CLASSICS from the Baroque period between 1600 and 1750 drifted out across the Iford Valley yesterday evening as live music returned to Wiltshire following more than three months in a Covid-19 coronavirus lockdown.

The owners of Iford Manor, William Cartwright-Hignett and his wife Marianne, have in just 12 days put together an impromptu Bounceback Festival 2020 over four evenings to Sunday to provide a celebration of live music from international artists.

They say the festival celebrates the reawakening of the live music scene and offers a platform for artists who have not been able to perform live for several months to make live music live again for the local community.

Last night’s concert featured baroque classics from Handel, Purcell and Bach, among others, masterfully brought to life by Sinfonia Britannica, a group comprising internationally-acclaimed musicians who regularly play with the top London orchestras.

Set in the stunning Iford Valley with the Iford Manor as a backdrop, a crowd of more than 120 people were able to spread out on the field next to the River Frome and enjoy a socially distanced picnic while the nine members of Sinfonia Britannica performed ten Baroque blockbusters.

In the first half of the concert, the audience was treated to Handel’s Concerto Grosso Opus 3, Number 4; Purcell’s Chacony in G minor; Bach’s Air from Suite Number 3; Albinoni’s Oboe concerto in D minor with a superb solo by Katherina Sprecklesen and closing with Handel’s Passacaglia from Radamisto in a slight change to the programme.

After the interval, the second half opened with Handel’s Overture to Alexander’s Feast and continued with Pachelbel’s Canon; Bach’s Jesu Joy of Man’s Desire; Purcell’s Suite from Abdelazar, and Handel’s Arrival of the Queen of Sheba.

Sinfonia Britannica was formed in 1999 by the oboist Anthony Robson and made its debut in a performance of Bach's Mass in B minor at Eton College. It provides orchestras of the highest standard for a wide variety of choral and vocal groups and has rapidly become established as an outstanding and versatile ensemble.

Its musicians, all specialists in historical performance, work regularly with the UK's leading period instrument orchestras including the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Academy of Ancient Music and the English Baroque Soloists.

They played a wide selection of instruments that would have been used during the Baroque period, including the harpsichord, oboe, violin, clarinet and even a mighty bassoon, ably described by Crispin Woodhead, chief executive of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment.

The outstanding musicianship was a masterly performance from a group that is at the top of the profession and beautifully recreated the artistic style of the period.

Performances on all four evenings of the Iford Bounceback Festival are taking place outside, so dress for the British weather, although yesterday evening was overcast and grey but still warm until the concert ended just before 8.30pm.

Whilst most music lovers are desperate to get out again, safety is paramount. Everything at Iford Manor is being done firmly within government guidelines, to make sure people not only are safe, but feel safe too.

Audience can expect distancing between picnics, one-way routes, and a lot of hand-sanitiser.

Tonight Saturday, the electrifyingly-entertaining Joe Stilgoe, a multi-award-winning singer-pianist who regularly tours the world, and whose albums have topped the jazz charts four times, will perform at the festival with Ben Reynolds on drums and Tom Farmer on bass.

Finally, the festival weekend will close tomorrow Sunday with an opera gala hosted by international soprano Mary Bevan who brings with her an award-winning group of friends: Nicky Spence (tenor), William Thomas (bass), and Dylan Perez (piano), each of them no stranger to award nominations or taking the top prize.

There are still tickets available for the remaining performances and booking is open at

Performances (not in the main gardens at Iford, which are closed this year) are at BA15 2BA. Tickets start at £25 and are available either for socially-distanced picnic pitches or for seats at the back.

The festival is for over-18s only, with a maximum of six people in each party, in accordance with government guidelines.