Norfolk and Norwich Festival stars revealed

Lorna Marsh World firsts, national exclusives and theatrical fireworks will be coming to Norfolk this spring as just part of the two-week festival extravaganza revealed today.

Lorna Marsh

World firsts, national exclusives and theatrical fireworks will be coming to Norfolk this spring as just part of the two-week festival extravaganza revealed today.

From May 2 to 17 the Norfolk and Norwich Festival will be hosting some of the biggest names in classical music, jazz, dance and large-scale performance that will fill the city with world class sights and sounds.

Launched today by artistic director Jonathan Holloway the origins of the 200-year-old festival are in classical music and this strong tradition remains at the core of the programme but is complemented by contemporary circus, dance and family evnets.

Classical highlights for 2008 include performances by the Russian State Orchestra and the Philharmonia, Zadok The Priest, sung by the Choir of King's College, Cambridge, the Hilliard Ensemble with music by Bach and Arvo Part and the UK premiere of Kiss On Wood by James MacMillan.

This year's featured Festival composer is Janá?ek and his music can be heard in a variety of events including from the massed voices of the Festival Chorus with the London Philharmonic Orchestra, who perform the Glagolitic Mass, which initially received its UK première at the festival in 1930.

Most Read

The festival also offers chamber concerts including 'early music superstar' and viola da gamba expert Jordi Savall and John Williams teaming up with John Etheridge for a mix of classical and jazz guitar.

Contemporary music highlights include the only UK performance outside London of Homeland by New York performance art legend Laurie Anderson and the man widely regarded as the greatest funk artist in the world, saxophonist Maceo Parker, who is joined by festival favourite Dennis Rollins.

Musically, the action packed two weeks is brought to a close with a world premiere specially commissioned by the festival from eminent American trumpeter and composer Jon Hassell. In Tsegihi (The Night Chant) will be performed by Hassell and his band, Maarifa Street with 100 strong local choir, the Voice Project, formerly Bigger Sky, at the Anglican cathedral.

Fans of dance - and Stravinsky - will be treated to a two-night performance by the Michael Clark Company of the Stravinsky Project, three challenging choreographic responses to Stravinsky's music for Apollo, The Rite of Spring and Les Noces - played live by the Britten Sinfonia and New London Chamber Choir.

The whole project has never been performed outside London and once it leaves Norwich, heads direct to the Lincoln Centre in New York.

The Festival has co-commissioned a new contemporary circus show, Tabu, from masters No Fit State. Based in Earlham Park for the duration of the festival the event will see audience members standing and walking around a silver spaceship tent as performers leap around and above them.

Festival family values remain strong with an extensive selection of low cost entertainment. This year's Children's Festival includes a Baby Rave, a Spanish circus, puppets, monsters and an artistic treasure hunt, City of Secrets, that takes place all over Norwich for a day.

Fireworks start with a city centre 'masclata', a daytime pyrotechnic sound and light spectacular, at the opening weekend and conclude at the finale, for up to 6,000 people in Earlham Park with a sea inspired spectacular created by Spanish company Xarxa Teatre.

Mr Holloway said: “The festival grows from strength to strength each year and 2008 is truly the largest and most ambitious to date.

“For me, a successful festival must do a number of things. It must celebrate artistic excellence, promote international artistic exchange and create new and challenging work.

“It should inspire and engage as many people as possible and be an intense burst of energy and fun. This year's Norfolk and Norwich Festival does all those things.

“What's more, it is a powerful expression of Norwich's self-confidence and sense of identity, a festival that makes a real difference to life in the city, the county and the region.”

The festival will also continue to deliver Norfolk Open Studios, which takes place for two weeks from May 17 to June 1 with more than 250 artists throwing open their doors and studios to the public and each other.

Jonathan Denby, head of corporate affairs for National Express East Anglia (formerly One), who are sponsoring the festival for the fifth year, said: “With an evolving Festival attracting wider audiences, bringing more people to Norwich, everyone gains; audiences, the local community, the local economy, the Festival and National Express East Anglia.”

Prices have been held or lowered this year and there are many free events and the under 26's £5 ticket scheme for 95pc of performances is being continued.