Lili Boulanger and Carol J. Jones.

2nd July • 3pm • The Friends' Recital Hall at Queen Elizabeth's School

Superstar pianist George Xiaoyuan Fu brings a late Beethoven sonata and Ravel’s dazzling Miroirs, alongside music by Tailleferre and Cassandra Miller.

7th July • 7.30pm • St John the Baptist Church

The Brompton Quartet pick up the late Beethoven theme with his Bb Major quartet, Op. 130. They’ll precede this masterpiece with Haydn’s joyous quartet Op. 54/2, and Caroline Shaw’s beautiful Entra’cte, itself inspired by Haydn.

14th July • 8pm • St John the Baptist Church

The ensemble Mad Song are joined by mezzo soprano Rebekah Jones, for Schoenberg’s Pierrot lunaire, interspersed with responses to Schoenberg’s melodrama by Helen Grime and Rob Hao.

16th July • 3pm • St John the Baptist Church

Local performers of all ages come together to celebrate Jean Middlemiss, a much-loved string pedagogue and long-time Barnet resident. We’ll be raising funds for Barnet Carers and contributing to a prize in her name that supports a young violist at the Royal College of Music.

For further details see www.hbcmf.co.uk  Box office is now open – tickets are from £5 - £15, with some free entry for 25s. and under.

The festival is supported by Arts Council England, the Leche Trust, the Fenton Arts Trust, the Music Reprieval Trust, and the Cavatina Chamber Music Trust.