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Aldeburgh Festival looks to boost audiences with £10 tickets and free coaches

PUBLISHED: 10:30 16 February 2020 | UPDATED: 10:18 20 February 2020

Roger Wright outside the Snape Maltings Concert Hall. Picture: Matt Jolly

Roger Wright outside the Snape Maltings Concert Hall. Picture: Matt Jolly

Matt Jolly

The Aldeburgh Festival is one of the mainstays of the UK’s arts calendar, however, this year it’s opening concert takes place far from the coast.

The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra will be performing Britten's War Requiem at the Aldeburgh Festival. Photo: Aldeburgh FestivalThe City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra will be performing Britten's War Requiem at the Aldeburgh Festival. Photo: Aldeburgh Festival

The Aldeburgh Festival remains one of the most exciting and innovative arts and music events in the world. Founded in 1948 by Suffolk composer Benjamin Britten, tenor Peter Pears and the librettist/producer Eric Crozier, the Festival continues to evolve and attract artists and concertgoers from across the globe.

However, never ones to rest on their laurels, the producers of the 16 day festival are looking to keep the programme fresh and to attract new audiences from different age groups and from all walks of life.

Organisers are working to increase access to the festival. There are new allocations of £10 tickets for first-time bookers, free coaches running between Aldeburgh and Snape to make getting between events easier, and a new car sharing scheme to encourage audience members to travel together, cutting carbon emissions.

Aldeburgh Festival is inviting applications to play on Aldeburgh Beach during the Festival Photo: Sarah Lucy BrownAldeburgh Festival is inviting applications to play on Aldeburgh Beach during the Festival Photo: Sarah Lucy Brown

The festival runs from June 12 - 28 and, for the first time in more than 50 years, it opens away from the coast, with the first night in St Edmundsbury Cathedral to mark the 1,000th anniversary of Bury St Edmunds Abbey.

This year there are four artists-in-residence: singers Julia Bullock and Allan Clayton, and composers Cassandra Miller and Mark-Anthony Turnage.

American soprano Julia Bullock is known not only for her musical brilliance but also for her social activism and her championing of racial and sexual equality. Alongside performances of festival founder Benjamin Britten and American experimentalists John Cage and Lukas Foss, Bullock also sings and curates an evening, on June 23, entitled Perle Noire celebrating the life and music of the American-born French icon, Josephine Baker - cabaret performer, French Resistance agent and civil rights activist.

Mark-Anthony Turnage, artist-in-residence at Aldeburgh Festival 2020  Photo:Philip GatwardMark-Anthony Turnage, artist-in-residence at Aldeburgh Festival 2020 Photo:Philip Gatward

Tenor Allan Clayton is particularly known for his love of Britten and he joins an international cast of singers and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra to give the first performance of Britten's War Requiem to take place at Snape Maltings as part of the Aldeburgh Festival.

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The music of Cassandra Miller and Mark-Anthony Turnage runs throughout the festival. Snape Maltings Chief executive Roger Wright says: "We are very pleased to be able to feature the music of Cassandra and Mark. Mark is one of the UK's outstanding composers and we will celebrate his 60th birthday by presenting a broad range of his works over a number of concerts including the premiere of a new cycle of songs he has written for Allan Clayton."

Vocalist Julia Bullock, artist-in-residence, at the Aldeburgh Festival 2020   Photo: Allison-Michael-OrensteinVocalist Julia Bullock, artist-in-residence, at the Aldeburgh Festival 2020 Photo: Allison-Michael-Orenstein

Canadian-British composer Miller is less well known than Turnage, but Wright says she creates structures and sounds that can resonate with people beyond fans of classical music: "Cassandra's music is hugely varied and very distinctive. Her work is often inspired by meditation. The new piece Tracery is a sound and video installation, co-created with singer Juliet Fraser, which turns one of our studio spaces into an intimate and welcoming space for deep listening. At the other end of the scale, her orchestral work A Large House, which will be performed by the BBC Philharmonic, takes us on a mesmeric journey that seems to stand outside time."

In addition to the main concert programme, there are visual arts exhibitions in a number of venues, a vibrant, multi-arts alternative festival at Aldeburgh's intimate space, The Pumphouse - the programme will be announced in April - and audiences can enjoy free music with a sea view every day at the Beach Stage.

Asked if there are any surprises in store for audiences this year, Wright says "There are always plenty of new things to discover in our festival programme, but it's certainly unusual for us to be organising a fun run.

Alan Clayton, artist-in-residence at the Aldeburgh Festival 2020  Photo: Sim Canetty-ClarkeAlan Clayton, artist-in-residence at the Aldeburgh Festival 2020 Photo: Sim Canetty-Clarke

"To celebrate the fact that Snape Maltings and the Britten-Pears Foundation in Aldeburgh are unifying in April, we are inviting audiences to choose between a run and a walk between the two sites. It's a beautiful six-mile journey."

Programming isn't the festival's only focus. Wright says he and his colleagues are working hard to encourage new visitors to the festival. This year the festival is launching a new scheme, holding back allocations of £10 tickets exclusively for new bookers. These go on sale on February 18. Wright acknowledges that Snape and Aldeburgh are not the easiest places to get to if you don't have a car, but says that this year a new car sharing scheme is being piloted in collaboration with the Norwich-based company Liftshare.com: "We are creating a web platform to encourage people who want to go to the festival to meet and plan their travel together. We are encouraging our existing audience members to offer lifts wherever possible and we also encourage anyone interested in visiting without a car to use the platform to find someone offering a lift.

"Meanwhile we also know that if you aren't a driver, making the journey between our venues can be difficult, so this year our coaches running free of charge between Aldeburgh and Snape. These initiatives are aimed at increasing access and reducing carbon emissions."

Cassandra Miller, artist-in-residence at Aldeburgh Festival 2020 Photo:Andrew ParkerCassandra Miller, artist-in-residence at Aldeburgh Festival 2020 Photo:Andrew Parker

The festival is also launching, on February 18, an open call inviting all singer-songwriters, schools, and community music groups to apply to play on the festival's Beach Stage, which is designed to be a platform for everyone, from festival artists to folk and jazz groups, singer-songwriters and school and community music groups.

The deadline for applications is April 1. For more information, see snapemaltings.co.uk/beach-stage.

The Aldeburgh Festival runs between June 12-28 and general booking opens on Tuesday February 18. Find out more at snapemaltings.co.uk/festival or call 01728 687110.

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