Classical Sheffield Festival of Music

Quite a few years back one of its most famous musical sons, dear old Roger Bullivant, said that Sheffield had the most active music scene outside of London – and he would have known!

Things have not changed, in fact the activity has increased, and over three days in October it will be rather uniquely publicly blowing its own trumpet!

Even Arts Council England was taken by the idea and provided funding when the website, Classical Sheffield, came up with the notion of a co-ordinated festival in venues around the city centre over a weekend.

The idea was that it would feature as many of the city’s music-making organisations as wished to be involved. ‘Feelers’ were put out to gauge interest and the response was overwhelming enthusiasm.

More than 30 of them, orchestras, ensembles, choral and operatic, are involved on Friday, the 23rd of October; Saturday the 24th; and Sunday, the 25th; most of them on the Saturday.

A detailed run-down would be turgid, especially as the who and the when can be found at www.classicalweekend.com

However, with some imaginative programming on offer, a few ‘sign-posts’ by way of what to expect seems apposite.

Such as on Saturday, for instance, with Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms from the Hallam Sinfonia, Hallam Choral Society and Tideswell Singers at Sheffield Cathedral between 12.30pm and 1pm.

Leaving time to get to the City Hall Ballroom to hear the Sheffield Philharmonic Chorus giving voice to Tippett’s five Child of Our Time spirituals, Tavener and Pärt: 1.30pm-2.15pm.

At the same venue: 3.30pm-6pm, ‘Sheffield Sings’, a collection of the city’s choirs, including the Bach Choir, Oratorio Chorus, Escafeld Chorale and Sterndale Singers, doing their own thing in approximately 25-minute slots.

Back over at the Cathedral, after the contemporaneous sounds of new music from Sheffield’s composer collective Platform 4: 4.45pm-5.30pm, those of North Indian Ragas are heard from John Ball and his Sheffield University Indian music ensemble: 6.30pm-7.15pm.

The decks are then cleared again to make room for the Sheffield Chamber Choir to perform Frank Martin’s splendid Mass for double choir: 8.30pm-9pm.

Meanwhile, earlier at the Crucible Studio, members of Ensemble 360 warm up for Dvořák’s Op 77 string quintet: 7.20pm-8.05pm, with some technically demanding music from the 20th century by Huw Watkins, Kurtág, Boulez and Bartók: 6pm-7pm.

As Dvořák wafts into the distance, Opera on Location move into the Studio: 8.30pm-9.15pm, with Menotti’s operatic 20-minute two-hander The Telephone and the much shorter one with four characters, A Hand of Bridge by Samuel Barber; plus his solo Knoxville of 1915.

Sheffield City Opera get in on the act on Sunday with excerpts from the company’s recent production of Massenet’s Cinderella (Cendrillon) at Sheffield Cathedral: 1pm-1.35pm.

Further operatic music is in the City Hall Ballroom soon after: 2pm-2.25pm, Kodály’s Háry János Suite, from the Sheffield Senior Schools Orchestra which remains in-situ to join to play Arturo Márquez’s Danzon No 2 with the Sheffield Symphony Orchestra before the latter takes on Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition: 2.40pm-3.45pm.

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