World class music in a heavenly setting – Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra is preparing for a fifth year of its exclusive Music at St Giles season.

Hosted by Lord Shaftesbury at the stunningly beautiful St Giles House in Wimborne, the series of concerts welcomes a host of world-renowned musicians to Dorset, to showcase what BSO chief executive Dougie Scarfe describes as "the highest quality music and food and setting".

Running from May to November, the events cater for an intimate gathering of a maximum 140 guests, who enjoy a drinks reception with sparkling wine from Dorchester's Langham Wine Estate, a chamber music concert and a fine dining experience catered by Beales Gourmet.

Since their conception in 2014, the concerts have built an enviable reputation, with musicians all over the world now clamouring for the chance to perform in the truly unique location that is St Giles House.

"Artists are coming to Dorset and they say playing in the house is unique because they play in concert halls all over the world," explains Dougie.

"For them to have the experience of playing in this really, intimate, beautiful place, they're so excited about it because it's so different.

"Even if they play that music in a concert hall, it's nothing like when they play it at St Giles."

Dougie first met Lord Shaftesbury at the beginning of 2013 when the family was living in one part of the house while it was being renovated.

He began a conversation with the fellow music lover about chamber music and suggested the house would be the perfect place to host a series of concerts which would bring it to life.

"So much of chamber music is really written to be played in this type of setting, to friends and family," explains Dougie.

"Quite often, they will be played in these great houses. Handel stayed in the house back in the 1800s, Elgar wrote music for members of the Shaftesbury family, so the house has quite a family history.

"From the BSO's perspective, it was a way we could bring really first class classical music to Dorset, to the house, and for us to showcase the fact that, here in Dorset we have a world class orchestra."

This year's series of concerts include top cellist Alban Gerhardt; pianist Melvyn Tan; the Elias String Quartet and British baritone Roderick Williams, before concluding with a candelight November evening featuring BSO soloists.

"We will have a beautiful ensemble of players," explains Dougie.

"We will have an Octet - eight strings players playing Mozart Serenade. There's something quite epic about when you get the big BSO group in a small venue. It gives the musicians a chance to give back – they find that really rewarding.

"It's the perfect finale."

Music at St Giles is a regular event on the calendar for many local music lovers, and Dougie is already working on next year's programme.

"Now that we are in our fifth year, we are at a place to start bringing people back," he says.

"They all want to come back. It's been a really great way for us to develop an interesting relationship with some of these amazing violinists, cellists.

"For us, it's the whole experience. Lord Shaftesbury is always there, he introduces the concert. You feel welcome, it's a privilege to be in the house – the setting is absolutely to die for.

"It needs to be uncompromisingly brilliant, because the house deserves it. There's a lot of incredible, world class things going on here in Dorset."

Lord Shaftesbury admits to being "inspired" by the BSO's passion and dedication.

"The combination of world-class musicians performing music in an intimate setting, in the way it was intended to be heard, is what makes the Music at St. Giles concerts so special," he says.

"The house has a long history of music and philosophy and it has always been an ambition of mine to continue that tradition. When a place has roots you feel compelled to keep them growing. My great passion is music and my father was a chairman of the London Philharmonic Orchestra, so from a personal point of view it has been hugely satisfying to bring music to the house in this way."


Tuesday, May 7: Alban Gerhardt on cello & Steven Osborne on piano

Wednesday, June 12: Pianist Melvyn Tan

Wednesday, July 17: Elias String Quartet

Thursday, October 3: Baritone Roderick Williams with Susie Allan on piano

Tuesday, November 12: BSO soloists