BREMF – Preview – 2023
Brighton Early Music Festival has weathered some fearsome storms recently. Pandemic, Cost of Living Crisis, ministerial indifference, changes at the top – all could have derailed this fertile nursery of talent. This year’s brochure is full of familiar names, many that launched their professional careers in BREMF.
In 2015 Soprano Kat Carson sang Francois Couperin’s ‘Trois Leçons de ténèbres’ with BREMF Artistic Director Deborah Roberts. She returns (6 July, 8.00pm, St Paul’s Church) with her international ensemble ‘Nymphes et Monstres’ and the BREMF Community Choir under their inspiring director Andrew Robinson to present ‘Triumphant Days, Charming Nights’, a programme of music by Henry Purcell including the ever popular ‘Come, Come Ye Sons of Art’.
The illustrious Andrew Carwood first came to BREMF as a singer. Now, as director of music at St Paul’s Cathedral and director of The Cardinall’s Musick, he is leading a singers’ workshop on William Byrd and William Cornysh, commemorating the 400 and 500 anniversaries of their deaths, His scholarship and insights into performing works by these giants of the English school will be fascinating (16 September, 11am-5pm, Friends’ Meeting House).
A week later BREMF Consort of Voices will hold their ‘Byrd Crawl’, presenting free short performances of music by William Byrd in four churches across Brighton, which can be reached on the 21 and 2 busses (parking is not easy).
The major Byrd celebration will be ‘Secret Byrd’, a theatrical séance contrived by Bill Barclay of Concert Theatre Works and sometime Director of Music at Shakespeare’s Globe. The performers are The Gesualdo Six and the Fretwork viol consort (13 October, 6pm & 8.30pm, St Bartholomew’s Church). If you wonder why Byrd is considered the very best, these brilliant artists will convince you!
Byrd also features in ‘A New Dawn’ (14 October, 1.00pm, Friends’ Meeting House) the Malcolm Rose Memorial Concert given by Ensemble Hesperi (recorders and harpsichord).
But this festival isn’t just about Byrd. Purcell appears again in ‘Battle Cry: She Speaks’ (21 October, 1pm, St Nicholas Church) performed by mezzo-soprano Helen Charlston and Toby Carr, theorbo. I can still feel the icy thrill that Charlston generated with Purcell’s ‘Dido’s Lament’ in the closing concert of 2018. A recent composition is the centrepiece of this programme. “Early Music?” you may ask. Well, ‘Battle Cry’ is by Owain Park, the director of The Gesualdo Six, who raised frowns when they sang Ligeti alongside Tallis and Lobo in 2017. Modern works like his bring comparisons, contrast and variety to an Early Music concert and this is always illuminating.
Toby Carr is also part of the ensemble accompanying the lovely Fieri Consort (14 October, 7.30pm, St George’s Church) in works by Barbara Strozzi and Maddalena Casulana, prepared for performance by Professor Laurie Stras. Later she will be conducting Musica Secreta and Celestial Sirens in ‘Mother, Sister, Daughter’, a bouquet of Renaissance delights and a new commission by Joanna Marsh. (22 October, 7.30pm, St Martin’s Church).
We can expect another exhilarating concert from La Fonte Musica with the very early Renaissance music of Antonio Zacara da Teramo (20 October, 7.30pm at St George’s Church).
There is something for everyone in this season: workshops, a ceilidh, Baroque/Jazz and pub evenings, and the Orchestra of the Enlightenment Tots event. The various BREMF choirs are already busy rehearsing, and there’s the BREMF LIVE! showcase all afternoon of 21 October in St George’s Church to introduce us to the next generation of Early Music stars.
5 July 2023