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Aldeburgh Festival announces line-up for virtual event for 2020

PUBLISHED: 18:54 09 June 2020 | UPDATED: 11:18 10 June 2020

A performance of Grimes-on-the-Beach which is being screened as part of A Celebration of the Aldeburgh Festival 2020 Photo Robert Workman

A performance of Grimes-on-the-Beach which is being screened as part of A Celebration of the Aldeburgh Festival 2020 Photo Robert Workman

Archant

Aldeburgh Festival goes online this year with a celebration of spectacular past highlights and a series of podcasts and interactive treats.

Aldeburgh Musicircus which is being revisited online as part this year's virtual Aldeburgh Festival   Photo:Peter SilkAldeburgh Musicircus which is being revisited online as part this year's virtual Aldeburgh Festival Photo:Peter Silk

The Aldeburgh Festival has long been one of Suffolk’s – and the nation’s – cultural cornerstones. Every June the music world focusses its attention on the Suffolk coast and the Snape Maltings Concert Hall, in particular, for a celebration of the very best in contemporary and classical music.

New works and revivals sit side by side, along with art exhibitions, film screenings, talks, walks and explorations of some of the more intriguing works of its founder Benjamin Britten. However, this year, as we all know, is not a normal year and organisers the Britten-Pears Arts announced more than a month ago that this year’s festival would not be going ahead because of the Coronavirus lockdown.

But, as the proposed start date of the now cancelled festival looms ever closer, Britten-Pears Arts have announced a virtual celebration of the Aldeburgh Festival online, on radio and on TV to help bridge the gap until we can enjoy live music again.

Chief executive Roger Wright said: “It is difficult to fill the gap left by the first ever Aldeburgh Festival to be cancelled, but we are really pleased to be able to share a great line-up of hugely popular events to watch, listen to and interact with from June 12, all part of our Celebration of Aldeburgh Festivals.

“The staging of Britten’s Les Illuminations songs with circus performers in 2016 was spectacular and we are delighted to show the film for the first time ever on the “opening night” this Friday. We’re also particularly pleased to have one of our most popular events in recent decades, Peter Grimes on Aldeburgh Beach, available to watch on BBC iPlayer very shortly.

“BBC Radio 3 will broadcast a series of concerts from the last decade and BBC Four will show the fascinating documentary Britten on Camera. We will also offer everyone the chance to create your own Aldeburgh Musicircus, with an interactive digital experience based on the remarkable 2014 event.”

He added that they are launching an interactive website project called Festival Memories asking for members of the public to contribute their experiences of the Aldeburgh Festival over the years which will add to an ever-growing timeline as well as adding detail to a long-term ‘memory-store’ which will archive people’s impressions and memories of 72 years of the Aldeburgh Festival.

Using material from this ‘memory-store there will also be a series of podcasts, articles and social media projects giving insights into the extraordinary range and quality of the Festival over the years.

Roger Wright outside the Snape Maltings Concert Hall. Picture: Matt JollyRoger Wright outside the Snape Maltings Concert Hall. Picture: Matt Jolly

“We hope everyone will enjoy this celebration of the festival’s special history and will “stay tuned” for news of our plans to welcome audiences back to Aldeburgh and Snape as soon as possible.”

From Friday June 12 The Celebration of Aldeburgh Festivals will form part of BBC Arts’ Culture in Quarantine offering online, on TV and radio, keeping the arts and culture in the homes of the public despite the impact of lockdown.

The schedule is as follows:

Soprano Sarah Tynan in Illuminations, the circus opera, which opened the Aldeburgh Festival in 2016    Photo: Mark AllanSoprano Sarah Tynan in Illuminations, the circus opera, which opened the Aldeburgh Festival in 2016 Photo: Mark Allan

Friday June 12, 7pm: BBC Four - Britten on Camera

Commissioned for Britten’s centenary in 2013, Britten on Camera, narrated by James Naughtie, presents some of the highlights of Britten’s broadcast legacy. He was one of the great classical composers of the broadcasting age and his music was regularly performed on radio and television throughout his working life. This documentary explores the dynamic relationship he developed with the BBC to bring classical music to wider audiences. Contributors include David Attenborough, Michael Crawford, Humphrey Burton and Nicholas Kenyon.

Friday June 12, 9pm: Film premiere – Illuminations (Britten Pears Arts’ YouTube channel)

A fairy silhouetted against the set of Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream, directed and designed by Netia Jones, at Aldeburgh Festival 2017  Photo:Hugo GlendinningA fairy silhouetted against the set of Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream, directed and designed by Netia Jones, at Aldeburgh Festival 2017 Photo:Hugo Glendinning

The 2016 Aldeburgh Festival opened to great critical acclaim with Illuminations, a new work for soprano, string orchestra and an ensemble of circus performers. Inspired by the sensuality and symbolism of the poems by Rimbaud set in Britten’s song cycle Les Illuminations, director Struan Leslie created a newly-commissioned staging fusing music and contemporary circus performance. Soprano Sarah Tynan joined an ensemble of nine international circus performers, Aurora Orchestra and conductor Nicholas Collon in a devised performance. It will remain available on demand for the following 30 days.

Date and time to be confirmed: Peter Grimes on Aldeburgh Beach on BBCiPlayer

In 2013 as part of Britten’s centenary celebrations, Aldeburgh Festival presented an unforgettable open-air staging of Britten’s Peter Grimes on the very beach that inspired the opera, set against the dramatic backdrop of the North Sea. The cast was led by Alan Oke in the title role and Giselle Allen as Ellen Orford. Steuart Bedford conducted the Britten-Pears Orchestra and the Choruses of Opera North and Guildhall School of Music & Drama. It became one of the most talked about events of the year. Peter Grimes on Aldeburgh Beach will be available shortly.

An Aldeburgh Musicircus

A memorable event took place in 2014 when Aldeburgh Festival presented a version of John Cage’s Musicircus which took over the town of Aldeburgh for two hours. Cage’s concept was to invite anyone to perform anything they want to at the same time. Cage famously said, “You won’t hear anything: you’ll hear everything.” The Aldeburgh Festival performance featured around 1,000 performers, from artists and ensembles featured in the Festival to local bands and community music groups – the largest ever gathering of musicians in Aldeburgh with performances all over the town. Audiences can now create and mix their own Musicircus with an interactive digital experience based on the 40 performances that were filmed. This web app is available here.

BBC Radio 3

BBC Radio 3 has been broadcasting from the Aldeburgh Festival for more than 50 years, and delves into the archive to broadcast six memorable concerts from the last decade.

John Wilson with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra (June 19, 7.30pm, BBC Radio 3 in Concert)

John Wilson conducts the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra in a concert from 2018 which explored Britten’s wartime experience of America, the relationships that took him there and echoes of home. The programme features the first performance of Colin Matthews’ orchestration of Britten’s Seven Sonnets of Michelangelo with tenor Robert Murray, Britten’s Sinfonia da Requiem, Copland’s Quiet City and Bernstein’s Symphony No. 2 The Age of Anxiety with pianist Cédric Tiberghien.

Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream (June 20, 6.30pm, Opera on 3)

Netia Jones’ new production of Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream opened the 2017 Festival bringing to life the captivating tale of lovers, rustics and fairies. Conducted by Ryan Wigglesworth, it features a cast of internationally renowned singers including Iestyn Davies (Oberon), Sophie Bevan (Tytania), Matthew Rose (Bottom), Clive Bayley (Theseus) and Andrew Shore (Quince).

Sir Simon Rattle and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (June 23, BBC Radio 3 in Concert)

Sir Simon Rattle conducts the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (CBSO) in a performance of Messiaen’s Et exspecto resurrectionem mortuorum and Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde from the 2011 Festival. He is joined by soloists Magdalena Kozena and Michael Schade.

Cédric Tiberghien and the Chiaroscuro Quartet (June 24, 7.30pm, Radio 3 in Concert)

In 2018 Cédric Tiberghien and the period strings of the Chiaroscuro Quartet explored chamber music by German romantic greats with a programme including Schumann’s Fantasy Op. 17 and his Piano Quintet alongside Mendelssohn’s String Quartet Op. 12.

Lionel Meunier with Vox Luminis (June 25, 7.30pm, BBC Radio 3 in Concert)

In 2017 Lionel Meunier and his award-winning Belgian early music vocal group Vox Luminis made their Aldeburgh Festival debut. This programme from Blythburgh Church marked the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s Reformation and includes two Bach Cantatas set alongside Schütz’s Musikalische Exequien.

Oliver Knussen: the world premiere of Philip Cashian’s The Book of Ingenious Devices (June 26, 7.30pm, BBC Radio 3 in Concert)

Oliver Knussen had a long-standing relationship with both the Aldeburgh Festival and the BBC Symphony Orchestra. This performance was Knussen’s final concert. One of Knussen’s typical programmes, it features the world premiere of Philip Cashian’s The Book of Ingenious Devices, a piano concerto in a single movement performed by Huw Watkins, Morton Feldman’s Structures and music by Aaron Copland - Music for a Great City, and the Appalachian Spring Suite.

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