Cheltenham Music Festival to present 21 world premiere performances

Over the course of the ten-day Cheltenham Music Festival, 21 world premiers and 1 UK premiere will be staged, many of which are by composers who are being given a major platform for their work for the first time

Saxophonist Jess Gillam

The Cheltenham Music Festival has announced the line-up for its ten-day festival taking place this July, after it was cancelled last year due to the coronavirus pandemic. The festival returns with 21 world premieres and 1 UK premiere performance of works by composers including Lillie Harris, Luke Styles, Matthew Whittall, Ayanna Witter-Johnson and Jonathan Woolgar, among others. Ten of these premieres will be part of the core festival programme, with an additional 12 world premieres written by this year’s Composer Academy students.

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The Carice Singers and a chamber ensemble made up of performers from the Chineke! Orchestra will give world premiere performances of 12 pieces written by students from this year’s Composer Academy, a scheme set up by the festival to support composers in the early stages of their careers. Daniel Kidane, who himself was a member of the first ever Composer Academy in 2013 and who has gone on to have works performed by the UK’s leading ensembles, is the director of this year’s Composer Academy.

Singer, songwriter and cellist Ayanna Witter-Johnson has written a work specifically for saxophonist and former BBC Young Musician finalist Jess Gillam, who will give the world premiere of the work with her ensemble.

Other pieces receiving their premiere at this year’s Cheltenham Festival include Songs of Travel by Matthew Whittall, which is inspired by Robert Louis Stevenson’s 1896 poetry collection of the same name; Alex Freeman’s calle sin nobre, which gives voice to the asylum seekers who were affected by the US government’s 2018 family separation policy; and Ballad of a Changing World, a new work by Sarah Nicholls and Maja Bugge which focuses on climate change and pairs scientific data and spoken word.

A new chamber opera titled Awakening Shadow by Luke Styles will be performed by Nova Music, while RPS Composer Jonathan Woolgar has written a new work for The 12 Ensemble.

Other contemporary works by Caroline Shaw, Joey Roukens and Freya Waley-Cohen will also be performed as part of this year’s festival.

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Image credit: Rob Whitrow