John Gough had the inspired idea to bring a young string quartet to Paxos in 1986 to play under the olive trees . The performances by the Mistry Quartet, who were studying at the Guildhall at the time, caught the imagination of Paxiots and visitors to the island. The success of this venture ensured the founding of the Paxos Festival Trust the following year.
Over the intervening quarter of a century, that idea has enabled talented young musicians to develop their musical skills in idyllic surroundings, share their passion for music, and have fun.
Many musicians acclaim the influence of the festival on their careers. Distinguished alumni include Jagdish Mistry, Leonidas Kavakos, Vasilis Christopoulos and Jonathan Cohen; their mentors have included Julian Jacobsen, Neyire Ashworth, Pal Banda, Phil Gibbon, Caroline Palmer and fellow tutors from the Guildhall School of Music, London.
John also devised ambitious works with local players, and this has led to highly successful choral workshops and performances by Paxiots of all ages.
John’s last major initiative in 2004 was to assist outstanding young Greek musicians to become versed in contemporary music, including that of Greek composers such as Skalkottas and Xenakis. They were tutored in workshops on Paxos by Jagdish Mistry with fellow members of Ensemble Modern, and subsequently formed the Ergon Ensemble, now established as an important part of Greek concert scene.
The established Autumn Festival was continued in parallel through the endeavours of Hilary and Geoffrey Herdman in raising funds to bring advanced students and teachers from the GSMD.
2011 marked the 25th anniversary of the first concert in John’s garden with a programme devised by Lara Dodds-Eden and a commemorative book published by the Trust with contributions from many who had ensured the Festival’s future.
The Festival has transformed itself in many ways over time but the integrity and ambitions of John’s original vision remain fundamental to its future.