A spring festival first

The Cambridge Music Festival will mark its 30th year with a special celebration of springtime events, planned for March 2021.

Performers will include Sheku and Isata Kanneh-Mason, the cello/piano duo who appeared at this year’s BBC Proms. Sheku played at Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding in 2019, and all seven brothers and sisters of the Kanneh-Mason family appeared on Britain’s Got Talent TV show.

The Festival will also feature Cambridge’s own world famous choir of King’s College, giving what promises to be their first concert in the city in more than a year.

Festival Director, Justin Lee, said, “The lockdown has demonstrated how important live music is to people and that we are fundamentally social beings. For me, nothing beats live music. We should be bold and ambitious, not just grateful to survive. We will be open to new opportunities and willing to do things differently”.

The Festival, a central part of Cambridge’s live music scene, is now scheduled to run Wednesday 17th to Tuesday 23rd March, 2021.

The event, usually held in November, was postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic, but organisers are determined  to restore the joy of live music to the city as soon as possible.

“We cannot go two whole years without a Festival. Audiences and artists are crying out to get back to live events. By March, I am confident that enough of our vital donors and sponsors will be able to get behind us again. They too have been hit by the pandemic, and without their support CMF cannot attract the high quality performers for which we have become so renowned.”

The intention is to include as many live events as possible, with two short concerts, with audiences limited because of social distancing, planned for each day. If government guidelines on Covid-19 security are eased, more people will be allowed in.

But organisers are exploring innovative and exciting ways to move events online if Covid-19 is still proving a major disruption, and audiences are unable to gather in venues to enjoy performances in person.

In that case, unique extra video content will be offered, giving audiences rare insights into the work and lives of the performers.

“We have to be optimistic, but realistic as well,” Justin comments. “Audiences are hungry for a return to live concerts – the physical and emotional connection to the music, but also the unique communal feeling of witnessing a special performance in a venue. We are hopeful that socially distanced live events will go ahead but we have exciting alternative plans to offer if that’s just not possible.”

A highlight of the new look festival will be a series of nine specially-commissioned works for percussion and electronics from a range of talented composers, with videos made to showcase each.

These composers hail from a wide spectrum of musical genres:

  • British-Bahraini trumpeter Yazz Ahmed, whose music has been described as “psychedelic Arabic jazz”
  • “21st century renaissance man” Tunde Jegede is a cellist and kora player whose work embodies elements of West African music From the worlds of film and theatre, there are new works by BAFTA-nominated composer Isobel Waller Bridge (War & Peace, Fleabag) and Dario Marianelli who won an Oscar for his score for Atonement.

An outdoor sound and light projection in the centre of Cambridge is also being planned as a centrepiece of the week.

Musicians have been greatly affected by the temporary closure of concert venues this year, and organisers of the festival are keen to play a part in getting work into their diaries.

“The lockdown has affected us all in different ways”, says Justin Lee. “Some have flourished while others are struggling with financial, physical or mental health problems. Musicians are no exception and with a long wait ahead for things to return to anywhere near normal, we want to support them where we can and get back to engaging audiences with the highest quality live music”.

All events will be Covid-secure, with stewarding, social distancing and enhanced hygiene measures.

Further details of events and how to book will be announced in the New Year.