THE City of London Festival sees the great and good of classical music join the avant-garde and the unusual each summer in the midst of the City. Concerts take place in all the Square Mile’s most beautiful – and often unknown or unused – historical buildings such as St Bartholemew the Great in West Smithfield, a 12th century priory, as well as in livery halls and churches. Zoe Strimpel spoke to the festival’s director, Ian Ritchie, to get the low-down on this year’s highlights and themes.
“The particular focus this year is on countries from the Portuguese speaking world: so we have art and artists from Angola, Mozambique and Goa, as well as Brazil and Portugal all being cross-fertilized here. We’re celebrating biodiversity in the City too – it’s a very built-up place but we’re putting in a lot of plants and installing beehives.
“If you’re after major classical performances, the key events are at St Paul’s. The first, on 22 June, is Monteverdi’s Vespas of 1610, sung by the choir of St Paul’s and various top soloists, in celebration of the work’s 400th anniversary. It was composed for the vast spaces of St Mark’s in Venice, so St Paul’s is a perfect place for the piece, which involves singers performing in all parts of the building. It’s also the 300th anniversary of the completion of St Paul’s – so that’s two anniversaries. A very special concert.
“On 29 June at St Paul’s there’s Haydn’s Creation, with the wonderful Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and the BBC National Choir of Wales. Wales is the land of song and this is its top choir – it should be really spectacular. The final St Paul’s concert is already selling fast: Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony with the LSO and the Monteverdi Choir conducted by Sir John Eliot Gardner on 8 July.
“Off the beaten track, don’t miss soprano Patricia Rozario from Goa on 23 June in the Draper’s Hall. She’s joined by a Brazilian cellist, doing a programme that will include pieces for multiple cellos – she’ll be singing folk songs from Goa and Brazil. Also for the adventurous: on 6 July, there’s a concert with two world premieres from leading composers from Portugal and Brazil.”
Festival runs 21 June–6 August. For a full programme and to book, go to www.colf.org.