The inaugural London English Song Festival was held at The Forge, Camden between 13th March and 10th April 2011. This was followed in May 2012 by a festival of four concerts between 3rd and 13th May. Details of both the 2011 and 2012 festivals follow:
London English Song Festival 2012
Patrons: Sir Thomas Allen CBE, Malcolm Martineau
Artistic Director: William Vann
Following a hugely successful first season in 2011, the London English Song Festival returns to The Forge this May for a thrilling series of four concerts. Award-winning pianist William Vann will accompany ten outstanding singers and one oboist in performances of music written by more than twenty-five English composers.
The poetry of William Blake and Walter de la Mare is featured this year in addition to a recital of music by oft-neglected female composers and a concert of songs celebrating London to mark the year of the Olympic Games. Pre-concert talks by expert speakers Richard Stokes and Rhian Samuel bring the music and words to life and “bring a song” coaching sessions for amateur singers on the two Sunday afternoons allow the audience to try out for themselves the experience of singing on the stage.
All four recitals take the audience through a fascinating exploration of the inimitable and ravishing songs – and poems – that are an invaluable part of the cultural heritage of this country.
3rd May 2012 at 7.30pm: William Blake: metamorphosis
preceded at 6.45pm by a pre-concert talk given by Richard Stokes
Ruth Jenkins (soprano), Johnny Herford (baritone), James Turnbull (oboe), William Vann (piano)
William Blake was heavily influenced by the writings of Ovid and tonight Benjamin Britten’s Songs and Proverbs of William Blake and Ralph Vaughan Williams Ten Blake Songs for voice and oboe are placed alongside Britten’s Six Metamorphoses after Ovid for solo oboe.
Multiple prize-winning soprano Ruth Jenkins and acclaimed baritone Johnny Herford are joined by oboist James Turnbull, whose debut solo disc has recently been released to positive reviews.
6th May 2012 at 7.30pm: Walter de la Mare: songs of childhood
preceded at 3pm by a “bring a song” session for amateur singers
Kate Symonds-Joy (mezzo-soprano), Rupert Charlesworth (tenor), Gareth John (baritone), William Vann (piano)
“Children are, in short, visionaries.” Tonight’s recital explores de la Mare’s fascination with the concept of the unfettered imagination of child. His wide-ranging influence on English song composers includes a youthful Benjamin Britten and his Tit for tat, cycles by Lennox Berkeley and Arthur Bliss and Howells’s masterful Peacock Pie.
Kate Symonds-Joy and Rupert Charlesworth, both critically acclaimed young singers, return to the festival after stunning performances in the 2011 season and are joined by Gareth John, currently studying on the opera course at the Royal Academy of Music.
10th May 2012 at 7.30pm: The women of English song
preceded at 6.45pm by a pre-concert talk given by Rhian Samuel
Aoife Miskelly (soprano), James Gilchrist (tenor), Robert Rice (baritone), William Vann (piano)
Some of the finest English songs were written by female composers, yet their work is often overlooked. Tonight’s concert highlights the work of Rebecca Clarke, Muriel Herbert, Liza Lehmann and Rhian Samuel, who begins the evening with a pre-concert talk on the subject of English song-women.
World-renowned tenor James Gilchrist, who needs no introduction, is joined by soprano Aoife Miskelly, winner of the 2011 Hampshire Singing Competition among many other prizes.
13th May 2012 at 7.30pm: London: flower of cities
preceded at 3pm by a “bring a song” session for amateur singers
Katie Bray (mezzo-soprano), Jonathan McGovern (baritone), William Vann (piano)
In the year of the London Olympic Games, the final concert of the festival celebrates London in song. Walton’s A Song for the Lord Mayor’s Table appears alongside Ronald Corp’s Flower of Cities and songs by Dring, Finzi, Holst, Ives, Martin Shaw and Betty Roe.
Tonight’s two singers have been taking singing competitions by storm: Katie Bray won first prize in the prestigious Richard Lewis competition at the Royal Academy of Music in 2011 and Jonathan McGovern won second prize in the 2011 Kathleen Ferrier competition and the gold medal in the 2010 Royal Overseas League Competition.
The very first London English Song Festival at The Forge, Camden featured 12 outstanding young artists performing works by more than 25 composers over five concerts on five Sunday evenings between March and April 2011.
An introduction to the series:
This Spring sees the launch of a new series of concerts of English song at The Forge. The inaugural London English Song Festival will be held between 13th March and 10th April 2011 at The Forge in Camden: this stunning, intimate venue is a 2010 RIBA + Civic Trust award-winner and has an attached restaurant.
The series will be curated by young award-winning pianist William Vann who will accompany ten outstanding young singers and a violinist over the course of five Sunday evenings in performances of music written by more than twenty-five English composers (as well as an American and a German).
The focus of four of the concerts will be on the English poets who provided the inspiration for the music: W. H. Auden, William Shakespeare, A. E. Housman and Ivor Gurney; the middle concert explores music written for the hugely versatile combination of soprano, violin and piano. All five evenings will take the audience through a fascinating exploration of the inimitable and ravishing songs – and poems – that are an invaluable part of the cultural heritage of this country.
Concert 1 (13th March) at 7.30pm:
Title: W. H. Auden: An Englishman in America
Surtitle: …settings by Berkeley, Britten, Lutyens, Barber and Henze interspersed with readings of Auden’s poetry. Including Britten’s Cabaret songs and On this island.
Performers: Ruth Jenkins (soprano), Katie Bray (mezzo-soprano), Rupert Charlesworth (tenor) and William Vann (piano)
Concert 2 (20th March) at 7.30pm:
Title: Then to Silvia let us sing
Surtitle: …the words of William Shakespeare set by Arne, Dring, Elgar, Finzi, Haydn, Ireland, Morley, Parry, Quilter, Tippett, Vaughan Williams and Warlock. Including Finzi’s collection Let us garlands bring.
Performers: Kate Symonds-Joy (mezzo-soprano), Samuel Evans (baritone) and William Vann (piano)
This concert is generously supported by the Association of English Speakers and Singers
Concert 3 (27th March) at 7.30pm:
Surtitle: …songs by Arthur Bliss, Rebecca Clarke, Gustav Holst, Betty Roe and Ralph Vaughan Williams and solo music for violin and piano.
Performers: Aoife Miskelly (soprano), Florence Cooke (violin) and William Vann (piano).
Concert 4 (3rd April) at 7.30pm:
Title: A. E. Housman: A Shropshire Lad and other songs
Surtitle: …settings of Housman (including poems from his hugely popular collection A Shropshire Lad) by 15 composers, including Bax, Berkeley, Ireland, Gurney, Vaughan-Williams, Somervell and Sumsion; interspersed with readings of poets who influenced Housman, including Heine and Shakespeare.
Performers: Julian Forbes (tenor), Johnny Herford (baritone) and William Vann (piano)
Concert 5 (10th April) at 7.30pm:
Title: Ivor Gurney: poet and composer
Surtitle: …Ivor Gurney is one of the Great War Poets commemorated in Westminster Abbey: he showed great artistic talent from a young age but suffered from bipolar disorder and spent his last fifteen years in various mental hospitals. We hear his poems and music, including settings of his own words, and some of his rarely heard late songs and works by his contemporaries, including Finzi and Howells.
Performers: April Fredrick (soprano), Robert Rice (baritone) and William Vann (piano)
On the door: £15.00 (£12 conc.)
Advance purchase: £13.50 (£10.50 conc.)
Season ticket (5 concerts for the price of 4): £60.00 (£48 conc.)
The Forge, 3-7 Delancey Street, London, NW1 7NL, between Camden Town and Mornington Crescent tube stations.