What I’m going to see, or what I’d like to see.
I will always make it clear when I’m previewing concerts that I’m involved in or helping to promote.

Caesar and Cleopatra in all their glory

ETO production image © Richard Hubert Smith

Cleopatra’s seductive powers have beguiled writers down the ages, and it’s not surprising that her exploits inspired Handel to create Giulio Cesare in Egitto (‘Julius Caesar in Egypt’), an opera that was a huge hit at its first performances in 1724, and which has remained enduringly popular. All the Handel opera ingredients are there: strong female characters, an exotic setting, a classical hero and scope for a typically baroque convoluted plot and I’m absolutely thrilled that English Touring Opera have chosen it for this autumn’s tour, coming to Durham next week. Read more

Praise the God of Brass

Oompah Brass performing at streets of brass 2014July in Durham means brass music. On the second Saturday of the month, bands and banners from trade unions and mining communities parade through the streets for the Miners’ Gala, and although the banners are only out for a one day, the music carries on for another week, thanks to the DurhamBRASS festival, with concerts and events running in the city and around the region from 9 until 16 July. The guiding principle of the festival programming is that it brings together as many different types of music as possible – anything goes, as long as it has brass instruments in it. There’s traditional band music of course, there are big bands and jazz of many flavours, Broadway shows and soul music, and you can even bring your own instrument and play along to the film “Brassed Off”. Read more

Not the Messiah…. Israel in Egypt

image of figure crossing the red seaThere’s a Handel oratorio being performed in Durham Cathedral, the week before Easter. And guess what? It’s not Messiah. Much as I love Handel’s masterpiece, it does tend to overshadow his other oratorios, so I’m delighted to see that Royal Northern Sinfonia are giving us a rare chance to hear Israel in Egypt instead. The oratorio tells the story of the Israelites’ escape from Egypt, including the events which are remembered by Jews in the Passover feast, which means it aligns nicely with Easter too, as Jesus had travelled to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover when he was arrested and crucified.  Read more

Durham Vocal Festival

Choral singing in Durham has a fantastically long and rich history – the Chorister School has been celebrating its 600th anniversary this year and there were monks singing daily in the Cathedral before that. In January, singers across the city and beyond, from primary school children to some of the biggest names in national choral music, come together to celebrate singing in the first Durham Vocal Festival.

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Autumn 2016 concerts

botanic gardens durham autumnThe BBC Proms ended this weekend, which mean it’s definitely the end of the musical summer. If you haven’t got all Durham’s autumn concert dates in your diary yet, here’s a quick run down of some of the events I already know about, with links at the bottom to the event listings. There’ll also be plenty of university concerts to choose from once the students reappear, so keep checking back to see what’s new. Read more

Durham Festival of the Arts 2016

festivalThe second Durham Festival of the Arts, a joint venture between the university’s music and drama societies begins next week, with a Shakespeare extravaganza in Durham Cathedral. This gala concert combines orchestral and choral music inspired by Shakespeare, including Prokofiev’s Montagues and Capulets, Mendelssohn’s music for A Midsummer Night’s Dream and music from Kiss Me, Kate, with excerpts from the plays performed by Durham Student Theatre. Read more

Durham’s new orchestra: Orchestra Cipriani

cirpiani-durhamIn this city where choral music dominates the landscape, it’s fabulous to hear about a new orchestra setting up in Durham. Orchestra Cipriani give their debut concert at St Oswald’s church next Tuesday, playing music by Mendelssohn, Beethoven,  Malcolm Arnold and Steve Robson. There’s an amazing odd-one-out from this list: of the four, Beethoven is the only one who never visited Durham. Read more

Durham Festival of the Arts 2015

DurhamFestivaloftheArtsExams are nearly finished, and students are faced with two weeks or so of hanging around waiting for results and graduation. I remember spending a lot of time playing backgammon on the lawn at the back of Hatfield during that time many years ago, but for those who are more motivated and talented than I ever was, it’s also a time for the university’s creative talents to shine. This year the year-end flurry of concerts and theatre have been brought together to create the first Durham Festival of the Arts, and there’s loads going on. Read more