One of the most glorious things about being in Oxfordshire during summer is the ability to enjoy the water.
We might be a long car journey from the sea but that little fact doesn’t stop Oxonian folk from enjoying a paddle. Punt parties, narrowboats, pubs and eateries with gorgeous balconies, they are all booked up in the summer season; aiming for no less, the evening entertainments are similarly augmented by the riverside’s appeal.
Start July with a picnic on Magdalen School field followed by an hour-and-a-half of being punted through Oxford by a man singing madrigals at you.
The ‘Oxford Festival of the Arts’ really does have a huge variety of events programmed from the end of June to the very start of July, although this is probably the most frivolous of the lot.
July also sees a couple of our lesser-used venues come out of the woodwork for their summer-only seasons.
St Peter’s Church in Wallingford is positioned by the stunning bridge over the Thames; if you were feeling ambitious, you could get out your canoe and commune with nature before enjoying an evening’s music.
Being the height of the season for Music at St John’s, you can choose from Schubert’s piano music by Chandos Young Musician 2011 award winner Jinah Shim on July 2nd, guitarist Andrey Lebedev performing a number of folk inspired pieces on July 16th, or a mixed programme with saxophone and piano on July 30th.
Jinah Shim’s performance at the 2011 competition earned high praise from the chairman of the adjudicators, Richard Laing, predicting her to be ‘destined for an exciting career’. Perhaps this, alongside Lebedev’s concert, will be one of those rare opportunities to catch a young star in the making.
Andrey, who has won a full scholarship at the Royal Academy of Music, won the affection of Julian Bream back in 2014 and was hand-picked to play two commissioned pieces for the Trust, this being one.
The trump card for a summer evening in England has to be the outdoor performance – rare and mostly confined to opera and theatre, but glorious nonetheless.
My choice in July is a reworking of Aristophanes’ Lysistrata presented by Stanton House Opera – Lizzie Strata: Make Love - or War? If you don’t know the story, the clue is in the title...
If the subversive storyline and setting of the grounds of a large Victorian house aren’t enough to entice you in, they have strawberries from the farm next door and champagne for sale at the bar: College House, Stanton St John (22nd and 23rd July).
July then isn’t really a month for serious concert going but it is a month for frivolous fun...