Deal Festival 2023 – Thinking my way back to a much-loved place IN PREPARATION!!!

Posted on June 24th, 2023 by

Sail loft – Deal, Kent 22 6 23

On Thursday 22nd June, after the wonderful day recording David Matthews and Edward Cowie in the Chiltern Hills the day before, I got on the Javelin train from St Pancras to Deal. This is a journey I have taken so many times in recent years, but getting off a little earlier, as I have been able to work and collaborate with DAD (Dover Arts Development), the visionary organisation founded by artists Joanna Jones and the much-missed Clare Smith. But my relationship with the little town of Deal goes back a lot further, to my early twenties. It was actually in Deal, where I first met the composer David Matthews, beginning a long collaboration which has only intensified in the past decade. By my count, I have premiered about 50 works, large and small, by this great composer. Here’s a very recent one, ‘Dancing Shiva’, which I recorded on Wednesday.

And of course, just a couple of weeks ago, my Kreutzer Quartet premiered his 17th Quartet (dedicated to his mentor, Benjamin Britten) at the Aldeburgh Festival, in Orford Church, where David first met Britten in the 1970s. At the time that I met him David was the artistic director the Deal Festival, and I returned to this lovely festival many times, for solo and chamber performances, ranging from my quartet to my Parnassus Ensemble. When my son Marius was little, he would come with me, and spent time paddling on the steep shingle beach of this historic fishing town.

Fishing Boats. Deal 22 6 23

But it has been some time, since I was last here as ani artist. I had walked through th???e town a number of times, on my way to Dover, finding routes from Canterbury, or Ramsgate. And I have not played at the festival for some years. But now, the artist director of the festival the  Australian composer, Luke Styles, had invited me to put together a number of events for this year’s festival. So suddenly, and delightedly, I am back.

The journey to Kent by train, is a magic carpet of modern railways. There’s something extraordinary, about boarding the train at St Pancras, and within minutes, speeding past the Dickensian flats of Thurrock, under the river, flying over the medway, past the siege-slighted keep of Rochester Castle, thought the (SECR) railway history of Ashford, then all of a sudden ???????!!!, the sea at Folkestone, with the Martello Towers, then Samphire Ho, Shakespeare Cliff, Dover Castle and the Pharos, Walmer, and we are pulling into Deal. Just over an hour from London, and the dazed traveller is tipped into a different world, a different era, a different tempo.

Luke met me at the station. For two years, we did not see each other – he was in Australia for Lockdown – and it was a joy to meet up again at the end of 2022. He studied with me at the Royal Academy of Music, an aeon ago, and after that we collaborated on a number of his wonderfully imaginative projects. Here’s one, which began as a tiny violin piece which I asked Luke to write for a performance in Mexico City, and which then grew, like Topsy into an amazing work for two violins and live electronics. I put it with film of light on my workdesk, this morning.

Linden Hall Studio, Deal, Kent22 6 23

Luke met me at the charming little station, and we ambled through town, to the art gallery where my second event at the festival will take place. I am not sure that he was entirely prepared for how much this town has been part of my life, intermittently, over the past few decades, but the spot he took me to was new to me.

Linden Hall Studio is a charming, and beautiful small gallery, behind St Georges Church. It’s character is very much the result of being house in a converted chapel. When we were arrived, I was excited to recognise drawings by Terry Frost – another link to one of ‘my’ inspiring places, as Frost, was one of the artists who established studios in St Ives, Cornwall, along with Barbara Hepworth, Lucie Rie and Priaulx Rainier. There we were met by the inspired, and inspiring young gallery director,  Myles Corley, and we could begin what I regard as ‘sounding out the space’ prior to my event there on the 15th July.

I have lost count of how many times I have done this – spent time in a wonderful space, large or small, exploring how music, and the ideas around music, can find their way, their place. I have little to no interest in modern concert halls, where all the focus is on the performer, and there is deliberately, as little distraction from the performer as monstrance/relic. The Gallery tweeted out a little of my explorations – which do not include the important part- the conversations with my collaborators, Myles and Luke, as ideas coalesced.

Linden Hall Studio tweeted this about my rather hands-on process


For me, a large part of making a concert ‘work’ in any place, is my sense, of well just that, place. So I spent time in wonderful town, looking

Composer Luke Styles and Gallery Director Myles Corley with Tworks by Terry Frost. 22 6 23

for themes and ideas. This is a process that I have done for many years, and in many countries, on several continents. It’s really part of my resistance to ‘parachute concerts’ – by which I mean events that happen in a particular place and time, simply because that is the next place

Black Horse Alley, Deal 22 6 23

on tour, on schedule. It seems, sometimes, as if there is no attempt event to modulate the programme, or the way it is presented and played, according to the locale, its people and its history. I confess that I don’t understand this.

On this particular visit, I was very taken with the less obvious parts of this town: a closed access door to a one-time sail loft, the texture of the concreted and graffitied walls of an early 17th century pair of houses on Black Horse Lane. A silent corner behind the main street, peeling paint on a closed cinema door. I can’t say quite how these little discoveries will make their way into my concerts, but there’s a sense, that the timbres and stories that seem to emerge, will find their way into the warp and weft of the events.

Included in my concert on the 15th July, will be a new work by my closest composer/collaborator, Mihailo Trandafilovski, also my co-violinist in the Kreutzer Quartet. This work is inspired by the astonishing paintings of Joanna Jones, whose work will be central to the event (more on this to follow). I took Mihailo’s score with me, to visit it’s venue. This gave me a chance to ‘feel out’ how it will find its way into the space, literally (into the acoustic) and figuratively (into the idea of the space, the place).

Here’s a recent performance of a work Mihailo wrote for me in 2022, in performance in Baltimore, Maryland, last autumn.


Mihailo’s piece for Deal is directly inspired by work by Joanna Jones. I have taken advantage of recent train journeys with him to talk about how this works. To paraphrase our conversations, he described how the structure and timbre of the piece is modelled, event built on/with the changing intensity of colour and activity in the painting. In this way, one might see his composition as, in part, a response to the painting as notation itself. Here’s a way of looking at it: Jones’ work is done with her body, not with brushes. So any painting is, in part, a time-sensitive documentation of the activity of the artist directly on the canvas. If you like ‘idea-action-painting’. In that regard, the painting records, notates, the action which translated the original idea. In some ways, you might say that what Mihailo has done, is doing, is to use this notation (which is, in part, a record of bodily movement), and has taken idea/s from that and extracted notation from that. This new notation is not a document of activity, but a prescription for new physical activity, which has sonic results (which, of course, are the primary end/aim): ‘painting-idea-notation-performance’.

In the gallery we talked about the relationship of the hung painting to the performance. I have brought my copy of Mihailo’s piece, and laid it

MIhailo Trandafilovski’s new work, on the floor of Linden Hall Studio 22 6 23

on the floor. This immediately stimulated the conversation that I had hoped for, and a decision was made, to mount the four pages of score on foam board, and hang them with the painting. This is something I love, and have done very many times.

The works that I am playing by my long-time collaborator Sadie Harrison, are very appropriate for this event. A decade ago over the period of about a year, Sadie wrote me an extended series of pieces inspired by my paintings and drawings. It is, appropriately enough, entitled, ‘Gallery’. This is not the place to discuss the relationship between my work as a musician and as an artist. However, something that Sadie taught me, through this process, is how much my work as an artist, is tied in with my daily life, and how that can be notated into a musical counterpoint. Sometimes the outcomes were/are disturbingly to the point. One of the pieces that she wrote for ‘Gallery 2’ ‘Same Strand’ was stimulated by a drawing from many years ago, made on a grim morning by ‘Sunden’ the water which separates Sjaelland from Sweden. I was in the middle of a dark conversation with my then partner – a Dane, like my wife, Malene. Sadie’s piece, referencing the drawing (which is empty of people), seemed to evoke, make revenant, many of the emotions of that day, of that relationship. This was not in my imagination, for sure – and it showed me so much of the power of artistic interchange to awaken feelings, situations, which are seemingly forgotten, obscured. In 2012, she wrote to me, about the piece.

The composer notes: ‘A sleepless night…and a little piece to show for it…after your gentle ‘Same Strand’. All is self-explanatory.'(30th September 2012)

This is the workshop recording I made on the day the piece arrived…

Sadie Harrison-Same Strand (September 2012)/Workshop recording: Peter Sheppard Skaerved-Violin (Stradivari 1698) London 30-09-2012

At the time, my response was still obscure:

‘This piece responds to an old drawing of mine, made on an iron-cold late december morning, by the Sound, with Sweden all but invisible in the freezing mist. I was not by myself, but something happened-a moment of recognition, that this rocky, wrack-clogged beach, the heave of the water, was in some way, home. It took me years to show anyone the drawing, and Sadie has seized on the emotion, the particular malincolia that seized me, and given it voice. I recognise, painfully even, the lyricsim that she has heard. This is what composers can do-hear the truths which we neglect or ignore.’ September 30th, 2012

A few years later, I found myself on stage, on a ship, performing this very piece on Garrison Keillor’s ‘Prairie Home Companion’, as we sailed past this very beach, steaming north out of the Baltic. This was a disturbing, enlightening combination.

Here are Sadie, David Matthews and the Czech composer Pavel Novak, with me at a concert of their music at the Deal Festival in 2004. The connections go back a long way!

Composers David Matthews, Sadie Harrison, Pavel Novak. Barfrestone Church, Deal Festival 2004.

The armature of my programme for the 15th July, is the link to the past, and in the case of this programme to the music of the late 17th century. The Kent Coast was the centre of intense Naval activity in the reigns of Charles ! & II, James II and William and Mary. In 1639, the

Mid-17th Century gable, Deal 22 6 23

Dutch under Admiral Tromp destroyed the a Spanish fleet at the Battle of the Downs, within sight of the town. At the moment, Van der Velde the Elder’s drawings and resulting tapestry of this battle is on show at the Queens House Greenwich. The Van der Veldes have been an influence on me since childhood, and this exhibit strengthened my sense of the extraordinary links between the art of the 1600s and now. Walking around Deal one finds echoes of this era in the layered vernacular architecture of the town – the aesthetics of now and then, dovetailing seamlessly – and not!

I love the great architects of the 17th century – Inigo Jones. Perrault, Wren, Hooke …  there’s equal inspiration as a musician, playing the music of the period, in the work of a local mason of the period, shaping the gable of this house just off the main street. This is the essence of the elegance and practicality of the age, a world away from the marbled halls of Whitehall Palace…

But there’s an international edge to this. The most exciting thing about 17th century musical culture in the UK was/were the cross-currents of the many foreign musicians and artists who came to live and work here, in successive, changing tides with each of the effective dynastic changes (Charles – Commonwealth – Charles – James – William & Mary). The resulting was a rich, colourful layering of musics from Italy, France, the German-speaking nations, and more, matching / rivaling the art and artists who poured in. Deal, between two of the Cinque Ports (Dover and Sandwich), was very much part of this international outlook. I am bringing music from a number of these extraordinary visiting and immigrant composer/performers. Here’s one of them, by the ‘Lubicker’. Thomas Baltzar ( 1630-1663)


I think that it is fair to note that one of the reasons that I love to work with living composers, is what they can teach me about the great

composer to composer/
Back on the desk today, David Matthews’ transcription of Beethoven Op 119 Bagatelles, which we will play Deal Music & Arts on the 11th Ju

creative voices who have come before them. There’s no composer, in my experience, for whom this is more true, than David Matthews. Here’s an example of how that can work, from one of the pieces which the Kreutzer Quartet will be playing at the Deal Festival on the 11th July. This is the movement of David’s transcription the whole of Beethoven’s 11 Bagatelles Op 119 for piano. David and I have been talking about, exploring the crossover, between Beethoven’s quartet writing and his approach to the piano for many years. Two decades ago I mentioned, that it seemed to me that the A Major Sonata Op 101  felt as if it should be a string quartet: his rejoinder was to present me with a transcription of the whole piece. I think that I can say, that, immediately, this became a central plank of our repertoire. And one of the reasons, is that a living composer of genius, such as David, offers profound insight into the mind of a dead one, Beethoven.

By way of proof, here is the first movement, in David’s transcription. As you can hear, it is a joy to play. But ask yourself another question: where does the respective works of composition and transcription overlap?

Edvard Grieg’s prized possession, when he as a young man, was the full score of Robert Schumann’s Piano Concerto –  which he had coped out, in toto. Think about the opening of his own concerto, then back to the young composition student in Leipzig, copying out the beginning of the Schumann. If anything illustrates this overlayering, this thought experiment should do. Where did the composition of Grieg’s Piano Concerto begin? It’s a fascinating question, and one which composers, poets and artists have grappled with, and been inspired by, for centuries. After all, the most famous poem by Catullus, ‘Ille mi par esse deo videtur,/ille, si fas est, superare divos,/qui sedens adversus/ identidem te/spectat et audit’, is a direct translation of a masterpiece by Sappho, ‘???????? ????’. In 1939, Jose Luis Borges, played around with an extreme version of this, in his “Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote”, where he tells the story of a fictional autor, Menard, who argued that (in the 1800s), he could justify writing, Cervantes ‘Don Quixote’, word for word, as an original work! This is a fantasy, of course, but listen to what happens, when Matthews writes a set of variations on the shortest of Beethoven’s Op 119 Bagatelles (see above).

Update ! 13 7 23

Lots has happened – of which more later. But for now, here is the menu of music, and more for Saturday’s event at Linden Hall Studio.

Deal Music & Arts Festival 2023

Linden Hall Studio, Deal – July 15th

Salon Concert -‘talk, film and violin’

Peter Sheppard Skærved – Violin (Girolamo Amati 1629, Antonio Stradivari 1685)

With – Joanna Jones – Painter, Malene Skærved – Filmmaker, Mihailo Trandafilovski – Composer

The Violin in Britain 1650-1700

Thomas Baltzar (1630-1663) – ‘A set of Tunings’ (Scordatura AEac#) Mus.1125

Giovanni Battista Vitali (1632-1692) – ‘Partite sopra diverse Sonate’ Ms.244

Nicola Matteis (Matheis) (c. 1650 – 1713?)- ‘Preludio in ostinatione’& ‘a Due corde’

Anon/copied Franz Rost (1640-1688) – ‘Allemande Violino solo sine Basso’ (Scordatura ADad)



Joanna Jones – ‘I am bringing something with me’ #3 & #6 Egg tempera on canvas (2020)


Works for Peter Sheppard Skærved 2012 – 2023

Mihailo Trandafilovski – ‘blue spiral, white waves’ after Joanna Jones ‘I am bringing something with me’ (2023)

World Premiere

Sadie Harrison – from ‘Gallery Books’: ‘The Flight of Swallows’ ‘Scheherazade’ ‘It rubs off’ ‘Same Strand’ (2012)

Michael Alec Rose – From ‘Knowledge Exchange Violin’ ‘Two Rivers Across the Pond’ (for RSPB Farnham Maltings), ‘Saint Tour (for the National Gallery of Art Washington DC), ‘Rode Trip’ (for the Ashmolean Museum Oxford)



‘Body Paint/Joanna Jones’ -Directed and filmed by Malene Skærved (Lassiegold Productions 2019)


The music, art, and film seen and heard today is by artists who know and inspire each other. Dover-based artist Joanna Jones has been responding to composer/violini Mihailo Trandafilovski’s work for over a decade, and today he responds in kind. Mihailo plays in the Kreutzer Quartet with Peter Sheppard Skærved’ they premiered Sadie Harrison’s ‘The River Dreams of Winter’ at the Aldeburgh Festival last month. Nashville-based composer Michael Alec Rose has been writing music for Mihailo and Peter for many years, and the group of pieces which will be heard today are inspired by Peter’s recent work with art galleries and landscapes in the USA and UK. His ‘Two Rivers across the pond’ was premiered on Farnham Heath as part of Malene Skærved’s film, ‘Music and Landscape-A Meditation’. Peter has collaborated with Sadie Harrison since they were in their twenties, and today he will play a selection of works she wrote in response to his drawings and paintings. Most recently, Sadie has completed a string quartet inspired by Malene Skærved’s poetry. Malene and Peter have worked closely with Joanna Jones since 2012, when they first collaborated with Dover Arts Development on new music and writing inspired by the history and communities of this area.


The history of Deal in the 17th century is a rich one, from the naval encounters that took place just off sure, through to the beautiful vernacular architecture of the day that can be found few steps from today’s venue. In the second half of the 1600s, international musicians flooded into the UK, bringing the newest music and instruments from Italy, France, and the German-speaking countries. Today’s salon offers a glimpse of this music, on violins of the period, in just the kind of environment that those touring virtuosi, like Baltzar and Matteis, would recognise – where music, writing, art and conversation overlap and stimulate each other.