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3rd March 2010 AN ECCENTRIC MUSICAL EVENT IN THE....................
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HEART OF THE ENGLISH COUNTRYSIDE
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Newent is a small market town on the edge of the Three Choirs Festival triangle, near the Gloucestershire/Herefordshire/Worcestershire border and is celebrating a radical musical heritage this summer. It is the birthplace of Joe Meek and the final home of Rutland Boughton (died 50 years ago this year), both major figures in their respective music genres, who suffered and sank when their eccentric lifestyles alienated fans and family, and their musical achievements were eclipsed by personal torments.

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Newent Market House.

Vinyards at Newent.

The town, represented by the Newent Orchestra, one of the longest continuously-operating local orchestras, founded in 1940, is planning a major celebration of their lives in May. There are plans to play music by Rutland Boughton and a new animated film of extracts from "The Immortal Hour", shown for the first time at last year's Glastonbury Festival.

A new piece written by the orchestra's leader, Bill Anderton, in homage to Joe Meek will be premiered, with members of the families of both musicians in attendance. Exhibitions will be mounted in the local library and Newent's medieval village hall with floral displays in the town.

Rutland Boughton founded a colony of artists and the first Glastonbury Festival, an English "Bayreuth", just prior to the First World War, supported by Sir Edward Elgar and Sir Granville Bantock. Boughton, in his time, was as popular as his contemporary Vaughan Williams, and holds the record for the longest continuously running West End opera, "The Immortal Hour", an Arthurian saga. However, his allegiance with the communist party, which extended to him welcoming Paul Robeson to Newent, a love-hate relationship with music critic, George Bernard Shaw, and his reputedly wild lifestyle and abrasive manner contributed to a complete fall from grace.

Joe Meek, recent subject of a major biopic with Kevin Spacey, Con O'Neill and Ralph Little, was a pioneer of modern pop music and his protégés ranged from Chas of "Chas and Dave", to Mitch Mitchell of the Jimi Hendrix Experience and Welsh superstar, Tom Jones, to jazz innovator, Humphrey Littleton. His Telstar-type production techniques were hugely innovative but he descended into a morass of drug-fuelled madness and ended up blasting his landlady with a shotgun then shooting himself, not living to reap the benefits of his pioneering work.

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Rutland Boughton.

Joe Meek.

Newent is still steeped in rural English ways, a farming and horticultural centre with the Dymock Poets countryside just down the road. For the local community, bringing all this up may be as controversial as the inspirational figures themselves were. Medieval Newent dates back to pre-Saxon times. With its twisting streets and mellowed brick houses it is in the council district of the Forest of Dean.

Rutland Boughton (1878 - 1960) today is now considered to be one of England's most important composers of his generation. He reached fame during the 1920s through the (still unbroken) record of consecutive performances in London of his Arthurian opera The Immortal Hour and established the first music festival in Glastonbury. During the second half of his life, he lived in Kilcot, composing some of his finest works. George Bernard Shaw said of Boughton, 'Now that Elgar has gone you have the only original personal English style.'

Joe Meek 1929 - 1967, was born and is buried in Newent. He was a pioneering record producer and songwriter. His most famous work was the Tornados hit, 'Telstar' (1962) which became the first record by a British group to hit No. 1 in the US Hot 100 and gave Meek an Ivor Novello award.

The Newent Orchestra was formed in 1940 by Clem Thurston who ran a grocery business in Newent. He was supported by the Rev. C.J.K. Burnell and his family who were virtually a small orchestra in themselves. Carline Crampton became the Newent Orchestra's first conductor. The orchestra has been rehearsing and presenting concerts since its inception at the beginning of the Second World War.


The Newent Orchestra.
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