Cambridge Summer Music Festival

ukelele orchestra of great britain

Every year, the Cambridge Summer Music Festival offers a feast of musical treats that never fails to delight residents and visitors alike. This year – the 29th year of the Festival’s existence – is no different, as a host of the world’s leading musicians pour through the doors of the chapels, churches and concert halls of our beautiful city to present a mouthwatering selection of concerts.

The Festival runs from Friday 18 July to Saturday 9 August, with concerts taking place in a variety of venues in and around Cambridge. The range and scale of music on offer is amazing, from grandiose choral works presented in the magnificent setting of King’s College Chapel, to intimate chamber-music recitals in the tiny church of St Edwards – not to forget the brass band family picnic at Wandlebury Country Park or the fantastic kids’ workshops on the new, mobile ArtSbus!

The voice – in all its guises
The Festival holds at its centre the theme of the voice in its many guises. In a city that boasts some of the finest choirs in the world, it is no surprise that choral music features strongly. There is the distinctive sound of boys’ voices (St John's), a giant massed choir made up of Cambridge's town and gown choral groups (singing Brahms’s great Requiem), the cream of King’s College Choir (Collegium Regale) and, for our grand finale, the slick professionalism of English Voices, who will ravish listeners with Allegri’s ethereal Miserere in King’s Chapel.

In complete contrast, two female vocal superstars also take the spotlight: international soprano Patricia Rozario gives a solo song recital, while the ‘Princess of jazz’, Jacqui Dankworth performs with her band in the picturesque setting of Childerley Hall. An earthier, bawdier celebration of song is given by Pantagruel, in their semistaged presentation of Jacobean ballads, airs and dances.

Instrumental class
Alongside the vocal talent, there is also no shortage of world-class instrumentalists in the Festival, including some A-list classical music celebrities! In The Naked Violin, Tasmin Little performs the three works she offered as free downloads on her website – causing quite a stir in the process.
ITV’s South Bank Show features these performances in a programme to be broadcast in June.
Pianist Melvyn Tan appears in two concerts marking the 100th anniverary of Messian’s birth: first, the Vingt regards sur l’Enfant-Jésus, a monumental but enthralling solo work, which Tan follows up the next day with Messian’s iconic Quartet for the End of Time – for this, Tan is joined by the superb Doric Quartet, fresh from their victory in the prestigious Osaka International competition.
Another big name, cellist Natalie Clein is a former BBC Young Musician of the Year and now international superstar.

The Sonic Art Saxophone Quartet appear as a result of their prize-winning achievements in the 2007 Abstract Securities Competition. A real cutting-edge ensemble, this young foursome presents the ‘here-and-now’ of contemporary classical movement.

In even less ‘traditional’ mode, the Festival’s Opening Concert is given by the fabulous Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain (pictured). Using a blend of fine voices and cheap instruments, they show just how far you can get by mixing high-brow musical intelligence with low-brow humour. The result is in turn moving and hilarious!

The ‘king of instruments’ – the organ – makes its presence felt in a series of recitals that shows off the wealth of fine instruments in Cambridge. These include regular Tuesday lunchtime slots, plus ‘celebrity’ concerts by Kevin Bowyer in King’s Chapel and Anne Page in Jesus Chapel. There’s also a ‘walking tour’ of Cambridge organs, which will appeal to both the aficionado and the curious.

Chamber music
Every year, Cambridge Summer Music Festival consistently showcases chamber music of the highest calibre. This year, the classic ‘string quartet’ combination is represented by the superb Ardeo, Doric and Brodsky Quartets, the latter joining forces with author Richard Douglas Pennant in an imaginative programme of poetry and classical favourites. In trio formation, Baroque specialists La Serenissima present a ravishing programme of virtuoso violin sonatas, while string trio Kosmos deliver a more eclectic mix of entrancing dance rhythms, soulful improvisation and Gypsy passion.

The latter concert forms part of the Sunday lunchtime Promenade series in the beautiful setting of the Fitzwilliam Museum’s main gallery. A second short series of chamber concerts takes place on Friday lunchtimes in the medieval gem of St Edward’s Church. Between them, these two series offer a delectable smorgasbord of musical delicacies – ranging from solo piano and percussion recitals, duo combinations of piano with violin, cello and clarinet, and some luscious music for oboe and strings.

Music for children
The Festival is not just a grown-up affair. There are plenty of events to keep the kids entertained, including a new and exciting idea, the ArtSbus – a mobile workshop venue that will give children the chance to learn the didgeridoo, play musical games on the WOOFYT (Wooden One-octave Organ for Young Technologists), join in an interactive musical version of Giraffes Can’t Dance and learn all about the violin from Tasmin Little. Other kids’ events (in stationary venues!) include Travelling by Tuba, a fascinating voyage through the weird and wonderful words of low brass instruments, a musical menagerie offered by the New London Chamber Ensemble and, of course, the ever-popular Family Picnic at Wandlebury with the City of Cambridge Brass Band.

Full details of all these events are contained in the Cambridge Summer Music Festival brochure, and complete will be posted on the Moving Tone site.