Brighton Festival 2017Public booking opens: Fri 24 Feb, 9am

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In photos: Week 3

Brighton Festival 2017 is over! We can't believe what a fantastic month it has been – here's a few photos from events in the last week

Photos by Vic Frankowski and Adam Weatherley

Star of The Gabriels actor Maryann Plunkett announced as narrator of Copeland’s Lincoln Portrait for Brighton Festival finale

Britten Sinfonia and Brighton Festival Chorus bring Brighton Festival 2017 to a resplendent close with Aaron Copland's rousing Lincoln Portrait, alongside John Adams's glittering symphony, Harmonium.

We're delighted to announce that our narrator will be actor Maryann Plunkett, who plays Mary Gabriel in Richard Nelson’s trilogy The Gabriels, which has garnered a clutch of five-star reviews since its Brighton Festival UK premiere last weekend.

In 1942, shortly after the USA entered WW2 Copland was commissioned to write a work to fortify and comfort people during the time of national distress. The resulting Lincoln Portrait is a stirring setting of extracts from great speeches made by Abraham Lincoln, including the Gettysburg Address.

Other famous narrators have included the likes of Neil Armstrong, Alec Baldwin, Tom Hanks, Katharine Hepburn, and Barack Obama.

Maryann Plunkett also played Barbara in Richard Nelson’s The Apple Family Plays (Brighton Festival 2015), while her Broadway credits include Agnes of God, Sunday in the Park with George and Me and My Girl (for which she received a Tony Award). 

Britten Sinfonia and Brighton Festival Chorus are at Brighton Dome Concert Hall on Sun 28 May, 7.30pm

Belem: a lyrical melange of merriment & melancholy through interwoven folk, tango & classical traditions

Joe Fuller previews the pioneering spirit of the cello-accordion duo ahead of their Brighton Festival debut

The rhythmic momentum of Didier Laloy's accordion and Kathy Adam's cello in Belem should make for a rousing late night gig. The duo performed together in European folk band Panta Rhei, so this concert is of interest to those interested in world music, folk and tango as well as classical music fans, and the unique interplay of the two musicians should flourish in a live setting. I'll highlight some of the best moments from Belem's music below to explore the musical possibilities in this idiosyncratic fusion of poignant jollity.

The video below highlights the differences between the two musicians' styles. Kathy Adam is mostly classical focused in her recordings and performances, although she has also worked in theatre, dance and song. Adam often seems to provide the classical heart of the works, whereas Didier can come across as almost mischievous at times, the jester to Adam's bard. Personally, I like it when the two meet in a more plaintive mode, such as the ponderous playing around the three minute mark in this clip of Le puits, romaniste.


The melodic lines are closer to pop than classical in their occasional major resolutions, such as in album highlight Scampavita, the track which comes closest to traditional chamber music. The rhythms in their work are often folky however, conjuring images of storytelling, ales, jaunts, and energy to me, with a tinge of role playing video games fantasy about them too. There is also a tango lilt to proceedings that the more lithe in the audience might enjoy, and some parts even sound like sea shanties (such as parts of Le puits, romaniste) so there is certainly a wide spectrum of moods to absorb in the show. 



Belem should be praised for trying something new in the context of chamber music, which often focuses on string quartets. More attention is inevitably directed towards individual melodies and performing styles in chamber music, as opposed to the kaleidoscope of an orchestral concert, which can result in more moving, intimate concerts. One of my most memorable classical shows was Huw Wiggin's saxophone and James Sherlock's piano in a 2015 lunchtime Festival concert, when technically challenging pieces and virtuoso playing took my breath away. Belem's show therefore might be a good choice for classical fans who might want to hear different tones, moods and colours in a concert than what they might be used to.

Live reviews have been positive, noting that the audience has responded to melancholic elements, and the vocal quality of the cello playing. The terms poetic and tender have also been used, suggesting that years of playing together have ensured that Laloy and Adam know how to grab an audience's attention in a delicate, emotive way, which is an impressive achievement considering how loud the accordion can be. It's a novel proposition to explore the tender qualities of the accordion in fact, such as in the more downbeat track Valse Noire where Laloy provides a soft, mournful underpinning to Adam's pining cello, resulting in a brighter Max Richter-type drone around the 2 minute mark.

I wouldn't be surprised to find such a duo at a smaller, rowdier venue such as The Bee's Mouth or Komedia's Studio Bar, but the picturesque All Saints Church could emphasise the more poetic aspects of the duo's refreshing collaboration. The charismatic and energetic performers should find a receptive audience in the artful, bawdy eclecticism of a Brighton Festival crowd keen to hear something new.   

Belem performs on Fri 19 May at All Saints Church, Hove. Click for more info and tickets >

An exclusive concert celebrates the luminous music of Monteverdi for voice and orchestra

Hearing a sublime singer has always been one of the most thrilling live experiences, in both popular and classical music. The concert with Les Talens Lyriques with Christophe Rousset at this year's Festival, showcasing works by Monteverdi, is a fine opportunity to hear the musical voice as pioneered by the highly influential 17th century composer.

Les Talens Lyriques will have just performed the works in Holland with the Dutch National Opera in the week preceding this concert, so a lot of thought will have gone into the action and drama of the pieces. This show is the only time to hear them perform this work in the UK this year: this is therefore an exciting gig on many levels, be it for the chance to see an in-demand conductor in Brighton, to celebrate the work of a magnificent composer in his 450th birthday year, to hear a rare combination of Monteverdi's works, or to see an internationally lauded ensemble in Brighton Dome's Concert Hall perform some stunning music.

The concert will feature a combination of singers and musicians without any operatic staging, which gives a clear musical focus to the performance and gives you the chance to hear some superb singers without the often intimidating cost of the opera hall. The bill is a selection of madrigals, which is a fascinating form in musical history. A madrigal is a secular vocal composition for a number of different voices, and Monteverdi strove to illuminate every shade of emotion in the poetic works by introducing music to the form (early madrigals were a capella).

You don't have to be a historian or musicologist to appreciate the concert however, just try any of my Spotify playlist to sample some of the beautiful music you'll get to hear. I've selected a punchy, fast-paced Il combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda, because I love how the pace can hurtle along (like it does around the 6.50 mark) and then crawl down into mournful tones with a drone-like backing. It's irresistibly gorgeous, but the riveting twists and turns might take a few listens to unpack for anyone unfamiliar with early music.


You can then switch from the tragic tale of Tancredi mistakenly killing his lover Clorinda in Il combattimento to the more danceable, sprightly Il ballo delle Ingrate, which shimmers with a prominent harpsichord and decadent orchestration. Il ballo is beautiful in a more lustrous, languid and opulent manner to Il combattimento, and I've included a link to a sharply recorded version that handily breaks up all of the smaller movements to give you a taste of the diverse short bursts of the whole piece. The Overture alone is expansive and enveloping, and directly melodic in the bold way that early music can be: immerse yourself in it now to reap the musical rewards on the evening.

Lamento d'Arianna meanwhile sounds more aria-like than the other works, rendered all the more sparsely striking in Anne Sofie von Otter's performance on the playlist. The fragment from a lost opera is imbued with the grief of Arianna who longs for death in words non-Italian speakers might not understand, but the powerful, emotive vocal part is devastatingly moving regardless.

Musical Director Christophe Rousset is a renowned harpsichordist and conductor, who will conduct the upcoming production of early Mozart opera Mitridate, re di Ponto at the Royal Opera House in the summer. You can hear him conduct Les Talens Lyriques performing the work via this Spotify link if you want to hear if Rousset and his ensemble play to your liking!

Whether you're a classical muso or a music lover of any stripe, this concert presents a highly affordable opportunity to hear some of the earliest, most moving writing for voices ever composed, performed by some of the world's best singers and musicians. The works will have been carefully honed over six performances with the Dutch National Opera in the week before the Brighton gig, and it will be thrilling to hear the fresh interpretations that Les Talens Lyriques will bring to the Concert Hall.

Words by Joe Fuller 

Brighton Festival Live: Debashish Bhattacharya

Debashish Bhattacharya - slide guitar
Gurdain Rayatt - tabla

After being immersed in the twilight years of Edwardian England, emerge into the vivid Indian sunlight. Songlines Music Awards 2016 winner Bhattacharya will play a traditional raga concert, alongside virtuoso tabla player Gurdain Rayatt. Bhattacharya plays slide guitar, an instrument he has developed himself – a unique event from one of the great artists of world music.

In Pictures: Week 2

The second week of Brighton Festival 2016 saw two performances from our Guest Director Laurie Anderson: the spellbinding Song Conversation, where she performed with fellow musician-composers Nik Bärtsch and Eivind Aarset, and Slideshow, a sometimes humorous, sometimes poignant journey touching on projects, memories and adventures from her past. 

On top of this, there were blockbuster performances from Duke Garwood and Haçienda Classical, Children's Laureate Chris Riddell answering questions and illustrating the answers live, the sonically spiritual Lou Reed Drones, and much more besides. 

Find out what's going on in the third and final week of Brighton Festival 2016. 

Photo credits Adam Weatherley, Vic Frankowski

Brighton Festival artist Debashish Bhattacharya wins Songlines Music Award

Pioneering Indian Classical musician, and India’s leading lap steel guitar player Debashish Bhattacharya has won the Songlines Music Award 2016 for Best Album (Asia and South Pacific category).

The results were announced on Friday 6 May in the June 2016 edition of Songlines Magazine and Debashish has picked up the award for his album Slide Guitar Ragas from Dusk Till Dawn.

The awards recognise outstanding talent in world music.

Debashish says, ‘From 1967-2016 my music has crossed five decades and huge changes in the music world, Songlines is a great magazine bringing to the public the best music from different cultures and ethnicities. This award is a big boost and recognition of my hard work, recognition like this is a life-saving drug to a low-profile musician like myself. This award inspires me to keep on driving on my music highway.

As part of Brighton Festival 2016 Debashish Bhattacharya will play a traditional raga concert on a slide guitar he has developed himself, on 28 May at Brighton Dome Concert Hall, alongside virtuoso table player Gurdain Rayatt, as part of the Dr Blighty concert series.

Listings information

Debashish Bhattacharya

Sat 28 May, 10.15-11.45pm

Brighton Dome Concert Hall

£10/£15

Visit www.brightonfestival.org or call 01273 709709

Songlines Music Awards 2016 winner Bhattacharya will play a traditional raga concert, alongside virtuoso tabla player Gurdain Rayatt. Bhattacharya plays slide guitar, an instrument he has developed himself – a unique event from one of the great artists of world music.

Watch Again - Brighton Festival Live: The Soldier: From Severn to Somme

Christopher Maltman baritone
Malcolm Martineau piano

Including works by Butterworth, Gurney, Somervell, Mahler, Musorgsky, Schumann, Wolf, Finzi and Poulenc

In the first of two recitals by Malcolm Martineau, the pianist accompanies the celebrated baritone Christopher Maltman – hailed as one of the country’s leading exponents of song ever since winning the Lieder Prize at the 1997 Cardiff Singer of the World competition. Colouring the contrast between the idyll of Edwardian England and the horrors of the Great War, an eclectic programme of songs, lieder and chansons charts the soldier's experience, from boyhood to battlefield and beyond.

Find out more and book for this event. 

If you enjoy this live stream, then you might be interested in some of the events still coming up at Brighton Festival:

Gemma Lois Summerfield and Simon Lepper
A selection of chansons and Lieder showcases the expressive talents of Gemma Lois Summerfield, who won the 2015 Kathleen Ferrier Competition, accompanied here by vocal specialist Simon Lepper.

The Marian Consort - Breaking the Rules
Carlo Gesualdo, Prince of Venosa and Count of Conza, composed some of the most intense and glorious music of the Renaissance. He was also a brutal killer. As the obsessive composer relives the past and makes his final confession, the full horror of his crimes stands in stark contrast to his astonishing music. 

Philharmonia Orchestra
Music, words and imagery combine in this special concert. The Philharmonia Orchestra perform some of the best-loved English works of the period, including Vaughan Williams' The Lark Ascending (the nation’s favourite piece of classical music as voted by Classic FM listeners), alongside violin virtuoso Kala Ramnath's own traditional music scored for violin, orchestra and Indian folk instruments. 

In Pictures: Week 1

Brighton Festival 2016 kicked off in grand sunny style with the Children's Parade (click to see more photos) on Saturday, and we've been celebrating since then! 

Here are a few photos from the first week, from the touching Portraits in Motion to a very special canine concert in Music For Dogs. 

Photos by Vic Frankowski, Tom Oldham, John Hunter and Adam Weatherley. 

Spotlight: Brighton: Symphony of a City

Discover more from Lizzie Thynne and Ed Hughes, as they discuss Brighton: Symphony of a City

One of the Brighton Festival events people still talk about is the screening of Battleship Potemkin (2005) with Ed Hughes’s new score in the Hove Engineerium. When Ed and Brighton based filmmaker Lizzie Thynne proposed a Brighton homage to Walther Ruttmann’s 1927 silent classic Berlin: Symphony of a Great City, we grabbed the opportunity to celebrate Brighton in all its festive, bohemian, campaigning, fun-filled glory.

See more Spotlight films, where we cast a spotlight on some of our special commissions and co-commissions in our milestone 50th Brighton Festival.

Video by Catalina Balan with Neil Whitehead