VIDEO: Legendary Lowestoft composer Benjamin Britten to be celebrated by 180 performances during centenary

A fanfare has sounded in a Lowestoft guest house for a looming 15-month party celebrating the centenary of musical genius Benjamin Britten. Ian Collins reports.

In ringing, singing sunshine a crowd has gathered at a five-star Lowestoft B&B to invite us all to a prolonged centenary party spreading music across Norfolk and Suffolk.

The key B&B here is Benjamin Britten, the most noted British composer of the 20th century, who was born on November 22 1913 at 21 Kirkley Cliff Road - now a hostelry named Britten House.

Our giant on the world stage remained rooted in East Anglia, with music inspired by our landscapes and sea – what he called Familiar Fields. And that's what they're calling his beautifully orchestrated centenary, whose Events Guide was launched yesterday [TUES].

Nephew Alan Britten – whose mother, now aged 103, knew the Lowestoft house in the 1920s when courted by the composer's brother – said: 'I'm very happy to be here. There is so much happening and this impressive guide brings everything together.'

Schooled at Greshams in Holt, often performing in Norwich and living largely in Aldeburgh, Benjamin Britten wrote everything from music for children to grand opera, from intimate chamber music to orchestral and choral works. All are to sound out across the two counties dearest to his heart.

Fifty musical and arts groups under the Familiar Fields banner have so far scheduled 180 performances of 88 different Britten works – as listed in the new guide (an updated edition is due in January).

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A year-long gala was supposed to begin on November 22, the composer's 99th birthday. But such is the level of support that the sustained fanfare will start as early as September.

World-renowned musicians include the Halle and BBC Symphony Orchestra at Aldeburgh Music, the European Union Chamber Orchestra at Holt, acclaimed artists such as Mark Padmore and Ian Bostridge in the Norfolk and Norwich Chamber Music series and Norwich's own resident orchestra, the Britten Sinfonia. But many strands of Familiar Fields are amateur, community-based and focused on youngsters.

Co-ordinator Michael Nutt said: 'Britten wanted his music to be 'useful, and to the living' and he was passionate about getting people involved in music-making.

'Works like Noye's Fludde, The Little Sweep and Saint Nicolas are all hugely enjoyable to perform and to listen to and all feature prominently in Familiar Fields.'

The children's song cycle Friday Afternoons is a year-long educational project led by Aldeburgh Music, with thousands of children from Suffolk and Norfolk and beyond taking part and public performances at Norwich and Great Yarmouth (June 8 and 24 2013).

The much-loved Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra features in family concerts at Bury St Edmunds (November 2 2013) and Aldeburgh Music (November 23 2013), and is also played at Aldeburgh by Triorca, a new youth orchestra with musicians from Serbia, Germany and Norfolk (April 12 2013).

Sponsored by Adnams and Greater Anglia – and with this newspaper the media partner - Familiar Fields complements the Britten Centenary programmes of Aldeburgh Music ( and the Britten-Pears Foundation (

The latter is based at the Red House in Aldeburgh, Britten's final home with life-long companion Peter Pears, which will reopen with a state-of-the-art archive at next June's very special Aldeburgh Festival.

• The free Familiar Fields Events Guide is available at tourist information centres and cultural and heritage sites across Norfolk and Suffolk (and can be downloaded from

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