Monday, 9 June 2014

BREMF launch

If there was an underlying sense of jubilance at Friday's launch of this year's Brighton Early Music Festival, then it was understandable. Not only is there a strong programme for this year's festival, Cities: Musical centres and the journeys between them, but news had just come through that the festival has got an Arts Council grant for this year. Co-artistic directors Clare Norburn and Deborah Roberts introduced the varioius elements of the 2014 festival, and we were treated to a short concert from the Borromini String Quartet who in the past were on BREMF's young ensemble scheme, Early Music Live.

BREMF's Early Music Live gives opportunities to young ensembles, providing performance and broadcast opportunities as well as coaching, advice and support. The chosen ensembles are integrated into the education programme and their players will be performing in the BREMF Players. This year BREMF has been collaborating with The Sixteen and some of the young artists will be vocal soloists in the oratorio performances. In addition to the young singers, the Early Music Live artists this year consist of two very different violin and harpsichord duos, the ensemble Ars Eloquentiae and the vocal ensemble the Fieri Consort (whose members were all on the Genesis Sixteen programme).

The members of the Borromini String Quartet, leader James Toll, talked of their experience on BREMF's Early Music Live scheme, how they were allocated a budget which they chose to spend on a dancer and a shadow puppeter. The scheme also gave them the opportunity to perform on BBC Radio 3's In Tune. There was also an education workshop training day, which led to some amazing trips going into schools to talk, even comparing a string quartet to a Kit Kat.


The Borromini String Quartet gave a short recital. They played Haydn's String Quartet Op. 3 No. 5, which is in fact probably by Roman Hofstetter, and Boccherini's Quartetino, Op.53, a work which the quartet has just recorded.

The festival's other artistic director, Deborah Roberts than mentioned some of the highlights we can look forward to. The Society of Strange and Ancient Instruments will present Nine Days Wonder, a programme based on the exploits of Will Kemp. Kemp was an actor in Shakespeare's company and, as a publicity stunt, danced from London to Norwich. The Little Baroque Company will be presenting Bach's Coffee Cantata at a coffee concert, with costumed performers; Bach was in fact addicted to coffee! The festival is also working with Brighton and Hove Food and Drink Festival, so that a group of singers will be performing at a game themed food festival, and there will be music at a wine and cheese evening.

Education has always played a strong role in BREMF, and this year they have some particularly strong events. The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment will be involved in a series of events, some in the festival and some in schools. Eight Brighton Primary Schools, and one secondary school will be involved, with the OAE visiting schools. There will also be a digital music project with the First Space drop-in centre. And the OAE will also be doing one of their Night Shift club-night concerts. There are also two tots concerts just before the festival, aimed at under fives and families. And the BREMF Community Choir will be joined by school children for their December concert.

The festival encourages participation, they have three very different choirs the BREMF Community Choir, BREMF Singers and BREMF Consort. They have been thinking about an orchestra, but that is currently on the back burner. During the festival, the BREMF Community Choir will be working with a Spanish group on pilgrimmage music from Santiago della Compostela and the Spanish group will be running a series of workshops leading up to the concert.The BREMF Consort of Voices will be doing a concert at the festival themed on the history of the Popes, looking a music from the beginning of the Sistine Chapel and from the period of Palestrina, including a performance of Allegri's Miserere.

The group Celestial Sirens will be joined by Musica Secreta and the girls from the Brighton Festival Youth Choir for a programme of 17th and 18th century French convent music, with the youth choir being the novices. There is also a French baroque programme combining the music of Rameau with dance and a text by Clare Norburn.

The Brighton Early Music Festival runs from 24 October to 9 November 2014.
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- Opera review

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