Cheltenham Music Festival top ten picks

Meurig Bowen

Meurig Bowen - Credit: Archant

The Cheltenham Music Festival, though having classical music at its heart, is studded with diverse treats – encompassing film, dance, jazz, world music and family events amidst the rich mix of orchestral, choral and chamber concerts. Festival director Meurig Bowen picks out his top ten programme highlights.

1. A great British maestro - twice

Edward Gardner is the most exciting and admired British conductor of his generation. Brought up in Gloucester, he makes a welcome return to his home county for two major orchestral concerts – highlights include Rachmaninov’s heartstoppingly beautiful 2nd symphony with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto with soloist Alina Ibragimova Wednesday, July 1, Saturday, July 11, Town Hall


2. Celebrating 150 Years of Alice

Lewis Carroll’s children’s classic gets a musical tribute from The King’s Singers, with readings by Tim Pigott Smith (featured in Tim Burton’s 2010 Alice in Wonderland film) Thursday, July 2, Town Hall


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3. Hitchcock’s Psycho with a difference

It’s an iconic film, with an equally great soundtrack. So for this performance, we hear Bernard Herrmann’s extraordinary score played live during the screening by one of the UK’s top orchestras, the Britten Sinfonia. A unique festival experience. Friday, July 3, Town Hall


4. Music, film and art events perfect for children

The Music Festival’s events curated for children are an increasingly important part of what we do. There’s a slapstick musical duo of identical twins, some stunning animated films accompanied by live Chopin piano music, and the combination of Flower’s Brass Band, Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition and illustrator James Mayhew. All perfect for children aged 5-12. Saturday, July 4, Sunday, July 5, Saturday, July 11, Parabola Arts Centre and Town Hall


5. Classical Ballet at the Everyman

New English Ballet Theatre is one of the hottest new companies, working with the finest young choreographers in Britain. Music by Mussorgsky, Villa-Lobos and Beethoven. Sunday, July 5, Everyman Theatre


6. A masterclass of piano virtuosity

American-Venezuelan Gabriela Montero is one of the world’s top pianists. She sold out the 3000 seat Sydney Opera House recently. Come and hear her in much more intimate surroundings, and be dazzled by her improvisations. You, the audience, name the tune and the style, and she does the rest! Tuesday, July 7, Pittville Pump Room


7. Silent Cinema & Live Soundtrack in Tewkesbury Abbey

Imagine watching one of the last great silent films (The Passion of Joan of Arc, 1928) in the darkening vaulted space of Tewkesbury Abbey – accompanied by a live soundtrack of medieval vocal music. A truly atmospheric experience. Wednesday, July 8, Tewkesbury Abbey


8. Claire Martin’s Parisian cabaret

Widely regarded as the First Lady of British Jazz, Claire Martin and her trio pay tribute to Paris with songs by Michel Legrand, Jacques Brel, Cole Porter and Edith Piaf classics Wednesday, July 8, Cheltenham Ladies’ College, Princess Hall


9. Frank Sinatra – a centenary tribute

Matt Ford, one of the UK’s top jazz vocalists, recreates Sinatra’s Close to You album with top-notch musicians from Ronnie Scott’s and the John Wilson Orchestra. Expect other Sinatra classics too. Thursday, July 9, Cheltenham Ladies College, Princess Hall


10. A feast of Tango – dance and musicians combined

This is the first UK outing of a project I saw premiered in Latvia last summer. Featuring three outstanding dancers and three musicians (accordion, violin and piano), it’s a perfect fusion of Tango’s sultry dance and music. Friday, July 10, Cheltenham Ladies College, Princess Hall


Cheltenham Music Festival runs from June 30 to July 11, 2015

Cheltenham Festivals Twitter: @cheltfestivals

Meurig Bowen Twitter: @meurigb