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Michael White’s classical & jazz news: ‘virtual’ Aldeburgh; Proms at St Jude’s; Clocktower concerts

18 June, 2020 — By Michael White

Aldeburgh MusicCircus. Photo: Peter Silk

MID-JUNE is when the music world normally packs its bags, heads off for somewhere nice, and parties – at the summer festivals.
But as normality is unavailable right now, all we can do is fantasise, with help from the internet.

And I’m fantasising this week about my favourite of all festivals: the one at Aldeburgh which Benjamin Britten created back in 1948.

It’s not a swank show, there’s no dressing-to-impress, no chandeliers and champagne. But it’s magical in an austere way, set among the flatness of the coastal marshes and enormous emptiness of Suffolk skies. And you can snatch a sense of what that means through the “virtual” Aldeburgh Festival running across radio, TV and various websites this weekend.

BBC Radio 3 has a series of archived Aldeburgh concerts starting at 7.30pm on Friday. The BBC iPlayer has a documentary about Britten on camera, which will be joined by a film of his opera Peter Grimes as it played on Aldeburgh beach for the composer’s centenary in 2013 (I was there, and remember a freezing night when the wind blew so hard that the stage-set barely held together, but it was one of the most memorable experiences of my musical life).

More details at snapemaltings.co.uk/season/aldeburgh-festival

There’s also a choreographed performance of Britten’s song cycle Les Illuminations on the Britten Pears Arts YouTube channel. And an interactive digital experience (such is the term!) of John Cage’s riotous MusicCircus which took over the whole town in 2014 with 1000 performers: a must-see at musicircus.brittenpearsarts.org Not being there, it’s painful for an Aldeburgh-phile to watch, but an exquisite sort of pain.

CLOSER to home, the Proms at St Jude’s in Hampstead Garden Suburb have gone virtual too, with live events streamed at specific times.

Next Wednesday at 8pm is the elite choral group Voces 8. Thursday July 2 at 8pm has the edgy Aurora Orchestra with mezzo Sarah Connolly in Mahler’s Song of the Earth.

And there are even virtual guided walks around the Suburb which you can download and follow without so much as leaving home. Details of how to access all this are on the website: www.promsatstjudes.co.uk

And everything is free – though donations are invited to the causes that the Proms support, North London Hospice and Toynbee Hall. So be generous.

FINALLY, an invitation to meet at the St Pancras Clocktower at 6 – which sounds dodgy but is in fact a request to join an unimpeachably legit new arms-length concert series, organised by City Music Foundation to give work to the rising young performers on its books.

The concerts run every Wednesday at 6pm in the St Pancras Tower Room, just below the famous clock.

You access them through www.citymusicfoundation.org

And they’re free, though donations are invited.

Next Wednesday has Romanian pianist Mihai Ritivoiu playing Schumann and Debussy.

And I assume the clock won’t be striking in mid-performance, or it’ll be Schumann and Debussy accessorised.

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