Set in some of Bath’s most iconic buildings (theAbbey, the Forum, the Guildhall) and its hidden gems (Cleveland Pools, the Masonic Hall) the 2015 Festival celebrates the incredible talents of the musicians and the atmosphere of the extraordinary venues for which Bath is famed. Bath International Music Festival Friday 15 – Tuesday 26 May
The Abbey: 20 May expect spiritual grandeur and an evening to treasure with Thomas Trotter, one of the world’s leading organists. A rare treat. 22 May Stile Antico present a truly irresistible programme of Renassiance choral masterpieces.
Old Theatre Royal at Bath Masonic Hall: The Late Night Series
12 Orchard Street is an anonymous building on a quiet cobbled backstreet in this city of architectural gems but behind the door is a unique 265 year history during which it became the first Theatre Royal outside London. A glorious, intimate “must see” space. 16 May BBC Folk Musician of the YearSam Sweeneypremieres a new collaboration with Emily Portman 23 May jazz singer/songwriter Gwyneth Herbert 24 May daring free-jazz experiments with Orphy Robinson’s Black Top
St Mary’s Bathwick: 23 May. A rare chance to see what has been described as perhaps the greatest work in all British jazz. Mike Westbrook – The Westbrook Blake combining thrilling jazz & William Blake’s mighty poetry with Glad Day & Bath Camerata. * Festival Artist in Residence Steven Osborne’s 2015 highlight. 24 May An extraordinary musical journey, as one of Messiaen‘s greatest living interpreters, Steven Osborne performs Messiaen Vingt Regards, virtuosic, extrovert, grand, intimate and heartbreakingly tender in this church with an exceptional heritage in music, lit for this special evening by candlelight.
Cleveland Pools: The UK’s only surviving Georgian Lido
24 May Red Note Ensemble, Scotland’s leading contemporary music ensemble return to Bath for this special concert at Bath’s much loved atmospheric disused lido, situated between the River Avon and Kennet & Avon Canal; the perfect chance to see the pools before its transformation begins.
St Swithin’s Church
Two fabulous opportunities to hear John Butt, one of the world’s leading authorities play Bach in Bath’s only surviving Georgian Church. Goldberg Variations on the 24 & Violin Concertos with the Dunedin Consort on 25 May
Film lovers 21 May Game of Thrones and Harry Potter actress Natalia Tena’s band Molotov Jukebox storm Komedia with a set guaranteed to make you dance. On 23 May as befits this Grade II listed art-deco cinema Goldfrapp’s Will Gregory will perform live musical accompaniment to a screening of a neglected MGM Lon Chaney masterpiece of the silent screen (if you liked Joan of Arc at Bath Abbey you’ll love this) and House anthems are given a gospel twist by House Gospel Choir on 25 May (House Gospel Choir FREE to under 18s) * see conditions below
*FREE to under 18 events. 1 paying adult is eligible for up to 2 free tickets for under 18s. These tickets are not available online. Please call the Bath Box Office on 01225 463 362 or in person and quote FAMILY FORUM
We are delighted to announce The Hot Sardineswill play a second gig at Bath Guildhall on Saturday 16 May, due to popular demand. The first performance has now sold out but tickets to the second gig starting at 10pm have just been released on line. Book now to avoid disappointment.
The 2015 Bath International Bath Music Festival opens on 15 May with Party in the City and continues until Sir Willard White’s festival finale on Tuesday 26 May. We very much hope you will join us at the Festival in its 67th year, bringing the very best of Classical, Jazz, World and Folk to Bath. Celebrated names playing the Festival in Bath in May include Festival Artist in Residence Steven Osborne, his three concerts during the Festival have been picked by BBC Music Magazine as one of the ‘Top 20 UK Unmissable Events’; we also welcome jazz legend Hugh Masekela and many more. Here’s an overview of the exciting line-up. General Booking is now open.
Also on offer a guaranteed party with the Tropical-Gypsy-Dance sounds of Natalia Tena (Game of Thrones, Harry Potter) and her band Molotov Jukebox.
All that and a ‘bring your family’ event withHouse Gospel Choir at Komedia. House anthems and gospel made for dancing, as seen at Glastonbury.
We are delighted to have attracted some of the world’s finest soloists and groups in 2015. Amongst them is FestivalArtist in Residence one of the great pianists of his generation Steven Osborne; vocal legend Willard White and world famous organist Thomas Trotter. Prizewinning ensembles such as The Cremona Quartet, the Dunedin Consort, early music vocal ensemble Stile Antico and a very special gig at Cleveland Pools, the UK’s only surviving Georgian lido, from Red Note Scotland’s leading contemporary music ensemble– a do not miss.
2012 BBC Young Musician of the Year Laura Van Der Heijden performs with the European Union Chamber Orchestra; Schubert by Peter Manningand Renato Belsadonna, leading Harpsichord player and Bach authority John Butt, a series of exceptional lunchtime concerts and world class opera from Iford Arts.
Last night we were utterly charmed by the magnificent harpist Gabriella Dall’Olio. Gabriella played the second of our Late Night Series in the Old Theatre Royal, presenting a programme relating to sleep and dreams, including the world première of Nod, our Artistic Director Alasdair Nicolson‘s meditation on the Land of Nod.
Our intrepid PR Manager, Tamsin Treverton-Jones, took to the high seas in order to collar James Boyd and learn a little more about this fascianting performer ahead of his concert at Bath International Music Festival:
You have spoken about your fascination with Britten’s Nocturnal and how it has shaped your musical life. Can you say how?
Britten’s Nocturnal was the first piece I discovered that was completely free of any Spanish association or influence. It was the voice of a different landscape, redolent of the East Anglian salt marshes and the North Sea. Above all it seemed to rise from a deep silence, the kind of silence I would find when I spent time in the no-mans-land between the tides of the Norfolk and Suffolk coasts. The music was a thread leading back to the English renaissance but it also pointed the way forward to the possibility of a new repertoire for the guitar. That’s when I decided to give a large part of my career to advocating the classical guitar to the finest English composers.
Your programme for Bath includes this piece and two others by John Dowland, originally written for lute. What are the qualities of his music written for that instrument that draw you to it?
It’s music of incredible contrast and colour, full of playfulness and whimsy but often dark and melancholy. It’s impossible really to understand the fantasias without reference to the lute songs and there, in the playfulness of words can one find the key to Dowland’s particular genius. The conceits, the euphemisms and metaphors are all somehow still there when the voice has gone and all that is left is pure music. For me this is something very important, the idea of the human voice as a starting point for musical interpretation. Dowland made the lute sing through his exquisite use of melody but there is, too, a sense of poetry and rhetoric that make the instrument work in a way closely allied to the spoken word. Yehudi Menhuin said that the violin was the closest thing to the human voice. In pure singing terms this may well be true but there are, I feel, few instruments that come as close to the intimacy of speech and poetry as does the guitar.
You undertook a creative voyage of discovery, composition and performance around the east coast of Britain last year with your boat Concord. Are there any particular highlights of that trip?
One event is etched on my memory. Sea Change launched at the Aldeburgh Festival in 2012 and two nights before the Festival performance an unusually deep low that had been brewing over the Atlantic unleashed it’s fury on the East Coast of England. My boat, Concord, was lying on a mooring at Slaughden Quay and I was alone on board, preparing for the concert which contained two new pieces from Jonathan Dove and Elspeth Brooke. The idea had been to give the concert with tenor Robin Tritschler, row aboard Concord and sail off in front of the concert audience, taking my cargo of new music with me. The night the storm blew through I had hoped for a quiet evening in my bunk before rehearsals at Snape the next day but as the light failed it became clear this was not to be. The wind rose and the motion in the river became unbelievably violent. I couldn’t move upriver as it was now pitch black, the river is navigable safely only with local knowledge and is littered with moorings. I have sailed in high seas and rough weather but I’ve never been as scared as I was that night in the river: I was terrified Concord would lose one of her masts.
All night I stayed on watch, hunched over the stove, warming my hands around mugs of coffee before crawling back up on deck to check nothing had carried away. When morning came and the wind hadn’t abated I called for help from the local boatyard and with three men and two boats we finally managed to move Concord upriver to safety.
It was then I discovered a new problem. I had a rehearsal at Snape and there was no way I could get my guitar and me ashore. My dinghy had sunk in the night and the only place to get ashore was right at the end of that seething stretch of river where the water was hurling itself over the sea wall. It was with several misgivings but a rising feeling of desperation that I committed my priceless guitar and me to the boatyard’s workboat, a tiny thing spattered in old paint, oil and festooned with fag-ends of rope, and set off for the maelstom at the quay. I will never forget the sight of my guitar being hauled up the quayside on the end of a rope while I waited my chance to jump ashore as the boat was one moment fifteen feet below the quay and the next threatening to become airborne over it. Unshaven and weary I got to Snape for the rehearsal and had to sleep ashore that night as it was not possible to get back out to Concord. The day of the concert dawned with little change to the wind. Robin and I gave the concert at the Aldeburgh Yacht Club, a place that doesn’t have the greatest acoustic in the world but does have amazing views over the river. The Festival audience made the long walk from the town to the Quay and there was quite a party atmosphere. I did however have to point out to them that the beautiful vessel they were hoping to see was now lying a mile or more upriver towards Iken Cliffs and that only her topmast was visible!
However awful the previous days had been for me the concert was if anything made richer by the violence and drama of the storm and the music was given a context that made it even more compelling for the audience. And Jonathan’s piece seemed to capture the spirit of the day with it’s setting of Walt Whitman’s words – ‘Now voyager depart, (much, much for thee is yet in store,)/Often enough hast thou adventur’d over the seas…’
What new compostions did it inspire?
Of the music written so far I am particularly delighted with The Immortal Ship by Jonathan Dove and Joseph Phibb’s Shore to Shore. Jonthan has created a piece that builds amazing power from the voice and guitar. Joe has made the guitar sing and explored it’s resonances with exquisite subtlety. They have both created new works that are important additions to the wonderful but limited repertoire for guitar and voice. And out of Shore to Shore came the solo suite which I shall play at the festival in May.
Will your programme for Bath include any poetry or song?
The Britten is inspired by and is an internalization of the words of Dowland’s lute song Come Heavy Sleep, so the text of that song will be in the programme as will excerpts from Wallace Stevens’ poem The Blue Guitar, the inspiration for Tippet’s Sonata. There are other references too, particularly around Joseph Phibb’s Suite which arose from a previous work setting the poetry of Sara Teasdale and Nick Heiney.
Do you have any new projects planned for 2014?
I have new horizons for Sea Change with plans that could extend as far as Norway. Nothing certain as yet but that’s the way of voyaging and, come to think of it, the way of an artist.
In my more normal musical life I shall be extending my work with singers. I’ve been giving concerts for a long time with the tenor Robin Tritschler and we have a couple of exciting new programmes this year. I’ve just started a collaboration with the stunningly brilliant countertenor James Laing. Countertenor and guitar is an almost flawless match of sounds and I really want to commission more new repertoire.
And yes there is another adventure in my mind – a kind of shore based version of Sea Change – that will not only combine a story of travel but go deep into the heart of a particular form of nature writing with a mystical reverence for the English countryside found in writers like Hudson and Jefferies, Denys Watkins Pitchford and more recently Chris Yates and Richard Mabey.
How you are feeling about playing in Bath?
I’m really looking forward to seeing the theatre in the Masonic Hall. The pictures I’ve seen show a venue brilliantly suited to the surreal theme of sleep and dreams.
East met West at Bath Spa University‘s Michael Tippett Centre last night in a concert featuring the unique soundscape of the Gamelan. The University, the Festival’s Creative Partner, gave us a series of rich and colourful pieces, including exquisite dance and song, performed by first, second and third years. There was even a brand new piece for full Gamelan composed by one of their talented students.
The second half focused fully on composition with a score of fascinating pieces for the ensemble including a very special performance by Canadian violinist Mira Benjamin, an expert in new and experimental music.
The children of Bathwick St Mary’s School Choir and the Young Players of Wells Cathedral School helped us celebrate Sir Peter Maxwell Davies‘ 80th Birthday yesterday in St Michael’s Without. They sang his Kirkwall Shopping Songs, orginally written for the children of Orkney, along with the World Première of Alasdair Nicolson‘s Bath Shopping Songs.
Shopping Songs was a free, informal lunchtime concert to celebrate the 80th birthday of talented composer Sir Peter Maxwell Davies. Held in the magnificent St Michael’s Without Church, with an open, warm, affable atmosphere it was an enjoyable afternoon for both the performers and the audience. The concert featured the composer’s delightful Kirkwall Shopping Songs, originally written for the children of Orkney in 1979, taking the audience on a shopping based adventure around the town. The highlight of the show however was the world première of Bath Shopping Songs, written by Bath International Music Festival Artistic Director, Alistair Nicolson.
Bathwick St Mary School Choir’s performance was charming. They performed a range of songs, from sweet, soothing melodies with a lullaby like feel, to sharp energetic, mischievous tunes. The choir handled the challenges of fast moving sections and sudden changes in tempo very well. Most noticeable however was their overwhelming enthusiasm which, along with their talent, made the heavy applause they received at the end well earned.
The Young Players of Wells Cathedral School provided a faultless performance which quickly filled the hall with a full, well-rounded sound. It was evident that the group was well rehearsed and not only technically capable but versatile, able to switch quickly between slow, somber songs to energetic, light pieces with powerful crescendos.
Bath Shopping Songs consisted of six pieces which joined a group of characters as they took their shopping trip, including Austen Buys a Book, Paragon Quadrille and Oliver decides to make a Biscuit. The repertoire was very varied and refreshing, especially the Carnival style instrumental Clowns on Abbey Green.
The event was thoroughly enjoyable and not only an excellent way to celebrate Sir Peter Maxwell Davies’ 80th Birthday but also the beautiful city of Bath.