Classical Sheffield Weekend

Classical Sheffield’s second showcase weekend, 17th –19th March, featuring the city’s classical music-making societies and organisations is more widely diverse than the triumphant first in November 2015.

The format is the same with non-stop music in bite-size chunks or mini-concerts at various venues from noon each day – 10am on a packed Saturday – until around ten in the evening.

The only full blown concert sees the Hallé working its way through Mahler, Richard Strauss and down the Blue Danube with its Sheffield-born principal guest conductor Ryan Wigglesworth and soprano Elizabeth Watts who cut her singing teeth in the city before going onto international stardom.

Interactive events are a new departure this time round and you could say that education in a broad sense has some prominence, not least the presence of talented students from Sheffield Music Academy.

They figure on four contrasted occasions with Vivaldi (Four Seasons), Bruch and Dvořák, and Copland (Appalachian Spring), while eight cellists from the academy are involved in a Sheffield Oratorio Chamber Choir account of the Bachianas Brasileiras No 5 by Villa-Lobos.

Cellists attached to Sheffield Music Hub, which provides music education for children from all backgrounds, are heard when Hope Valley-born violinist Lizzie Ball, now of national and international repute, plays Arvo Pärt’s Fratres.

The same work in wind band guise is performed at one of two other Music Hub concerts, the other featuring the Senior Schools Orchestra which partners the adventurous Oliver Coates as the soloist in Shostakovich’s Cello Concerto.

The inquisitive cellist’s principal contribution to the weekend will be leading at least 32 other cellists from around the region in the UK premiere of Canticles of the Sky by the American composer John Luther Adams.

Sheffield Bach Choir, on the other hand, is on well-tried and tested ground with Bach’s Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring and Mascagni’s Easter Hymn, while Sheffield Chorale will be offering opera choruses.

Some unfamiliar Puccini, his early Messa di Gloria, comes from the Sterndale Singers and Mexborough-based Bel Canto Choir, the Sterndale and aforementioned Chorale also being two of the five chamber choirs involved in Sounds from Heaven.

The other three are the Abbeydale Singers, Sheffield Chamber Choir and Viva Voce with a premiere for all five choirs featuring, Kraal by Platform 4’s Jenny Jackson, alongside established pieces by the likes of Tavener, Pärt and Mendelssohn.

The Sheffield Philharmonic Chorus include Schubert and Brahms among Songs of Love and Triumph, while the popular Vivacity Choir does its own thing in Handbags and Gladrags, as do Sheffield Young Singers in Songs of Friendship.

Every choral body in Sheffield, and there are plenty of them, has been invited join in a performance of Orff’s Carmina Burana to celebrate its 80 years of existence.

Opera on Location, meanwhile, has unearthed an equally bizarre work, a 90-year-old mini-pocket opera There and Back (Hin und Zurück) by the undervalued Paul Hindemith.

Sheffield Symphony Orchestra offer an opportunity to hear Stravinsky’s Petrushka and the brass section of Endcliffe Orchestra and Sheffield Flute Choir will be evoking Steel City images.

Hallam Sinfonia has an interactive account of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, while Sheffield Chamber Orchestra present aspiring conductors with a chance to wave the baton at a public masterclass.

Music in the Round’s Marmen Quartet makes two appearances playing Haydn’s Op 77 No 1 at the first and Third String Quartet by Philip Glass at the minimalistic second when guitarist Tom McKinney and Steve Reich’s Electric Counterpoint share the limelight.

Further chamber music, Shostakovich’s Second Piano Trio, comes from the Meiningen Ensemble, including violinist David Milsom and pianist Jonathan Gooing, and three concerts give you a taste of Pierre Boulez.

Each includes one of his three piano sonatas, the first concert giving Lucy Phillips an opportunity to complete her Beethoven violin sonata cycle with the Kreutzer Sonata juxtaposed with the contemporary angst of Boulez’s first essay in the form.

Composer collective Platform 4, whose members crop up at a number of events over the weekend, has a concert to itself, Hooting and Drinking, and four leading musicians from Shanghai stir up Dreams of China at two 45-minute concerts.

A guzheng (Chinese zither) player joins the Sheffield University-linked Fidelio (piano) Trio for a concert of new music headed Silk Dialogues and the five-member, Manchester-based group Kabantu further represents world music at two concerts.

And that is just about it barring a Sheffield Music Hub invitation to Come and Try if you fancy playing a musical instrument and, elsewhere, primary school children are let loose creating electronic music.

Guitar and fiddle duo Head Over Reels will be entertaining those aged up to two, while Crimes Against Taste – “perhaps the world’s only classical/ comedy/ cabaret/ crossover act” – rouses itself to present Tenor and Baritone.

There are free Pop-Up performances across the weekend and fuller information, including bargain-price passes (available until the 1st of March), can be found at www.classicalweekend.com

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