Bury Festival May 20-29 has something for everyone

County Culture

County Culture - Credit: Archant

The Bury Festival is relishing an expanded programme this year with a greater emphasis on film. Andrew Clarke spoke to director Nick Wells about this year’s line-up and some special guests

County Culture

County Culture - Credit: Archant

Bury Festival enters its fourth decade with a dazzling array of talent which embraces the musical virtuosity of Nigel Kennedy as well as the film-making talent of David Puttnam.

Festival director Nick Wells said that as always the event would make a virtue out of its diverse nature – providing a cultural experience for a wide range of tastes. The festival brings some of the top names to the county as well as offering opportunities for local talent to take part in events.

The festival relishes combining successful performers from previous years like the hugely popular Aurora Orchestra alongside high profile newcomers like prize-winning pianist Heejae Kim.

Although the festival has a long established reputation for musical excellence Nick said that he has always presented a programme that blends and contrasts a wide range of complementary artforms including dance, drama, film, walks, talks and many forms of music.

County Culture

County Culture - Credit: Archant

Over the past few years the Bury Festival has had a film strand based at The Abbeygate Cinema and this year with the appearance of Lord Puttnam, the film strand has grown in stature and forms a major part of the festival.

Lord Puttnam will host a multi-media event where he will re-live his adventures in the film business illustrated with film clips, stills, behind the scene photographs while his son pianist Sacha Puttnam and Suffolk-born violinist Rosemary Hinton will perform music from films including Chariots of Fire, The Mission, Midnight Express, Local Hero, Memphis Belle and The Killing Fields.

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Among the other big names performing this year are Nigel Kennedy, jazz giant Courtney Pine, Wine buff and trained singer Oz Clarke, Award winning saxophonist YolandDa Brown along with jazz favourites Claire Martin OBE and Ray Gelato.

For Nick, getting Nigel Kennedy to open the festival was the realisation of a life-long dream.

County Culture

County Culture - Credit: Archant

“I had been wanting to book Nigel Kennedy for years without any hope of really getting him. His agent contacted me in September offering me something else. I said: ‘Sorry I’m not really interested but I don’t suppose Nigel’s free to play the festival’ – expecting him to laugh at me because he normally plays much bigger places and before I know it, he’s agreed.”

Nigel Kennedy will be opening the ten-day festival with a performance of a new version of his ground breaking Four Seasons. He will also be playing Dedications, a collection of some of his own critically acclaimed compositions which combine charm, elegance and beauty as well as great virtuosity.

“Performers like playing more intimate places because it puts in close proximity to their audience but it comes with their own challenges because I remember Brian May being really nervous before playing The Apex because he was used to playing huge stadiums and not seeing the faces of the audience. But, despite the fear factor, they love it because it is such a special experience.”

Courtney Pine is a regular visitor, apparently a fan of the atmosphere and the acoustics of The Apex. “Courtney Pine loves coming to Bury and he always does well. He has built up a lovely relationship with local audiences and always delivers something amazing on the night.”

The Aurora Orchestra is another festival favourite, renowned for their playing of classics without music. This year they will be staging the first-ever memorised performance of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony.

Take your festival pick

The Sixteen return on their 16th Choral Pilgrimage to celebrate composers William Byrd and Arvo Part, and The Society of Strange and Ancient Instruments find sonic surprises in early music in Sound House.

Meanwhile The Suffolk Philharmonic Orchestra is joined by Alexander Ullman to perform Grieg’s piano concerto and the winners of BBC2’s Naked Choir competition Sons of Pitches will also be entertaining festival-goers.

Bury Festival is also about joining in and making music as well watching and enjoying the professionals. Enthusiastic festival followers can join the chorus in The Rattler pageant opera, Boogie ‘round Bury in a silent disco, learn to tango with Bury Tango and an authentic Argentinian band or enjoy free Street Theatre.

Wine buff and trained singer Oz Clarke drinks to music with the Armonico Consort, while Protein Dance sing and dance for their supper in dining setting with a tasting menu for the audience

Prize-winning pianist Heejae Kim will perform some of her favourite works by Bach and Brahms along with Liszt’s Fantasy and Fugue on the Theme B-A-C-H, while harpist Eleanor Turner shows why she has had an international career since making her concert debut aged just fifteen.

Brass champions Foden’s Band make a welcome return having won two of the world’s most prestigious competitions and the Dixie Strollers seven-piece young jazz band is back by demand

Award winning saxophonist YolandDa Brown will be bringing some Caribbean sunshine with Reggae Love Songs, while jazz favourites Claire Martin OBE and Ray Gelato join forces for the first time.

Other highlights include well-known TV actor Finbar Lynch plays 16th century composer and murderer Carlo Gesualdo in a part concert/part one-man play with The Marian Consort to mark the 450th anniversary of his birth.

Up and coming young Suffolk saxophonist Harry Greene forms a trio with local jazzers and flautist Sally Beck returns to her home town to perform with guitarist David Fernando Sanchez in an intimate concert in Moyses Hall.

Folk ‘odd couple’ Paul Hutchinson and Paul Sartin perform the English classic Belshazzar’s Feast, and the Milkmaid Folk Showcase features local folk talent at the Athenaeum.

This year’s family concert will be The Three Little Pigs by the Galliard Ensemble with plenty of audience participation to help celebrate the 100th anniversary of Roald Dahl’s birth.

This year’s film programme also promises something different with special screenings of Elvis & Nixon with Kevin Spacey, the new quirky Charlie Kaufman film Anomalisa, Jack Black’s cult family film Goosebumps and Don Cheadle’s Miles Ahead, his perceptive look at the life and career of Miles Davis

“I am very pleased with the mix this year and once again we have some world-class performers coming to Bury and I hope festival audiences will be tempted to try something new alongside more familiar fare.”

The 31st Bury St Edmunds Festival runs from May 20-29. To book, visit www.buryfestival.co.uk or call the Festival Box Office 01284 758000.