Peter Bacon looks forward to 10 days when the music world heads for Lichfield.
The 2008 Lichfield Festival starts in grand style on Thursday (July 3) with an opening concert by the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and its star conductor Marin Alsop.
This will be the American conductor’s final appearance as the orchestra’s principal conductor, and they will play Dvorak’s New World Symphony and Tchaikovsky’s 1st piano concerto with Russian pianist Alexei Volodin as the soloist.
Other major events during the 10 days of the festival include performances by the Philharmonia Orchestra, the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain, the Puppini Sisters and the Hairy Bikers.
The festival offers a wide range of musical performers from tenor Mark Padmore, who will sing Schubert’s sublime song cycle Winterreise in Lichfield Cathedral to Mexican band Los de Abajo who will mix salsa, ska, reggae and hip hop on the Lichfield Garrick Theatre stage.
The festival has a reputation of supporting rising stars and this year they include 20-year-old German cellist Marie-Elisabeth Hecker, Birmingham-based jazz trumpeter Bryan Corbett, the Badke String Quartet, poet and recent 4Talent award winner Polarbear, and the Rosie Kay Dance Company.
Spoken word events include readings from the memoirs of Casanova by Timothy West, political analysis from foreign correspondent turned politician Martin Bell, the Independent gardening correspondent Anna Pavord, and cultural historian Sir Roy Strong offering his ideas on how our country churches can be revitalised.
Other highlights in Lichfield Cathedral include the Russian Chamber Philharmonic St Petersburg playing music for strings by Elgar, and Gershwin, Timothy West reading from Casanova’s memoirs with harpsichord accompaniment from Sophie Yates, top early music ensemble La Serenissima playing Vivaldi and other Italian Baroque composers influenced by him, the jazz/classical group Acoustic Triangle with added strings and performing in the round, and Humph Remembered, featuring the Humphrey Lyttelton Band with help from Wally Fawkes and Brian Perkins.
Birmingham artists play a major role this year with performances by the Rosie Kay Dance Company, the Bryan Corbett Quartet, city organist Thomas Trotter, the vocal trio The Passion which includes popular Birmingham jazz singer and pianist Sara Colman, and the MDCC theatre group which performs Henry V in two outdoor venues.
Attracting a younger crowd will be hip-hop poet PolarBear.
Chamber music and solo recitals, both in the Cathedral’s Lady Chapel and as part of FEAST (Festival Events Around Staffordshire) will include performances by trans-North Sea folk band Baltic Crossing, ZUM3, the Badke Quartet and Russian violinist Alina Ibragimova.
The Medieval Fayre & Market is on Saturday 5 July and will include performances and workshops by Daughters of Elvin.
The majority of the concerts and other events take place in Lichfield’s magnificent medieval cathedral and in the Lichfield Garrick Theatre.
Other performances occur throughout Lichfield district and around Staffordshire.
The Lichfield Festival is the premiere multi-arts festival in the West Midlands. Festival Director is Richard Hawley. The Lichfield Festival was recently shortlisted for a prestigious Royal Philharmonic Society award, regarded as the UK’s most prestigious recognition of achievement for live classical music.
The 2008 Lichfield Festival is supported by principal partner BMW Plant Hams Hall and funded by the National Lottery through Arts Council England and by Lichfield District Council. More information at www.lichfieldfestival.org