Booking opens today for the 2009 Lichfield Festival. Artistic director Richard Hawley talks Terry Grimley through some of the highlights.
You can find some music by Haydn and Mendelssohn in this year’s Lichfield Festival, but unlike many of its rivals it isn’t shaped by 2009’s bumper crop of composers’ anniversaries.
“I’ve tended to avoid themes,” says director Richard Hawley. “There’s not a lot of Haydn, Handel or Mendelssohn, but I think storytelling is one thread that can be followed through.”
That links with the festival’s strategy of adding more events aimed at families. A prime example is Tim Sutton’s Dreamfighter, based on stories by Ted Hughes, which has been jointly commissioned by the festival and the Scottish Ensemble, who perform it alongside the Taplow Choir and narrator Hannah Conway: “That will be a really fun storytelling event,” says Hawley.
Major musical ensembles include the CBSO and music director Andris Nelsons, who give the closing event in the Cathedral on July 18, and The Sixteen, one of Britain’s leading choirs, who give a concert of music by Purcell and James MacMillan on July 16 – coincidentally, MacMillan’s 50th birthday.
The Sixteen are one of several distinguished but contrasted choirs taking part this year, along with The Great Voices of Bulgaria and Black Voices performing with the Lichfield Festival Chorus.
The Australian String Quartet launches a short UK tour at Lichfield with a programme of its own including the Quartet No.8 by its compatriot Peter Sculthorpe and a joint one with the Barbirolli Quartet which includes Mendelssohn’s Octet.
The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain, which makes its debut at the Proms this year, returns after previous appearances at Lichfield in 2006 and 2008.
Also returning is Fyfe Hutchins, alias Fyfe Dangerfield of Mercury Prize nominated pop group Guillemots, who composed two commissions for the festival in 2000 and 2003 and is due to release his first solo album of songs around the time of the festival.
“For this we gave him carte blanche and the way he chose to use that was to spend 70 minutes improvising at the piano,” says Hawley. “We’re hoping to do that in the Cathedral nave with seating in the round. It’s an opportunity to hear him doing something different – he’s choc-a-bloc with ideas.”
A musician from an earlier generation who also spans the rock and classical fields is Deep Purple’s Jon Lord, who has enjoyed renewed success in recent years with his Durham Concerto.
He will be presenting a special programme of his music in the Cathedral on July 17.
“The plan is to try to get him to play the Lichfield Cathedral organ, which I think he may do,” says Hawley. “Jon Lord is an extraordinary musician, and he has always been interested in things other than Deep Purple. He has always been composing easy to-listen-to classical music.
“What the festival has been talking to him about is doing that in a much more intimate setting.
“He’s performing with the Badke Quartet who are playing a classical programme the day before.
“He’s bringing a keyboard player and a drummer and a couple of voices, and he will do little bits and pieces. Jon Lord is part of the diversification of our audience.”
The Lichfield Festival runs from July 9-19. Booking is open now.
* www.lichfieldfestival.org Call the box office on 01543 412121