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Trees, walls and cities: City of London Festival 2013 programme highlights announced Posted on Fri 30th November 2012

Following its acclaimed and record-breaking 50th anniversary season, the annual City of London Festival will once again animate the Square Mile in 2013 (23 June - 26 July) with its customary extravaganza of music, dance, art, film, poetry, family and participation events, transforming some of the City’s most iconic venues and outdoor spaces into a wealth of creative activity for everyone to enjoy.

The 2013 Festival – Director Ian Ritchie’s final edition after eight years at the helm – offers another entertaining but innovative and thought-provoking programme rooted in three main, interlocking themes: city walls – connecting the City of London with Derry~Londonderry and other historic walled cities from Utrecht to Jerusalem; conflict and resolution; and trees, sustaining the Festival’s artistic responses to the environment (bees in 2010, birds in 2011 and flowers in 2012). Using these themes as a platform for creative dexterity, the Festival will reflect on significant historical landmark anniversaries, including the 400-year relationship between the City of London and Derry~Londonderry, the 300th anniversary of the Treaty of Utrecht and the 100th anniversary of Benjamin Britten – one of Britain’s most important composers.

Programme highlights include:

World class concerts: great artists will appear in St Paul’s Cathedral for a series of high-profile ticketed concerts, starting with Britten’s War Requiem, with the renowned City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and the choristers of St Paul’s Cathedral under the baton of Edward Gardner. An historic celebration of Handel’s Utrecht Te Deum and Jublilate, premièred in St Paul’s in July 1713, will frame the first performance of The Idea of Peace by Adrian Williams. Plus the London Symphony Orchestra and Tenebrae will renew their acclaimed partnership in a programme ranging from Josquin to Richard Strauss and concluding with a special, one-off combination of Barber’s iconic Adagio and Agnus Dei.

New commissions: once again the Festival will present a wealth of world premières and new work. A highlight this year – with the working title Trees, Walls and Cities – will feature a newly commissioned song cycle for the Brodsky Quartet and soprano Loré Lixenberg, linking Derry~Londonderry, the City of London, Utrecht, Berlin, Vienna, Dubrovnik, Nicosia and Jerusalem in creative reconciliation. The cycle will feature eight songs written by local composers in partnership with local poets or using earlier texts, and will reflect the transcendence of and growth beyond such barriers that divide people. A theme running through the texts will be trees – symbolic of life, freedom, nourishment, environment, building and peace. The songs will be brought together in an interlocking suite of musical material, composed by Nigel Osborne, creating a coherent journey between the styles and characters of the songs and cities.

Bringing the City to life: the 2013 Festival will again bring to life the City’s historic buildings. In addition to concerts in many of the unique and beautiful Livery Halls, a particular highlight is promised: At Sixes and Sevens, a new choral and orchestral work commissioned by the City of London and The Honourable The Irish Society to mark the 400 year relationship with Derry~Londonderry will be performed simultaneously in both the Guildhalls of London and Derry. It will include the outcome of an extensive community engagement programme involving over a hundred of participants from both cities. On the other side of the Thames, Mahogany Opera will perform each of Britten’s Church Parables – Curlew River, The Burning Fiery Furnace and The Prodigal Son – in Southwark Cathedral, where the composer himself directed the first London performances.  In Mansion House, a concert by the Britten Sinfonia will resolve the conflict between Apollo and Dionysius in music by Stravinsky, Britten and David Matthews, framed by Vivaldi’s evergreen The Four Seasons. In the outdoors, the squares and gardens of the City will be filled with a diverse programme of music, street theatre, circus and dance, free for all to enjoy.  Highlights include the Festival Children’s Parade in which a thousand young people will process through the City in a vibrant display of music, dance, sculpture and puppetry. 

Walks, talks and debates: visitors to the Festival can experience a stimulating programme of walks, talks and debate that compliment this year’s themes, with highlight events including: Worlds in Collision, a two day conference on the healing power of music in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorders resulting from conflict; Gresham Lectures, a series of five free Festival-themed lectures including one that uncovers the story of Derry~Londonderry, and City Walks, guided and illustrated tours also following the artistic and historic themes of the Festival.

Nurturing new talent: a young performers’ series of 8 concerts given in the City’s churches and Livery Halls, sponsored by the City Music Foundation, upholds another Festival tradition of promoting new and emerging artists. This is also maintained in the popular series of ten free lunchtime concerts, presented by some of the finest young talent at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama, and reflecting the Festival’s themes.

Free summer events programme: the Festival will continue to open up the outdoor spaces of the City and beyond to a wide range of audiences with over 100 free events programmed across a wide range of art forms. Highlights include a Family Day on Hampstead Heath entitled Irish Roots – a celebration of Northern Irish culture and heritage. Beoga, one of the most exciting new traditional bands to emerge from Ireland, headline the bandstand and activities include a Gaelic Games, storytelling inspired by the Northern Irish-born C S Lewis and Irish reeling around Parliament Hill Fields.

Mobile Orchard:  a pop-up mobile orchard with real and manufactured trees will take root at a number of City locations throughout the Festival period.  Part installation, part performance platform, passersby will be transported from the inner city to a leafy glade where they will be able to enjoy music, street theatre, dance and participatory activities as well as discovering more about native British orchards and the City’s trees.

Since its inauguration in 1962 the City of London Festival has brought the Square Mile’s monumental architecture, wealth of buildings, outdoor spaces and ancient streets to life with a rich and extraordinary programme of events.

Speaking of the forthcoming programme Festival Director Ian Ritchie said: “In these unsettling times of conflict in many parts of the world, of environmental problems closer to home – not least the threat of widespread disease to our ash trees – and of continuing financial challenges facing us all, the City of London needs the life-enhancing qualities and remedial powers of its Festival more than ever before.  I am delighted that we can once again bring world-class music and other arts into many parts of this historic City next summer and, in our programmes, reflect ideas and themes which matter to many of us and can fire all our imaginations.”

Further details on the 2013 programme will be released in early 2013

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Last modified on: Tue 6th May 2014

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