Friday 5 January 2024

Norwich-based arts writer, Tony Cooper, offers a preview of the Norfolk & Norwich Festival which comes round in the merry month of May!

Aurora Orchestra & Nicholas Collon (Photo: Mark Allen)
Aurora Orchestra & Nicholas Collon (Photo: Mark Allen)

One of the oldest-established festivals in the UK, the Norfolk & Norwich - running for an astonishing 17 days in the merry month of May from Friday 10 May 2024 to Sunday 26 May - offers a cultural package like no other taking in music, drama, literature, circus, outdoor and family events as well as the all-important visual arts. Artists from round the world and across the region will present a huge variety of work and events in Norwich and, indeed, across the county.  

Daniel Brine, Festival Director, enthused: "I’m delighted with the variety of this year’s festival. It’s an exciting spread ranging from circus to classical music as well as showcasing local musicians as well as showcasing one of the country’s most flourishing, entertaining and enterprising orchestras - the Aurora. There’s a nice representation of local and international performers coming our way which is something particularly important to our festival.  

"For instance, we feel proud to be bringing to Norwich a brand-new show entitled Corazón (‘heart’ in Spanish) from South American-based circus troupe, Circolombia, founded in 2006. An exciting and engaging show, it brings to the fore the talents of young Columbians offering audiences breathless acrobatic feats with a distinctive Latin feel complemented by a host of incredible pieces of infectious Latin-flavoured music reflecting the production overall. Specifically created for the Adnams Spiegeltent in Festival Gardens, the show has a lengthy residency running for 12 days from Wednesday 15 to Sunday 26 May." 

Circolombia - Corazón
Circolombia - Corazón 

However, punctuating the festival’s opening weekend, the Aurora Orchestra, under the dynamic direction of Nicholas Collon, will return to the festival for the first time in seven years performing Beethoven's Third Symphony, one of the composer's most celebrated works marking the beginning of his innovative 'middle period'. As is their trademark, they'll be performing the 'Eroica' entirely from memory in an intimate concert setting in Norwich Cathedral on Saturday 11 May.  

The festival is also proud to welcome back the leading champion of the harpsichord, Mahan Esfahani, joining the Britten Sinfonia to complete their season-long Bach collaboration at St Peter Mancroft Church on Saturday, 25 May. Alongside the complete cycle of Bach’s uplifting and era-defining keyboard concertos, they’ll also perform a programme of Bach’s second orchestral suite (which doubles as a flute concerto) as well as the fifth Brandenburg Concerto in which they’ll be joined by violinist, Jacqueline Shave, a person who is no stranger to Norwich audiences. 

Also on the opening weekend, Ashley Grote, Master of the Music at Norwich Cathedral, will present a unique, meditative performance on the newly rebuilt cathedral organ on Sunday 12 May. One of the largest pipe organs in the country sporting an incredible 5,767 pipes ranging from ten metres to just an inch long, the instrument now harbours a marvellous and exciting sound after being lovingly restored by world-renowned organ specialists, Harrison & Harrison. Therefore, in a programme devoted to works by Olivier Messiaen, Ashley will play three towering works of the organ repertoire showing Messiaen at his best in what promises a marvellous recital. 

In contrast to Messiaen, Norwich Cathedral will resound to a different tune and music style with an emotive brand of folk-pop (Saturday, 18 May) featuring Kenny Anderson (aka King Creosote) whose latest album I DES explores a kaleidoscopic musical terrain with vibraphones, accordions, e-bows and samplers. A record breaker, for sure, the King has released over 100 records since his début in the 1990s while his songs have been covered and performed by such luminous artists as Patti Smith and Simple Minds.  

Local (but international) Norwich-born musician, Laura Cannell, also returns to the festival to present the ‘live’ version of her seventh solo album, Antiphony of the Trees, in a concert focusing solely on the recorder taking inspiration from the sound of birdsong which cuts through the crisp air of the Fen valley where she lives. Armed with bass, tenor, alto and double recorders, she’ll transcribe birdsong into a minimalist solo chamber-music recital. And fellow East Anglian and festival favourite, Luke Wright, returns to the fold, too, with his latest critically-acclaimed show, Silver Jubilee.  

For a quarter of a century Luke has built a reputation for being one of Britain’s most popular poets selling shows out round the world while regularly touring with the likes of John Cooper Clarke and The Libertines. A warm, funny and honest hour of poems is on the cards in Silver Jubilee peppered with a bit of ‘stand-up’ for good measure. The show promises a hoot as it features some wild experiments in the form of a nervous kitten called Sir John Betjeman and a healthy smattering of drum ‘n’ bass, delivered, of course, by the directness and pathos for which Luke is so well-known for. 

Full information on all Norfolk & Norwich Festival events visit 

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