A “Big Music Weekend” is being staged at a North-East cultural attraction with a series of tuneful events, including its first-ever Piano Festival.

It starts on Friday, October 18, when Ushaw, near Durham, will welcome leading English baritone, Sir Thomas Allen, who will open the Ushaw Centre for Music Education and Retreat in the old infirmary building.

Sir Thomas, who comes from Seaham, and is regarded as one of the best lyric baritones of the late 20th century.

That will be followed on Saturday, October 19, between 12 noon and 2.00pm, with Ushaw presenting The Singing Elf – aka Rebecca Garvie – as part of its involvement in World Singing Day.

Rebecca said: “Ushaw College is a magnificent place with so much to explore, and the sound of our voices coming together and echoing around the spaces will be something very special indeed.”

Participants don’t need to be able to read music or have any previous experience of singing. The workshop is free, although singers are invited to pay what they feel at the end. Advance booking is advised, at www.thesingingelf.co.uk.

Jonathan Ward, Commercial Director at Ushaw added: “We’re so excited to welcome the Singing Elf to Ushaw as part of a fantastic weekend of music. We just can’t wait to hear the place alive with song.”

From 11am to 5pm on Saturday, visitors will be encouraged to ‘come and play’ one of the many pianos located around the college.

As well as the singing workshop, the weekend will feature Ushaw’s first Piano Festival, curated and directed by Festival Director, Alex Chisholm-Loxley.

It begins at 7.30pm, on Friday 18, with a solo recital from Newcastle-based pianist, composer and improviser, Paul Taylor, and continues at 12 noon on Saturday, 19, with an organ recital from Michael Grave – organist of St. Mary the Virgin Parish Church at Whickham – with songs interspersed in the programme sung by his wife, Jean.

At 2.30pm, Alex Chisholm-Loxley will play three of Beethoven’s most distinctive and dramatic piano sonatas; the Pathetique, more correctly know as Piano Sonata No. 8 in C minor, Op. 13; Piano Sonata No. 14 in C♯ minor “Quasi una fantasia”, Op. 27, No. 2, popularly known as the Moonlight Sonata; and Piano Sonata No. 23 in F minor, Op. 57, colloquially known as the Appassionata.

On Sunday, October 20, at 12 noon, professional musician and innovator, Annie Ball, will be presenting a programme on the theme of fantasy including: Ravel ‘Juex D’eux’;  John Ireland ‘Island Spell’; Sinding ‘The Rustle of Spring’;  Grieg ‘March of the Trolls’; Saints Seans ‘The Aquarium’;  and Liszt ‘Liebestraum no. 3’.

Bill Hilton and Alex Chisholm-Loxley will present a light-hearted talk, at 2.30pm, exploring the ways pianists improvise, looking into how improvisation works, and the theory, psychology and history behind it.

Everyone attending the concerts and recitals over the Big Music Weekend are being invited to pay what they think the event was worth.