Themes of the Festival

Themes of the Festival

2013 themes

The 2013 Festival – Director Ian Ritchie’s final Festival after eight years at the helm – built on previous years’ successes with a challenging and thought-provoking programme developed around three main interlocking themes:

•    Conflict and resolution
•    City walls – connecting the City of London with Derry~Londonderry and other historic walled cities from Utrecht to Jerusalem
•    Trees: sustaining the Festival’s artistic responses to the environment

Using these themes as a platform for creative dexterity, the Festival reflected on significant historical landmark anniversaries, including the 400-year relationship between the City of London and Derry~Londonderry, the 300th anniversary of the Treaty of Utrecht and the 100th anniversary of Benjamin Britten – one of Britain’s most important composers.

Programme highlights included:

World class concerts: great artists appeared in St Paul’s Cathedral for three high-profile ticketed concerts, starting with Britten’s War Requiem, with the renowned City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and the choristers of St Paul’s Cathedral under the baton of Edward Gardner. An historic celebration of Handel’s Utrecht Te Deum and Jublilate, premièred in St Paul’s in July 1713, framed the first performance of The Idea of Peace by Adrian Williams. Plus the London Symphony Orchestra and Tenebrae renewed their acclaimed partnership in a programme ranging from Josquin to Richard Strauss and concluding with a one-off combination of Barber’s iconic Adagio and Agnus Dei.

New commissions: once again the Festival presented a wealth of world premières and new work. A newly commissioned song cycle the working title Trees, Walls and Cities has been written for the Brodsky Quartet and soprano Loré Lixenberg, linking Derry~Londonderry, the City of London, Utrecht, Berlin, Vienna, Dubrovnik, Nicosia and Jerusalem in creative reconciliation. The cycle featured eight songs written by local composers in partnership with local poets or using earlier texts, and will reflect the transcendence of and growth beyond such barriers that divide people. A theme running through the texts was trees – symbolic of life, freedom, nourishment, environment, building and peace. The songs were brought together in an interlocking suite of musical material, composed by Nigel Osborne, creating a coherent journey between the styles and characters of the songs and cities.

Bringing the City to life: in addition to concerts in many of the unique and beautiful Livery Halls, a particular highlight was At Sixes and Sevens, a new choral and orchestral work commissioned by the City of London and The Honourable The Irish Society to mark the 400-year relationship with Derry~Londonderry performed simultaneously in both the Guildhalls of London and Derry. On the other side of the Thames, Mahogany Opera performed each of Britten’s Church Parables – Curlew River, The Burning Fiery Furnace and The Prodigal Son – in Southwark Cathedral, where the composer himself directed the first London performances. In Mansion House, a concert by the Britten Sinfonia resolved the conflict between Apollo and Dionysius in music by Stravinsky, Britten and David Matthews, framed by Vivaldi’s evergreen The Four Seasons.

In the outdoors, the squares and gardens of the City were filled with a diverse programme of music, street theatre, circus and dance, free for all to enjoy. Highlights included the Festival Children’s Parade in which a thousand young people will process through the City in a vibrant display of music, dance, sculpture and puppetry.

Walks, talks and debate: a stimulating programme of walks, talks and debate that compliment this year’s Festival themes. Highlights include: Worlds in Collision, a two-day conference on the healing power of music in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorders resulting from conflict; Gresham Lectures, a series of five free Festival-themed lectures including one that uncovers the story of Derry~Londonderry, and City Walks, guided and illustrated tours also following the artistic and historic themes of the Festival.

Nurturing new talent: a new young artists’ series of eight concerts - performed in the City’s Churches and Livery Halls and sponsored by the City Music Foundation - reflected the founding principles and traditions of the first Festival in 1962 and its commitment to promoting new talent alongside renowned international performers.

Free summer events programme: the Festival continued to open up some of the City’s more unusual spaces with over 100 free events programmed across a wide range of art forms. Highlights included a Family Day on Hampstead Heath entitled Irish Roots – a celebration of Northern Irish culture and heritage and the Mobile orchard: a pop-up mobile orchard with real and manufactured trees which took root at various City locations throughout the Festival period.

Festival Director Ian Ritchie, applauded by the Evening Standard in 2012 for ‘his imaginatively themed programmes’, each year creates a series of interwoven themes which inspire both our ticketed and free events.

Several previous Festivals have taken the theme of Trading Places, focusing on different countries, continents or connected locations that the City has trading connections with. In 2012 we brought the Trading Places series to a close by celebrating our Golden Anniversary with the theme of Trading Places with the World.

Each year the Festival also places a large emphasis on a sustainability theme – which has to date celebrated bees, birds and flowers. 

Golden Jubilee
Golden Jubilee
Golden Jubilee
Golden Jubilee

The City of London Corporation is the principal funder of The City Arts Trust Limited

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