Cheltenham Music Festival has announced that the event will go ahead this year, with a full programme of performances taking place from 2-11 July. The 2020 festival was cancelled due to the coronavirus health crisis.

The schedule will feature symphony orchestras, world-class ensembles, star soloists, world premieres and up-and-coming talent. It also includes films, a musical ramble and a whole weekend of free music and entertainment for all the family.

All performances and events will be presented to socially distanced audiences in venues in and around Cheltenham, including the Classic FM Stage in Cheltenham Town Hall, Cheltenham Playhouse, Parabola Arts Centre, Gloucester Cathedral, St Gregory’s Church and Pittville Pump Room.

Camilla King, head of programming at Cheltenham Music Festival, commented: “I am tremendously proud that our team will bring world-class performances to Cheltenham this summer. For those who love classical music, whether professional or amateur performers, creators or audiences, it has felt that the industry is standing on a precipice. I have no doubt that, as the first note sounds in our beautiful Cheltenham Town Hall for the first time in nearly 18 months, it will be an unforgettable experience.”

Cheltenham Music Festival continues to be one of Europe’s main commissioners of new music. This year it will host nine world premieres and one UK premiere as part of the core programme, as well as 12 further world premieres by this year’s Composer Academy students. Some of these composers have been given a major platform for their work for the first time.

This year’s premieres include a world first in Awakening Shadow. This new chamber opera will be performed by London-based opera company Nova Music. It combines original scenes by British/Australian composer Luke Styles alongside Benjamin Britten’s Canticles, a series of five musical works. Themes of light and darkness are explored through the highly dramatic subject matter of religion, death, sacrifice and humanity.

Other world premieres include vocal group The Carice Singers performing ‘Songs of Travel’ by Canadian-Finnish composer Matthew Whittall inspired by Robert Louis Stevenson’s 1896 book of poetry of the same name, two works by Lillie Harris, a work for soprano saxophone by Ayanna Witter-Johnson performed by Jess Gillam, and a new piece by RPS composer Jonathan Woolgar for The 12 Ensemble.

Audiences worldwide will have the opportunity to watch a live digital performance of Ballad of a Changing World, an immersive new work by pianist Sarah Nicolls and cellist Maja Bugge, which focuses on the urgency of climate change, bringing scientific data and spoken word – including audio of activist Greta Thunberg – together with music to inspire change.

The festival continues its commitment to foster new talent with world-first performances of 12 pieces written by this year’s students of Cheltenham Composer Academy. The scheme supports early-career composers (aged 18 and above), offering them professional advice and mentoring.

This year will see 12 composers work with Composer Academy Director Daniel Kidane to workshop, perform and record their works with The Carice Singers and a chamber ensemble from Chineke!, Europe’s first majority-Black and ethnically diverse orchestra.

In addition to this, is the BBC New Generation Artists recital series, the annual Concert for Schools presented by YolanDa Brown and a recital by The Maxwell Quartet.

There will also be a series of morning recitals at Cheltenham Town Hall, with music from Debussy, Schumann, Brahms, Wolf, Holst and Beethoven, among others. Free Stage concerts in Imperial Square will showcase a wide range of artists from the worlds of classical, jazz, indie, folk, Americana and beyond.

A programme of talks, film screenings and guided tours will also take place throughout the festival. These include Composium, a day for composers, industry professionals and the wider public to explore the role of ‘failure’ in the creative process, led by musicologist and broadcaster Katy Hamilton, and screenings of films The Inn of the Sixth Happiness and Whistle Down the Wind to celebrate the centenary of the birth of Oscar-award-winning film composer Sir Malcolm Arnold.

There will be two Music and Mindfulness sessions, led by composer and guitarist Will Crawford, while a guided tour will take audiences in the footsteps of composer Hubert Parry around the countryside of Highnam, where he grew up.

Full festival details can be found on the Cheltenham Music Festival website. Tickets go on sale to the general public on 14 June.



Mezzo-​soprano Dame Sarah Connolly is among the many world-class performers taking part in this year’s Cheltenham Music Festival; she will be singing works by Schumann, Brahms, Wolf, Holst, Gurney and Howells (Christopher Pledger).