Last Updated on June 24, 2021
An East London Music Festival like no other – Spitalfields Music Festival
After a year like no other, I am amazed by the quality and ingenuity of performers, back on stage for the first time. It’s also fair to say that of everything I missed during the lockdown, live performance – be that opera, chamber music, jazz, theatre or dance – is what I craved. Perhaps it was the endless series of live streams and recordings which were at times compelling in their own right, but nothing quite like the real thing. Or perhaps it was simply that for me, London is about Live! Spitalfields Music is essentially a contemporary music festival and it’s perhaps not surprising that this year there are 15 new works premieres.
This is the place to go if you love contemporary music. And, it’s also the place to discover more if you are not quite sure. Set in and around Spitalfields, one of London’s most vibrant historic districts, everything takes on a surreal atmosphere.
I’m looking forward to a number of the productions this year. I’d go to everything if I could, but the opening concert is unmissable. The London Symphony Chorus is presenting world premieres of Errolyn Wallen’s ‘After Winter’ and Howard Goodall’s ‘Never to Forget’ in a celebration of the kindness of strangers and a commemoration of the NHS workers who lost their lives last year. It’s in Christ Church Spitalfields, the stunning Hawksmoor church which punctuates the skyline just next to the market.
I’m also particularly looking forward to the curiously named Ratchet Attach It, a world premiere by American composer, percussionist and godfather of audio collage Charles Amirkhanian which is complemented by a performance of The Harmonic Canon II by another percussionist, curator and composer, Dominic Murcott. This special version of the slow movement of the piece demands a half-tonne double bell and a battery of other metal percussion and is an aural and visual spectacular. Also in Christ Church, Spitalfields.
Finally, I’m hoping to catch The Manchester Collective who will premiere a new work by Edmund Finnis as part of a programme featuring Stravinsky, Levi, Glass and Ligeti. They say on their own website
We are the true believers. We passionately believe in the power of music to move us and to excite us. It doesn’t matter to us if you’re a seasoned concert-goer, or if it’s your first time. All are welcome.
From the concert hall to the factory, from the recital room to the mill, the only thing we ask of you is that you open your ears and let yourself listen. Really listen.
And in return, we will create something extraordinary.
If my somewhat eclectic picks are not to your taste there’s plenty more going on. From guided walks around this most fascinating part of London to workshops for singers. From contemporary dance to baroque opera and immersive multimedia productions.
If I had a little more space in my diary I’d definitely be scheduling a visit to Dancing with Apollo – a musical exploration of Greek Mythology performed by violinist Sara Trickey and pianist Ivana Gavric with a programme of music by Stravinsky, Szymanowski, Matthews and Finnis, narrated by Dame Marina Warner with choreography by Kim Brandstrup.
Or, Alicia Jane Turner’s sound and video installation ‘a place to call home’ at the historic George Tavern, which will explore queer spaces over time, from historic LGBTQ+ culture in London to online spaces in the present day.
Spitalfields Festival takes place from 1-11 July 2021 and some productions are already sold out. So do check their website – there are tickets for all performances for just £15
The festival will follow and respond to appropriate Covid-19 protocols to ensure the safety of its audiences and artists