As the shadow of the eclipse looms closer, it's time to head for Devon, where the Dartington International Summer School shines brightly until August 28. Dartington Hall always has a great atmosphere, as star musicians pull amateurs of all ages and abilities into their orbits. With about 40 courses on offer, the choice is massive and spans the world of Western music as well as other cultures and traditions. Walking around you're likely to hear flamenco guitar, viol and sackbutt, jazz improvisation, African drumming, a choral mass and electronic soundscapes.
Since Dartington is in the narrow band of Britain that will witness a total eclipse on August 11, its Total Eclipse Project is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Director David Bedford aims to create a new work as a prelude to the eclipse, using voices, wind, brass and strings. The main problem with using several groups of musicians is, he says, "finding some common musical material that holds everything together".
On this occasion, Bedford has updated Kepler's harmony of the spheres chord - which the astronomer created after studying the planetary orbits and assigning a ratio (corresponding to musical forms such as, for example, an octave) to each planet. Bedford "added Neptune, Uranus and Pluto, which Kepler didn't know about" and has come up with a chord that has never been used in music before.
"My course is called 'A Week at the Knees', which refers to how the participants feel when I tell them what they have to do," he says. "About half the performers are young people: they are endlessly inventive, and have lots of energy and enthusiasm." Themed performances planned for eclipse day include Haydn's Sunrise Quartet, the Eclipse scenes from Handel's Samson and nocturnes and the Moonlight Sonata.
Dartington's other music-making courses are suitable for younger players, and give teachers valuable experience of world music. They include Balinese Gamelan, West African drumming; a Cuban, Brazilian and African percussion workshop; and the Young Music-Makers theme this year is the gypsy tradition.
On the other side of England, the mountains are alive with the sound of music. The Lake District Summer Music festival, which runs from July 31 to August 14, celebrates its 15th anniversary. With venues dotted around a spectacular landscape, it offers the chance to visit Windermere, Keswick and Kendal to the sound of quartets, chamber groups and soloists. Highlights include the Chilingirian String Quartet, King's Consort and the Apollo Saxophone Quartet.
What makes this music-fest special is its abundance of young performers. Billed as Artists of the 21st Century, Natsuko Yoshimoto (winner of the 1996 ShellLSO competition), Rafal Payne (1996 Young Musician of the Year) and the Northern Junior Philharmonic Orchestra play Gershwin, Schubert, Mozart and much, much more.
With its combination of master classes and festival, the event attracts about 80 students every year and focuses on chamber music. Pianist Renna Kellaway, the event's founder-director, says: "We aim to integrate study and performance. The person who studies music has a huge advantage - music makes the mind acute." The Lake District event is one way of trying to "fill the terrible gaps in music tuition in schools". There's also a children's workshop (six to 1 0-year-olds) and a new education outreach programme, which involves local schools and concerts in small communities.
The Harrogate International Festival, which runs until August 7, offers music for all occasions, from jazzy saxophones to bluesy guitars, from philharmonic orchestras to celebrity recitals. Highlights this year include Christopher Hogwood and the Academy of Ancient Music, the Philharmonia led by Richard Norrington, the UK percussion quartet Ensemble Bash, the Moscow Chamber Orchestra, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, and jazz performers Martin Taylor and Ray Brown. There's also the chance to get a glimpse of the Edinburgh Fringe a couple of weeks before the Edinburgh Festival begins.
Dartington Hall, tel: 01803 865988, Lake District Summer School, tel: 01539 733411; Harrogate, tel: 01423 537230