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Britten Centenary sees live and live streamed music performances in Bristol and Southampton

  • Date: 21 November 2013
  • Area: South West
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Bristol Choral Society, Gloucester Choral Society and Bournemouth Symphony Orchestera on stage at Colston Hall. Credit: Photo courtesy of Colston Hall

Colston Hall and Turner Sims are leading major projects that come to fruition this weekend as part of a national celebration of the composer Benjamin Britten.

Friday 22 November marks 100 years since Britten's birth. As part of the national Britten 100 Weekend programme, people throughout England and the rest of the world will be celebrating the Suffolk-born composer's life from Friday 22 November to Sunday 24 November.

The Arts Council has supported the celebrations with a £1million Britten Centenary commission, led by Arts Council England National portfolio organisation Aldeburgh Music, which has seen a programme of activities from November 2012 to March 2014.

Grants for the arts-supported Colston Hall in Bristol will present three performances over the weekend. Turner Sims, an Arts Council England National portfolio organisation in Southampton, will showcase one performance, as part of their autumn Britten season.

Friday Afternoons

On Friday 22 November, children from across the South West will sing Friday Afternoons along with 100,000 young people around the world as part of a one-year nationwide initiative called Friday Afternoons, which aims to encourage as many children to sing in schools.

Britten's Friday Afternoons is a set of 12 songs that he composed between 1933 and 1935 and dedicated to his schoolmaster brother and the Clive House preparatory school.

In Bristol, 1,913 school children from 39 schools from six regions in the South West will perform the set of songs with Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and Bournemouth Symphony Youth Chorus at Colston Hall, directed by conductor Kirill Karabits, principal conductor of Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra.

Meanwhile in Southampton, 300 school children from Hampshire, Portsmouth and Southampton will perform Friday Afternoons at Turner Sims in an event called Britten Streams. The performance is the culmination of a major project devised and coordinated by Turner Sims that brought together all three Arts Council England Music education hubs from Hampshire, Portsmouth and Southampton for the first time.

The performance will be live streamed to other schools across the country, who will join in singing with the final song. The event will also see the premiere of three new short films reflecting the associations of the local area with Britten and his music.

Britten 100 Weekend

Colston Hall will also present two spectacular evening performances as part of the Britten 100 Weekend.

Friday evening sees Britten and his Friends, a performance from Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and Tchaikovsky Prize-winning Johannes Moser. The event pays homage to the close friendships between Britten and Russian composer Shostakovich and Russian cellist Rostropovich.

On Saturday evening, Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, the Bristol Choral Society, Gloucester Choral Society, and choiristers from Bristol Cathedral will perform Britten's iconic War Requiem, along with internationally-renowned soloists soprano Alwyn Mellor, tenor James Gilchrist and baritone Stephan Loges.

Kevin Appleby, Concert Hall Manager at Turner Sims says: 'Benjamin Britten's centenary is already big news. When it was launched in London last September 50 nationally renowned arts organisations issued press releases outlining their plans. Since then many more in this country and worldwide have joined the list, all seeking to add their own take on the celebrations.

'So why in the midst of all this global anniversary frenzy should we in southern England be involved? For me, the key driver is not simply that we have an opportunity to explore Britten's output and reputation at a landmark moment. It is that we can remind ourselves of the associations which the southern region has with the composer and his work.

Louise Mitchell, Bristol Music Trust CEO: 'The Britten weekend at Colston Hall celebrates  the work of Benjamin Britten in a way that the composer would have approved of. We will enjoy performances by children from right across the region, the amateur forces of Bristol Choral Society, and the professional expertise of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra. We are also particularly  pleased to be hosting performances of a series of songs, Friday Afternoons,  written to be sung at the end of the school week on the actual centenary date of Britten's birth, a Friday afternoon.'

Moragh Brooksbank, Music Relationship Manager, South West, Arts Council England says, 'The Britten 100 celebration is a wonderful opportunity for artists and audiences to explore his extraordinary music. The Friday Afternoons song project will bring children together around the world to perform Britten's work. In the South West area over 2,000 young people will gather in Colston Hall and Turner Sims.'

Britten 100 Weekend, 22 to 24 November 2013, various locations. For more information about Colston Hall, see http://www.colstonhall.org/britten-100-weekend/.

Turner Sim's Britten Stream event will only be streamed online - there will be no seating to watch this event live. Watch it from: http://new.livestream.com/UniversityofSouthampton/events/2548464