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Tour Director
Practical Information

  • Music for Awhile, Onyx Brass Quintet and Gaudete! bring us the music of Christmas, from Bach, Handel and Purcell to traditional carols, in the atmospheric surroundings of Stapleford Granary

  • John Bryden and Nicholas Wearne introduce us to the majestic organ at Queens’ College, Cambridge

  • Sarah Burles leads us on an artistic journey through the Christmas story at the Fitzwilliam Museum, and pianist Paul Jackson delves into the history of the Christmas carol

“This was the highlight of my year. I was both enlightened and entertained!”

“It was outstanding from start to finish”

“I felt very welcome and superbly looked after”

- ACE customers on the 2021 Autumn Festival – Music in the Age of Enlightenment

This December we are delighted to present a sparkling seasonal edition of our cultural festival, developed in collaboration with Stapleford Granary. Hosted by several Tour Directors and incorporating a variety of superb performances, visits and lectures, our tour explores the art, music and culture of the Christmas period.


From a base at historical Madingley Hall we will enjoy excursions to Cambridge city centre to soak up its festive atmosphere, as well as to the beautiful 19th century farm buildings that make up Stapleford Granary. Surrounded by rolling fields and home to both the ACE Foundation and ACE Cultural Tours, Stapleford Granary has for many years nurtured fruitful relationships with many of the country’s leading ensembles, and we are pleased that three magical evenings will be spent attending concerts from its series of 2022 festive programming.


Our tour opens with an intimate candlelit performance of arias from Bach’s Christmas Oratorio and excerpts from Handel’s Messiah, brought to us by Music for Awhile and their Artistic Director Professor Margaret Faultless, a specialist in historical performance practice and leader of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment. Music for Awhile captivated ACE travellers with their evocative, wonderfully expressive playing during our 2021 Enlightenment Festival and we are delighted to be able to include this concert on our winter tour.


The festival continues with a special performance from Onyx Brass Quintet – “the classiest brass ensemble in Britain” (BBC Music Magazine) – playing ahead of their 30th anniversary celebrations in 2023. Their musical programme will feature festive pieces including Bach’s Nun Komm der Heiden Heiland, Tallis’s O Nata Lux and Holst’s In the Bleak Midwinter, as well as some new pieces.


Our final night will transport us back to Yuletides past with Gautede!– a specially expanded Christmas line-up led by “modern-day balladeers” Chris Green and Sophie Matthews. Green and Matthews specialise in “telling stories through song… taking their cue from ancient troubadour tradition”, with an approach that is deeply rooted in history while reaching out to modern day audiences. Green and Matthews will be joined by historical performance researcher Emily Baines on early woodwinds and Richard Heacock on violin; together they will bring us a repertoire of winter folk songs and traditional carols spanning the Middle Ages to the 20th century.


Daytime highlights will include an exclusive visit to Queens’ College, Cambridge, in the company of expert organists John Bryden and Nicholas Wearne. The three-manual Binns organ at Queens’, built in 1892 and restored in 2002 by Harrison & Harrison, is considered “one of the finest instruments in all of Cambridge”. Uniquely, it remains tonally unaltered since it was built, and as a result has attracted a number of professional and concert organists from around the world to play upon it. We look forward to a private recital in the evocative surroundings of the 19th century chapel, designed by Gothic Revival architect G F Bodley, as well as an introduction to the history of the college.


The Christmas season has given rise to a rich array of artistic creations: not only a wealth of beautiful choral and orchestral music, but also majestic paintings. Our understanding of the pictorial art inspired by the Christmas story will be enriched by a lecture and guided tour of works of art in Cambridge’s Fitzwilliam Museum with art historian Sarah Burles. Meanwhile, musicologist Paul Jackson will explore the history of the Christmas carol in a special illustrated lecture, and our itinerary will also include talks introducing and illuminating the evening concerts.


This festival will be hosted throughout by ACE Tour Director Paul Jackson, BA, MA, PGCE. Paul is a conductor, pianist and musicologist, as well as the former Director of Music at Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge. He has enjoyed an extensive career as a conductor of opera and as a chamber musician, performing widely in the UK, Europe and America. He will give a lecture on the history of the Christmas carol, as well as providing a warm welcome to the group.


Paul will be joined for the first two days of our tour by fellow Tour Director Nicholas Wearne, BA, MPhil. Nicholas is a former ACE Bursary student and currently a tutor and Junior Fellow at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire. His career as a solo organist has taken him all over the world, and he has held a number of prestigious positions as organist, including at St Martin-in-the-Fields, Trafalgar Square.


For the final two days of our tour, Paul will be joined by art historian and Tour Director Sarah Burles, MA. Sarah read History of Art at the University of Cambridge before developing a career in museum and gallery education, which included twelve years at the Fitzwilliam Museum, as well as work in other Cambridge museums. She is an accomplished tour leader and an accredited Arts Society lecturer.


The festival will also feature guest musician John Bryden, MA, ARCM, ARCO, who read Music at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, and is a member of the Dartington Piano Duo. John has played across Britain and Europe as a soloist, accompanist and chamber musician. John will join the group at Queens’ College, as well as for a celebratory recital on our final morning.

Tour Code

We have availability in various room types.

Please call us to discuss on

01223 841055.

Included: accommodation based on sharing a twin or double bedded room, performances & lectures as described, breakfast, dinner with wine, water & coffee, excursions & admissions, gratuities.

Not Included: travel insurance, single room supplement £95, compact double room for single use supplement £125, double room for single use supplement £145.

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