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10 reasons to make space in your diary for Cambridge Summer Music Festival

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Joseph Middleton will be appearing at Cambridge Summer Music Festival 2018
Joseph Middleton will be appearing at Cambridge Summer Music Festival 2018

Cambridge Summer Music celebrates its 40th annual festival in 2018 and is proudly supported by the Cambridge Independent. Starting out relatively modestly as a series of organ recitals, it has developed into a packed fortnight of concerts, from baroque and classical to jazz and world music.

Joe Stilgoe will be appearing at Cambridge Summer Music Festival 2018
Joe Stilgoe will be appearing at Cambridge Summer Music Festival 2018

If you have yet to discover the festival’s delights, or just need a reminder, here are 10 great reasons to block out July 5-21 in your diary.

■ 1. Beautiful performance spaces Cambridge has some of the world’s most iconic architecture and more than its fair share of chapels and churches with glorious acoustics. Special treats this year include supersized polyphony from the 16th century, when the Victorian Gothic interior of Our Lady and the English Martyrs will resound to Tallis’ mighty 40-part motet Spem in Alium and the Mass in 60 parts by Striggio, sung by the Armonico Consort and the choir of Gonville and Caius College (July 12). Or come to the festival’s opening concert at King’s College Chapel and gaze up at the fan vaulting while listening to Mozart 40th Symphony, Fauré Requiem and Bernstein Chichester Psalms, performed by The Bach Choir and Orpheus Sinfonia under CSM’s new director David Hill (July 5).

■ 2. Famous names

Joanna MacGregor will be appearing at Cambridge Summer Music Festival 2018
Joanna MacGregor will be appearing at Cambridge Summer Music Festival 2018

Distinguished musicians performing this year include pianist Joanna MacGregor (who will play Beethoven and Chopin at West Road concert hall on July 14), trumpeter Crispian Steel-Perkins accompanied by organist and festival director David Hill, in a programme of 17th and 18th century classics at Queen’s College Chapel on July 19, the Gould Piano Trio, whose July 10 recital at Jesus College Chapel features an arrangement of Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nacht, and the Brodsky Quartet, who will present Wheel of 4Tunes, a famously adventurous concert format devised to celebrate their own 40th anniversary, which produces a different programme of four quartets every time, chosen by the spin of a wheel (July 13).

■ 3. Not so famous names (yet) You heard them here first – rising stars such as 2017 Cardiff singer of the world Catriona Morison (St John’s Old Divinity School, July 16) and Radio 3 New Generation artist Ashley Riches (July 8). Bass-baritone Ashley will be joined by pianist Joseph Middleton for his recital Songs Before Sleep (also at the Divinity School), to include the world premiere of a new work by composer Kate Whitley, co-commissioned with the BBC and the Royal Philharmonic Society. This concert will be recorded by BBC Radio 3 and broadcast on July 10 at 7.30pm.

■ 4. Free lunchtime concerts Held in central locations so that you can pop in during the lunch hour, these concerts give a platform to talented young musicians such as pianist and organist Ben Comeau (July 8) who recently graduated from Cambridge with a starred first, dazzling harpist Oliver Cope (July 15), cellist Joy Lisney – hailed as ‘the new Jacqueline Du Pre’, whose programme on July 15 includes one of her own compositions – and prize-winning flautist Rosie Bowker (July 18).

■ 5 The chance to join in

Before the supersize polyphony concert (see no.1 on this list), you can have a go at some Tallis yourself in a ‘come and sing’ open rehearsal (July 12, St Paul’s Church), before heading over the road to hear how it’s really done.

■ 6. Silent movie night

On July 11, St John’s College Chapel will be the setting for a screening of The General (1926), a hair-raising comedy classic starring Buster Keaton, playing a southern railway engineer pursuing his locomotive and his girl across the prairies during the American Civil War – brought to life by organist Richard Hills, improvising in real time with brilliant virtuosity.

■ 7. Music to set toes tapping Alongside the classical programme are some fabulous sounds and styles, including traditional Scottish fiddle music from Blazin’ Fiddles (July 7), jazz from singer, pianist and songwriter Joe Stilgoe (July 20), and light classical through to swing, jazz and pop from the saxophone/clarinet quartet Simply Reeds (July 21).

■ 8. Music in the open air

CSM’s popular Sounds Green series of concerts returns to the Cambridge University Botanic Garden, where you can relax under the trees on Wednesday evenings with a picnic, listening to the Cambridge-based band Prime Brass (July 4), the exhilarating, gypsy-infused sounds of She’koyokh (July 11), TG Collective’s heady mix of hot club, flamenco and contemporary classical (July 18), or the jazz, samba and bossa nova rhythms of Afro-Brazilian band Afrosamba (July 25).

■ 9. Pre-festival events

Get in the mood for music before the official start of the festival, with the Schubert Ensemble’s farewell concert (June 23) to mark the close of a long and successful musical partnership. Along with works by Vaughan Williams and Dvorak, they will play Judith Weir’s re-imagining of Schubert’s Abschied – a tender ‘goodbye’ from a composer who has collaborated regularly with the ensemble. And on July 2, the master of Pembroke College and former culture secretary Chris Smith will reflect on the past 20 years of arts achievement and policy in Britain, and the challenges ahead.

■ 10. Banish post-festival blues

Get one more fix after the fun is over with a wonderful concert of Mozart ballet music on August 4, in Saffron Walden. Performed by the Aurora Ensemble and soloist Denis Kozhukhin, the evening will be presented by the orchestra’s director Nicholas Collon with Radio 3’s Tom Service, who will explore the orchestra’s hallmark approach of playing without music.

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