Shaftesbury Fringe Announces This Year’s ‘Best In Show’

A musical performance celebrating the life of Martin Luther King, fifty years since his assassination, has been declared the Best Event at Shaftesbury Fringe, by its panel of judges.

‘Soul Of A Nation’ by The NMSW Trio also took the Best Music award. New Music In The South-West, to give the organisation its full name, is a not-for-profit body based in Bristol. It supports the development of young musicians across the West and promotes classical music.

Founder Julian Leeks is delighted that his show gained top marks. His group has been awarded a magnum of champagne and treats to the value of £100, thanks to David and Alice Perry of Shaftesbury Wines.

“It was a lovely evening. We received a lot of really pleasant comments and a few people had tears in their eyes at the end of the performance,” said Julian.

The musical score made Luther King’s moving story even more poignant. “A lady who was perhaps in her 70s, came up and said she had been going to concerts all of her life and she had never experienced anything as wonderful and profound,” Julian said. “When you experience that, you already know that it’s good.”

The performance had a strong Shaftesbury connection. “The piece that closed the concert was composed by Sadie Harrison who is a resident of Shaftesbury. It also featured a section for singer Michelle Ezigbo, a former student at Shaftesbury School,” Julian explained.

The Shaftesbury-based, close-harmony a cappella choir Palida, led by Karen Wimhurst, joined the NMSW musicians to create a memorable performance. “Palida were great. They put a lot of effort into new arrangements of the spirituals. They made a great contribution,” said Julian.

“The instrumentalists that we have in the NMSW Trio are established professionals. They’ve played with the London Sinfonietta, they’ve been on tour all over the world and to bring them into a venue like St Peter’s Church and to have a local amateur choir was a really great combination. It was nice to combine that professional element with the local element. It contributed a lot,” Julian said.

After their Shaftesbury Fringe success, the performers will continue with the show in a slightly amended format. “We are doing elements of it in other places. Obviously we can’t go touring around with Palida. It would be expensive transport-wise,” said Julian. “We are doing three of the pieces that were commissioned in relation to Martin Luther King at a concert at St George’s in Bristol on 23rd September.”

Julian says they’d like to return to Fringe next year. “Shaftesbury is such a lovely place, anyway. It’s really nice doing something as part of the festival because it does have a joyful atmosphere. We were lucky that there was such beautiful weather and everybody was in a good mood. It made a real difference,” he said.

So will NMSW come back in 2019? They have a title to defend, now. “It would depend on being able to come up with a concept that works. We don’t want to just shoehorn these things in. If we can come up with something, then I would be delighted to come back next year,” said Julian.

The Fringe judges felt that the Shaftesbury School Choir was deserving of the Best in Fringe Youth award.

The Best Spoken Word and Poetry title was given to The Bard of Windmill Hill.

Comedy mind reader Doug Segal won the Best Comedy category and local singer Samantha’s montage of amusing songs from the musicals won her the Best Cabaret award.