The Paxos Music Festival was the brainchild of John Gough. For many years, he was the festival: its instigator, its organiser and its funder. John had had a house in Paxos for a quarter of a century and loved the island and its people: their culture and their way of life. Friends came and understood the special qualities of the island and from this came the idea of focusing his passion for music into a Paxos festival. The first event, over 30 years ago, took place under the trees in his garden. From these simple beginnings the festival grew, developing relationships with the island community and international performers, particularly the pianist Julian Jacobson and the violinist Jagdish Mistry.
Together John and Julian, with Jagdish’s input, organized impressively ambitious annual festivals, usually in September, with teachers and about ten student participants.
John Gough initiated the concept of inviting outstanding young musicians to come to Paxos and be given intensive coaching in a broad repertoire of chamber music and to demonstrate the results in open rehearsals and performances before Paxiots and visitors of all ages.
The success of the first season led to the formation of the Paxos Festival Trust in 1987 as a registered charity with the object of advancement of education in music and the promotion of the understanding of music to a wider public. The charity was non profit making, with a board of English and Paxiot directors living on or visiting the island, giving their time and resources for free.
Concerts were held in various Paxiot venues including a memorable series of performances of Stravinsky’s ‘Soldier’s Tale’ in the circular disco Aloni. Over the years the opportunity to study intensively and perform in Paxos has been a very special experience for many high profile musicians in the course of their development.
By 2004 John decided that the festival could extend in a new direction, which led to the initiation of a Paxos Spring Festival. Jagdish and the I.E.M.A (International Ensemble Modern Academy) from Frankfurt came to train outstanding Greek musicians in a broad range of 20th century and new music, beginning with daily masterclasses on the island, followed by a series of winter concerts at the Megaron in Athens. This concept won the Greek Union of Music and Drama Critics award in 2009 and resulted to the creation of ERGON Contemporary Music Ensemble.
In parallel, the Autumn Festival continued until 2010 with talented musicians from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, appealing to the more traditional audiences who come to Paxos.
In 2008 the Trust raised a special educational grant in the UK of £10,000 for the purchase of musical instruments for the children, who are being taught by specialist teachers in the Municipal Music School.
The first children’s music workshop was organized in 2011. From 2013 until 2015 Dimitra Trypani, composer and Lecturer at the Music Department of the Ionian University guided artistically this part of the festival, creating a creative bridge between the music students and professors of the Music Department, the local music school and the Children’s choir of the local Cultural Association.
In 2013 started the festival’s collaboration with Choir director Aneljia Stefanova and the Youth and Children’s choir of “Armonia” in Preveza. All the wonderful productions deriving from those collaborations were funded mainly by J.F.COSTOPOULOS Foundation.
After Gough’s death in 2006, his close friend Nick Thompson became chairman of the Trust. With the help of Trustees like the Herdman couple, Roger Blears, Miles Stockwell, Ivana Jenkins, Nada Geroulanos, John Whiteman and many others Paxos Festival managed to live, create, evolve and grow for 30 long years.
FRIENDS OF PAXOS non profit association (FoP) succeeded the Paxos Festival Trust in the production of the festival in 2015.
The festival remains funded almost exclusively by charity, donations and sponsoring from Greek and foreign sources.
FoP aims to work for the festival so that it continues to grow in scale and quality each year, bringing more visitors to the island, many of whom return annually specifically for the music and other art events.