King's Lynn Festival preview

ALISON CROOSE When King’s Lynn Festival began in 1951 it was an oasis of classical music. Today the event faces much competition – but experts say that Lynn Festival is still up there among the best.


The 56th King's Lynn Festival begins on Sunday, July 16, and ticket sales reflect public enthusiasm for the broad appeal of its programme.

The festival was founded on the high ideals of concert pianist Ruth Lady Fermoy and there is a determination on the part of the current organisers not to compromise those standards.

Artistic director Ambrose Miller has wide experience of music festivals in his role as manager of the European Union Chamber Orchestra which has taken part in many festivals in Britain and abroad.

“King's Lynn Festival has maintained its tradition of excellence and its international reputation and is still up there with the best,” he said.

Even with the plethora of top-flight classical music names appearing in East Anglia this summer, Mr Miller has pulled off the coup of bringing legendary pianist Alfred Brendel to King's Lynn for the first time.

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“Brendel, who is 75 this year, is acknowledged as one of the greatest pianists of the day. We are very fortunate to have attracted such a distinguished musician, especially as he rarely performs outside London these days,” he said.

The appearance of Brendel at the Corn Exchange on July 27 has not only excited classical music lovers across East Anglia. It has also raised the profile of the festival much further afield and there have been a number of bookings for the recital from people living in London.

Mr Miller believes that raising the awareness of the festival nationally augurs well in attracting more big names in future.

Festival chairman Alan Pask said: “We are always amazed at the number of people who travel great distances to the festival. The event does much to promote Lynn in the wider world. With world-famous names entertaining and inspiring us it underlines the national significance of Lynn and West Norfolk.

“We are working closely with the borough council which recognises that the festival puts Lynn on the map and attracts many visitors, benefiting the economy of the area.”

Alfred Brendel's recital is proving the point by drawing new audiences to West Norfolk. Even more impressive were the calls to the festival office from Western Australia and Scotland with requests for tickets for Lesley Garrett's concert on July 18.

The bubbly Yorkshire-born soprano has wowed audiences around the world with her operatic performances - but she says Lynn Corn Exchange will be the ideal setting for her latest singing venture.

Having led the way in staging big opera galas, Lesley Garrett now enjoys the relative intimacy of comparatively smaller audiences and is looking forward to returning to the Corn Exchange with her Classical Cabaret on Tuesday, July 18.

She said the venue would be ideal for her programme of songs from films, musicals and opera in which she will be supported by a six-piece band.

The two-week festival begins on July 15 when King's Lynn Festival Chorus teams up with the Orchestra of the Swan from Stratford-upon-Avon for a programme including Mozart's Requiem. One of the soloists, Elizabeth Watts (soprano), has recently won the prestigious Kathleen Ferrier prize.

Tickets are selling well for all events including the final concert by the Philharmonia Orchestra on July 29 which will feature Grieg's piano concerto.

Another first for Lynn Festival will be the programme of popular baroque music performed by the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment on July 19. The orchestra, known for its dynamic playing, is associate orchestra at both Glyndebourne and London's South Bank.

The Brodsky Quartet, which has a place at the forefront of the international chamber music scene, will be at Lynn on July 20.

Personalities from television and radio will add to the variety of entertainment.

Comedian Tony Hawks - who appears on TV's Have I Got News for You and They Think It's All Over - will be talking about his witty new book, A Piano in the Pyrenees, with BBC Radio Norfolk's Tony Mallion on July 23.

On July 21 Richard Holmes's lecture, In the Footsteps of Churchill, will be based on his television programme about Britain's great leader.

Humorist Miles Kington, who visited Lynn Festival several times as part of Instant Sunshine, returns to entertain at the literary dinner on July 21 alongside fellow columnist and former MP, Matthew Parris.

Leading folk trio Coope Boyes and Simpson, renowned for their a capella singing, will be at Lynn on July 28, and the festival will move out of town on July 23 for Schubert and Strawberries, an afternoon concert at Park House Hotel, Sandringham.

Mr Mallion will also chair a special edition of BBC Radio Norfolk's light-hearted panel game, Should The Team Think? on July 24.

A children's event, Mozart's Birthday Party, is at 4pm on July 28.

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