7-15 July 2017

Ballet Cymru | BBC Concert Orchestra | Black Voices & Lichfield Gospel Choir | Hal Cruttenden | Dame Evelyn Glennie | Rich Hall | The Hallé | The Malachites | Mr McFall’s Chamber | Orchestra of the Swan | Oz Clarke & Armonico Consort | Seth Lakeman | Sir Tony Robinson | The Sixteen | Juliet Stevenson| The Swingles

Extraordinary talent, amazing events and unique experiences are the hallmarks of the 2017 Lichfield Festival which runs from 7-15 July and features a vibrant mix of music, film, theatre, comedy, dance, family events, walks, talks and visual arts. One of the most eclectic multi-arts festivals in the UK, Lichfield is 9-day melting pot of world-class entertainment, creativity and family fun set in the glorious surroundings of the beautiful Staffordshire city.

Headline performers include The Hallé orchestra, folk violinist Seth Lakeman, famed percussionist Evelyn Glennie, comedian Rich Hall, author Tony Robinson, actress Juliet Stevenson, theatre company The Malachites and Ballet Cymru. Festival themes investigate aspects of America and trans-Atlantic journeys and there are celebrations marking the anniversaries of Jane Austen and Lichfield’s own David Garrick. Community and family events include a Hare and Tortoise city art trail, Festival Friday and a chance to join a giant choir in the Big City Sing.

For the Festival first night on 7 July, The Hallé orchestra perform Beethoven’s Third Symphony and are joined by young American pianist Andrew Tyson for Rachmaninov’s glorious Paganini Variations. Other classical highlights include percussionist extraordinaire Dame Evelyn Glennie, wine writer Oz Clarke and Armonico Consort in an entertaining exploration of the links between wine and music, and a welcome return for The Sixteen’s Choral Pilgrimage following their sell-out appearance in 2014. A recital series features today’s best young musicians and there are three concerts by artists-in-residence – the versatile Scottish ensemble Mr McFall’s Chamber – including a new commission by Henning Sommero. Seeing out the festival in style, the BBC Concert Orchestra play great movie and film scores of the last century for a Radio 2 broadcast.

Festival focuses include a look across the pond to America with a celebration of Broadway legend Richard Rodgers featuring a cast of West End and opera house singers and Chethams Symphony Orchestra. Europe’s finest female a capella group Black Voices are reunited with Lichfield Gospel Choir – the community choir they created in 2009 – for an evening illustrating the wide appeal of African American Spirituals. There’s an American-inspired programme from Orchestra of the Swan including Dvořák’s New World Symphony and Gershwin’s jazzy Rhapsody in Blue played by 18-year old pianist Thomas Nickell, dubbed ‘The American Mozart’. The Ferio Saxophone Quartet’s programme spans almost five centuries and both sides of the Atlantic, while Mr McFall’s Chamber perform music by American composers teamed with film projections by Lichfield-based Luxmuralis and include Steve Reich’s Different Trains featuring interviews with train passengers recorded before, during and after the Second World War.

Closer to home, the bi-centenary of Jane Austen’s death is marked with a reading of Pride and Prejudice by actress Juliet Stevenson given in period costume in a drawing room setting and interwoven with music by Carl Davis from Matthew Trusler (violin) and Ashley Wass (piano). There’s a chance to re-live the BBC’s famous Pride and Prejudice with an all-day screening of the entire six-part series starring Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth. Author Professor Emma Clery delves into new research on the Austen family relationships and Rebecca Vaughan brings 13 of Jane Austen’s heroines to life with illuminating observations of Austen’s Women.

2017 is also the 300th anniversary of Lichfield’s own David Garrick. His theatrical legacy is marked by a staged reading of the two winning plays selected from nationwide entries to the Garrick 300 Playwriting Competition. The Malachites theatre company return to the festival with a performance of Richard III (the role in which David Garrick made his name) and Garrick landmarks feature in several walking tours.

Other highlights include top comedians Rich Hall, Hal Cruttenden and Zoe Lyons, regular faces on TV shows such as Live at the Apollo and Have I Got News for You. BBC Radio 2 Folk Award winner Seth Lakeman visits with acclaimed Anglo/Americana trio Wildwood Kin, and five-time Grammy winners, The Swingles’ musical tours around the world form the inspiration for their concert. On stage is The Pretend Men’s comedy blockbuster Police Cops and Ballet Cymru’s vibrant production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and, on screen, there are showings of The Jungle Book, Casablanca and Forest Gump.

The city art trail returns by popular demand! This year’s decorated models are inspired by Aesop’s fable of The Hare & The Tortoise and will form a trail around the streets with associated activities. Festival Friday marks the start of both Lichfield Festival and FUSE Festival (7-8 July) in Beacon Park and includes a Song Trail of local youngsters singing through the streets. Another exciting collaboration with FUSE is Big Sing Day which involves a giant specially-formed community choir of experienced singers and beginners plus a performance by Estonian youth choir ESTuudio noortekoor. The ever-popular Festival Market is back, and other events for families include Showstoppers for Kids – an improvised musical show where the audience decides where the show is set and what happens next – and an adaptation of David Walliams’s The First Hippo on the Moon with puppetry and music.

A plethora of author talks includes actor and writer Sir Tony Robinson, acclaimed science writer Brian Clegg, round-the-globe adventurer Sarah Outen, historian James Evans on Emigrants: Why the English Sailed to the New World and the colourful history of Watling Street with John Higgs. Exhibitions feature jewellery and metal crafts, a tranquil art installation at Stowe Pool Boat House by Luxmuralis and children’s own superhero creations transformed into comic book art by professional illustrators.

Sonia Stevenson, Artistic Director of Lichfield Festival said, “It has been a privilege to put together the West Midlands’ premier multi-arts festival which, once again, brings extraordinary talent, amazing events and unique experiences to the city. With a rich programme, brimming with cultural goodies, I hope everyone will find a must-see event (or five!). Join us in July for this summer’s hottest ticket and a fantastic day out in one of Britain's most picturesque cities."


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