Heavenly music in Agatha Christie’s country house haunt

Friends of Buxton International Festival learnt all about harps in a heavenly location for their latest  music and lunch event in the heart of the Peak District.

Upper House – which began life as a medieval manor house at the foot of Kinder Scout and was later the Mayor of Manchester’s grouse shooting lodge – hosted the Septentrion Duo, students Kathryn Mason and Alice Roberts from the Royal Northern College of Music.

Part of the Friends’ exciting series of music in unusual locations, the concert mixed favourites such as Satie’s Gymnopedy with sound poems and work by Nino Rota, who won an Oscar for his Godfather II theme.

Kathryn and Alice, who used the Latin for “From the North” to name their duo, also gave demonstrations on how harpists created such a wide range of sounds from their instruments, which start at £16,000 each. One vital piece of equipment for harpists was a very large estate car, said Alice.

Upper House was redeveloped by James Watts, a cotton baron and mayor of Manchester in 1856, whose son married Agatha Christie’s sister. The crime writer spent many holidays in the country house, arriving by train at Marple Station – which was just the ticket when looking for a name for her most famous detective.

Upper House is now owned by Friends’ member Nicky Hudson and her husband Paul, who have turned the remote and romantic home into a luxury retreat and wedding venue.

Friends Chairman David Brindley said: “We are indebted to them for providing such warm and generous hospitality in such an amazing setting.”

The previous event was a recital in the David Mellor Design Museum in Hathersage, and the next will be a recital and lunch in Cressbrook Hall overlooking the River Wye on September 10.

For more details about the Friends, who raise money and awareness for the Festival, go to http://www.buxtonfestival.co.uk/friends