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Lichfield Festival 2018

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by Tony Collins (subscribe)
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From Stars Of Strictly Come Dancing To Animal Puppets Parade
From glorious classical music and passionate Latin dance by stars of Strictly Come Dancing to rib-tickling comedians, street parades, and the magic of live theatre, Lichfield Festival 2018 will have it all this summer. Taking place between July 4 and 14 in the beautiful and historic Staffordshire city, the annual Lichfield Festival has built a strong reputation as one of the best and most vibrant multi-arts events in the country. And this year is set to be bigger and better than ever with specially-created shows, resident performers and new work featuring through music, dance, theatre, literature and family events.

Strictly Come Dancing, Neil and Katya Jones
Strictly Come Dancing stars Neil and Katya Jones perform new show Somnium - A Dancer's Dream. Credit Matt Crockett

Headline performers include World Champion Latin dancers and Strictly Come Dancing stars Neil and Katya Jones with an exclusive show on July 5 designed especially for Lichfield Cathedral. Entitled Somnium - A Dancer's Dream, the show is based on Neil and Katya's own story and features exciting choreography, music and a company of internationally-renowned dancers. Other headline shows include the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra conducted by Edward Gardner, the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, restaurant critic and jazz musician Jay Rayner, comedians Tom Allen and Mark Steel, Fascinating Aida's Liza Pulman and return visits from the hugely popular Malachites Theatre Company and Ballet Cymru. A theme of Extraordinary Women will also weave throughout the Lichfield Festival while community and family events include the ever-popular Festival Market and Britten's children's opera Noye's Fludde coupled with Holst's The Planets, preceded by a street parade of giant animal puppets.

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra
City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra conducted by Edward Gardner. Credit Upstream Photography

Among the music highlights of this year's Lichfield Festival are the 2017 BBC Radio 2 Folk Singer of the Year Kris Drever with Gaelic songstress Julie Fowlis, a celebration of women in jazz from the National Youth Jazz Orchestra and exciting young trumpeter/composer Yazz Ahmed, and Afro-Cuban dance grooves from Son Yambu. Innovative vocal ensemble The Cardinall's Musick perform pieces from the Renaissance to the present day, and a world premiere from composer Nico Muhly features in a concert by baroque ensemble La Nuova Musica and world-renowned soprano Lucy Crowe. There are six Artists in Residence – Danny Driver (piano), the Carducci Quartet, Matthew Hunt (clarinet) Joo Yeon Sir (violin) and Jessica Walker (voice) and Joseph Atkins (piano) – who perform individually and collectively across the whole festival.

National Youth Jazz Orchestra
National Youth Jazz Orchestra celebrate women in jazz

The first Lichfield Festival event, which takes place on Thursday 4 July, is a poignant reminder of the contributions of ethnic minority soldiers during the First World War. Performed in an outdoor setting at the National Memorial Arboretum in Alrewas, Trench Brothers features MOBO-nominated jazz singer Cleveland Watkiss, professional performers and 120 local schoolchildren. The #ExtraordinaryWomen series includes a look at female pioneers, famous and forgotten names and events inspired by the women's suffrage movement, such as the Malachites Theatre Company's reworking of the Taming of the Shrew. Judith Weir, the first female Master of the Queen's Music, discusses her life and career, while Fascinating Aida singer Liza Pulman and her band pay homage to Barbra Streisand in her critically-acclaimed show Liza Sings Streisand. In addition, two of Alan Bennett's Talking Heads are given a new production for Lichfield directed by Artist in Residence Jessica Walker. Jessica and pianist Joseph Atkins feature in several of the #ExtraordinaryWomen events such as Soldiers, Sirens and Suffragettes - a 21st century cabaret celebrating girl power through song.

Lichfield Festival, Liza Pulman
Singer Liza Pulman and her band pay homage to Barbra Streisand

Other performances featuring the festival's Artists in Residence include a celebration of Bernstein & Gershwin which brings five of the artists together for a unique show of classics, new arrangements and a specially-commissioned West Side Story medley to mark Leonard Bernstein's centenary. Pianist Danny Driver performs Rachmaninov's Second Piano Concerto with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales and the concert also includes the world premiere of a comic overture by Thomas Hyde inspired by the antics of comedian Les Dawson. Joo Yeon Sir plays Paganini's complete 24 Caprices in two recitals and, in a bespoke festival event, joins specialist fine instrument auctioneer Tim Ingles for a fascinating insight into his career illustrated with live music performed on a selection of rare violins. The Carduccis give four chamber music concerts featuring music from the minimalist composers Arvo Pärt and Philip Glass to Haydn, Shostakovich and Piazzolla as well as the European premiere of The Opium Eaters by Ninfea Cruttwell-Reade. Cruttwell-Reade is this year's Featured Composer and her music can also be heard in recitals by violinist Joo Yeon Sir and horn player Ben Goldscheider. Vocal quartet, The Agnes Collective, include the premiere of a new work by her in their programme inspired by Mother Nature.

Carducci Quartet, Lichfield Festival
The Carducci Quartet are one of the festival's artists-in-residence

One of the UK's finest orchestras, the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, perform at Lichfield Cathedral under their former Principal Guest Conductor, Edward Gardner. The CBSO will perform Schubert's Fifth and Eighth (Unfinished) symphonies alongside music by Richard Strauss and a Mendelssohn rarity, Athalie. On the stage, there are thrillers and chillers with a glimpse into the macabre world of 19th century science through Frankenstein 1899 and gripping story-telling and the magic of live theatre in a one-man show of H G Wells's The Time Machine. Restaurant critic Jay Rayner recounts some of his worst restaurant reviews in My Dining Hell and, the same evening, joins his colleagues as pianist with the Jay Rayner Jazz Quartet who play a food and drink-inspired gig, peppered with anecdotes from his childhood.

Jay Rayner Jazz Quartet, Lichfield Festival
The Jay Rayner Jazz Quartet who play a food and drink-inspired gig

The ever-popular Festival Market with its stalls, crafts, entertainment and activities remains a popular day out. The opening Saturday also includes an Animal Parade of giant puppets, created by community groups, which will proceed through the city accompanied by music from local performers. The evening continues with a family concert of Britten's Noye's Fludde and Holst's The Planets featuring local schoolchildren and Chetham's School Symphony Orchestra. Young children will also love The Owl who was Afraid of the Dark which combines story-telling and puppetry, while older youngsters will enjoy the musical comedy, the Ministry of Biscuits. Hansel and Gretel (for ages 12 ) features musicians, an actor-storyteller, shadow-play and projected puppetry to create a dark world of mystery and murder, and the finest classical ballet and circus elements combine for Ballet Cymru's beautiful Cinderella.

Ballet Cymru, Lichfield Festival
Ballet Cymru will be performing a show based on Cinderella

With film showings, a host of literary and other talks, the annual Peace Lecture given by Rev Lucy Willett, history walks, pop up performances in unusual spaces, and a daytime recital series introducing some of the best new talent around, Lichfield Festival remains as imaginative and extensive as ever. Guest Artistic Director Damian Thantrey, in launching this year's star-studded line-up, said: "It has been a great privilege to be entrusted with the artistic planning of this year's 37th Lichfield Festival. Within Lichfield's trademark eclectic mix of classical music, folk, jazz, comedy, dance and theatre, we're particularly delighted to have woven into the festival a season of events to mark the centenary of women's suffrage - #ExtraordinaryWomen - which will celebrate the craft of female writers, artists and composers, as well as works written specifically with a woman's voice in mind."

Tom Allen, Lichfield Festival
Comedian Tom Allen will provide plenty of laughs

Lichfield Festival 2018 runs from 4-14 July. For full details visit, call the Festival Box Office on 01543 412121, or visit the Lichfield Garrick Theatre in Castle Dyke, Lichfield, in person. You can also download an online brochure. Priority booking has been available since March 27 with general booking opening on Tuesday 10 April. Information is also available on Facebook and on Twitter.
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Why? Something For Everyone as Lichfield Festival Returns This Summer
When: 4 - 14 July 2018
Phone: 01543 306270
Where: Lichfield Festival, Donegal House, Bore Street, Lichfield WS13
Cost: The price of concerts and events vary
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