The London International Festival of Early Music takes place 10-13th November 2021 in Blackheath, London. From makers to performers, and recitals to competitions, come and revel in our four-day festival with a myriad of events designed to inspire, educate and entertain. Not only is it an opportunity to meet makers, try out instruments, and to hear some of the world’s most acclaimed performers in recital, but it is also a chance to network and meet with others in the early music field.
Music at LIFEM
Artistic Director Gill Graham has curated a programme of music from The French and English Baroque, which saw a kaleidoscope of music written under royal patronage, alongside a rise in popularity of opera and music for theatre. We will explore the popular music and less well-known music of the period, played in the courts and bedchambers of two royal patrons – Charles II in London and Louis XIV in Versailles.
Concert artists include Liam Byrne (viol) and Jonas Nordberg (lutes), acclaimed Soprano Lucy Crowe performing with Laurence Cummings, harpsichord and Elizabeth Kenny, archlute and theorbo. Ensembles Hesperi and Pro Victoria give recitals as joint winners of the 2020 Young Ensembles Competition. All this as well as the World Premiere from award-winning composer Errollyn Wallen written for Liam Byrne and Jonas Nordberg.
A new feature for this year is Festival Evensong which will take place on Saturday 13th November 2021, 3.00pm directed by Andrew Watts.
LIFEM continues its media partnership with leading arts and culture streaming platform, Marquee Arts. All concerts will be filmed and made available after the festival via Marquee’s platform.
A three-day exhibition – “The World’s Largest Early Music Fair” – takes place from 11-13 November at Blackheath Halls, and is a vibrant market place featuring instrument makers from around the globe, as well as societies, publishers and shops.
Additionally, the festival will play host to Makers’ Demonstration Recitals, Performers’ Platforms, giving young people from schools and colleges the opportunity to showcase their talents, and the final of the SRP/Moeck Solo Recorder Competition, this year judged by Anna Stegmann, Jan van Hoecke and Emily White.
Chris Butler, LIFEM’s Chairman says:
“After the challenges of 2020 we are all relieved to be returning to a conventional festival format in Blackheath this year and I look forward to the company of performers, exhibitors and enthusiasts!”
Gill Graham, LIFEM’s Artistic Director says:
“We are thrilled to present music making at the highest level from our Young Ensemble winners from last year alongside established artists from the wider field. I can’t wait to hear Errollyn Wallen’s festival commission and to welcome you all to this year’s Festival.”
The London International Festival of Early Music is one of the largest and most inclusive early music festivals in the world. The festival began in 1973 and was first hosted at the Royal College of Music. The event moved to the Royal Horticultural Halls, and Greenwich, before finally finding its home at Blackheath Halls, in London’s oldest surviving purpose-built cultural venue.
The festival attracts a network of vibrant artists, early music enthusiasts and supporters. Last year, LIFEM was delighted to appoint experienced contemporary music publisher and promoter, Gill Graham, as Artistic Director. Gill brings a wealth of experience to the LIFEM family.
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Notes to Editors
Errollyn Wallen – festival commission
Errollyn Wallen CBE is a multi-award-winning Belize-born British composer, pianist and singer-songwriter whose output includes 22 operas and a large catalogue of works which are performed internationally. Her latest opera, the acclaimed Dido’s Ghost, was premiered by Dunedin Consort in June 2021 at the Barbican Centre and toured to Buxton before going to Edinburgh International Festival. Her most recent orchestral work, a re-imagining of Parry’s Jerusalem – JERUSALEM — our clouded hills for soprano and orchestra was performed at the BBC’s Last Night of the Proms 2020 and was broadcast around the world from the Royal Albert Hall.
Errollyn Wallen’s albums include ERROLLYN, The Girl in My Alphabet and Meet Me at Harold Moores. These have travelled 7.84 million kilometres in space, completing 186 orbits around the Earth on NASA’s STS115 mission. Errollyn is a co-curator of Spitalfields Festival 2020 and 2021 and is currently composing a new opera, Quamino’s Map, for Chicago Opera Theatre as well as writing a book on Composition to be published by Faber. She is the latest recipient of the ISM Distinguished Musician Award, one of the highest honours within the music industry, for services to music.
Gill Graham - Artistic Director
As Group Head of Promotion for the international family of music publishers Wise Music Group, Gill works with today’s leading composers and presenters across all genres. Her work as a creative producer, bringing composers together with artists and performers has seeded collaborations with artists such as Kim Brandstrup, Dame Sarah Connolly, Martin Creed, Wayne McGregor, Sir Michael Morpurgo, Rachel Portman, The Brothers Quay, Mark Ravenhill, Joby Talbot, Rufus Wainwright and Christopher Wheeldon.
Gill was appointed Inaugural Artistic Director of LIFEM in February 2020 and looks forward to sharing the 2021 festival with LIFEM’s audience.
Chris Butler – Festival Director
Chris Butler is a career music publisher who holds multiple directorships including Wise Music Group and the Performing Right Society. He is a past chairman of the UK Music Publishers’ Association, MCPS and ICMP. He acquired The Early Music Shop, LIFEM’s principal supporter, in 2018 and created LIFEM as a CIO in 2020.
Born in Staffordshire, Lucy Crowe studied at the Royal Academy of Music, where she is now a Fellow. With repertoire ranging from Purcell, Handel and Mozart to Donizetti’s Adina, Verdi’s Gilda and Janáček’s Vixen, she has sung with opera companies throughout the world, including the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, the Glyndebourne Festival, English National Opera, the Teatro Real Madrid, the Deutsche Oper Berlin, the Bavarian State Opera, Munich, and the Metropolitan Opera, New York.
A committed recitalist, she has appeared at the Amsterdam Concertgebouw, New York’s Carnegie Hall, and the Aldeburgh, Edinburgh, Mostly Mozart and Salzburg Festivals, and is a regular guest at the BBC Proms and Wigmore Hall.
Laurence Cummings is one of Britain's most exciting and versatile exponents of historical performance both as a conductor and a harpsichord player. He is currently Artistic Director of the Internationale Händel-Festpiele Göttingen, Musical Director of the London Handel Festival and Music Director of Orquestra Barroca Casa da Música in Porto. He has also been appointed Music Director of the Academy of Ancient Music from the 2021/22 season. A noted authority on Handel, the Guardian has written of him “he now ranks as one of the composer’s best advocates in the world. Self-effacing on the podium, faithful above all to the score, he matches Handel’s energy and invention with unmistakable lyricism, generosity and dignity.”
Elizabeth Kenny is one of Europe’s leading lute players. Her playing has been described as “incandescent” (Music and Vision), “radical” (The Independent) and “indecently beautiful” (Toronto Post). In twenty years of touring she has played with many of the world’s best period instrument groups and experienced many different approaches to music making. She has an extensive discography of collaborations with ensembles across Europe and the USA, and her own repertoire interests have led to critically acclaimed recordings of solo music from the ML Lute Book, and songs by Lawes, Purcell and Dowland.
Liam Byrne spends most of his time playing either very old or very new music on the viola da gamba. An obsession with the instrument’s most obscure 16th- and 17th-century repertoire is a recurring theme in his work, whether in devising baroque performance installations for the Victoria & Albert museum, or in collaboration with the Appalachian fiddler Cleek Schrey, or creating new electronic works with Icelandic composer Valgeir Sigurðsson.
Liam’s solo performances frequently combine old viol music with new works written for him by composers such as David Lang, Nico Muhly, and Edmund Finnis, among many others.
Over the years, Liam has worked closely with a wide variety of musicians, from Damon Albarn to Emma Kirkby, and is a frequent guest of new music ensembles Stargaze, the London Contemporary Orchestra, and Crash Ensemble.
Jonas Nordberg is a lutenist mastering a wide range of plucked instruments from the 16th to 19th centuries. A graduate of the Mozarteum University Salzburg and the Royal College of Music Stockholm, he has an active schedule in more than 25 countries, performing solo concerts, chamber music, staged performances and large ensemble work.
His solo recital programs include the music of John Dowland, music for theorbo by Robert de Visée, French lute music juxtaposed with works by Silvius Leopold Weiss as well as the wizardry Italian Giovanni Girolamo Kapsperger.
He performs with ensembles such as Concerto Köln, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Concerto Copenhagen, Orfeo 55, Drottningholm Baroque Ensemble, London Handel Orchestra, Insula Orchestra, Aurora Orchestra, Camerata Øresund, Mozarteum Orchester Salzburg, Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra, Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Les Accents, Rotterdam Philharmonic, Rebaroque, Swedish Wind Ensemble, Ensemble 1B1, Aalborg Symphony Orchestra & Gävle Symphony Orchestra amongst several other period instrument chamber groups.
Ensemble Pro Victoria
Ensemble Pro Victoria is one of the finest young early music ensembles in Britain. Founded at Cambridge University in 2015 by Toby Ward (artistic director) and Humphrey Thompson (editor, baritone), they focus on music from Tudor England, the Spanish Golden Age and the early Baroque. Most often the group performs one-to-a-part, bringing music to life through the beauty of solo singing as opposed to a choral approach.
The seven core members of the group were thrilled to win joint-first prize in the London International Festival of Early Music Young Ensemble Competition 2020 with a programme of music from the Spanish Golden Age, and are delighted to return to LIFEM in 2021 to perform Baroque music from the English and French chapels royal.
Ensemble Hesperi is a dynamic and innovative London-based Early Music ensemble, dedicated to showcasing the infectious charm and dazzling virtuosity of 18th-century Scottish music through imaginative programming and collaboration with other art forms. In 2019, the ensemble embarked on a unique project, ‘The Pheasant’s Eye’, featuring Highland dancer Kathleen Gilbert, supported by a Lottery grant from Arts Council England. Since 2019, the ensemble has been featured by Classical Music Magazine, recorded in studio for Classic FM, selected as Britten Pears Young Artists for 2020 and as ‘Take Note’ artists for Chiltern Arts Festival. In November 2020, they won first prize at the London International Festival of Early Music Young Ensemble Competition.
Ensemble Hesperi performs regularly for those who have no opportunity to hear live classical music through the prestigious outreach scheme ‘Live Music Now’. The ensemble has also developed a strong relationship with Chelsea and Westminster Hospital’s charity, CW+: they were honoured to be invited to present two Handel Concerti Grossi at the celebration service for the Tercentenary of the hospital in May 2019 at Westminster Abbey. From March 2020, Hesperi has live-streamed weekly to an enthusiastic audience around the world. In April 2020, the ensemble received an Emergency Coronavirus Response grant from Arts Council England, which supported a new online dance and Scottish music project, “Highland at Home with Hesperi”.
Andrew Watts was born in Middlesex and studied at the Royal Academy of Music. As well as maintaining an international singing career, Andrew Watts has established a global reputation as a singing teacher and vocal consultant with a large studio of international students many of whom sing at the highest levels on the operatic and concert platforms.
As well as at the Guildhall, Andrew is voice teacher to the Jette Parker Young Artists Programme at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden as well as voice teacher and vocal consultant to the Opera Studio at the Hamburg State Opera. He gives regular masterclasses at the Dartington International Summer School and the Associated Studio London and at both Oxford and Cambridge Universities. International Masterclasses have taken him as far as the Sydney Conservatorium, the Banff Centre for Performing Arts, Canada and Casa Del Musica in Portugal. His students have been major prize winners including the winning Ferrier and Wigmore Hall Song Competitions and the Opera Award Bursary. Andrew is also the vocal consultant to Music International, an international artist management company.