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Saffron Hall announces stellar line-up featuring Joyce DiDonato, London Philharmonic, Courtney Pine, Britten Sinfonia, Sir Andras Schiff, English Touring Opera, La Serenissima, The Sixteen, Michael Portillo, Amanda Owen




A feast of world-class artists and ensembles encompassing classical, jazz and folk will be performing at the award-winning Saffron Hall until the end of the year – starting this weekend with an opera superstar.

Grammy Award-winning American mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato’s "My Favourite Things" on Saturday (Sept 18) at 7.30pm opens a 2021-22 season that includes vocalists Jamie Barton and Lucy Crowe, star pianists Sir András Schiff, Paul Lewis and Steven Osborne, cellist Nicolas Altstaedt and violinist Randall Goosby.

Jazz artists Jacqui Dankworth and Courtney Pine and folk singer Kathryn Tickell will be performing in the 740-seat auditorium.

Saffron Hall (51093576)
Saffron Hall (51093576)

Ensembles lined up include its resident orchestras, the London Philharmonic and the Britten Sinfonia, along with the BBC Concert and Symphony orchestras, Il Pomo D’oro, English Touring Opera, La Serenissima and The Sixteen, conducted by Edward Gardner, Harry Christophers, Sir Mark Elder and Dalia Stasevska among others.

The world-class programme at Saffron Hall, which opened in the grounds of Saffron Walden County High School in 2013, runs alongside an extensive schools and community programme.

The venue's chief executive, Angela Dixon, said: “The past 18 months have been challenging for everyone, but it’s a testament to Saffron Hall’s staff and supporters that we are able to announce such a line-up of great artists and ensembles.

Opera superstar Joyce DiDonato. Picture: Simon Pauly (51093567)
Opera superstar Joyce DiDonato. Picture: Simon Pauly (51093567)

"We've been open throughout the pandemic, but we're looking forward to welcoming our audiences back to the atmosphere and joy of a full hall.”

Opera singers don’t come any starrier than DiDonato, who on Saturday will be performing a selection of baroque arias accompanied by her regular performing and recording partner, the period instrument ensemble Il Pomo D’oro, under the direction of conductor/leader Zefira Valova.

The 51-year-old Kansas-born mezzo has performed with many of the world's leading opera companies and orchestras, and won multiple awards including the 2012, 2016 and 2020 Grammy Award for best classical vocal solo.

The London Philharmonic Orchestra (LPO) and Britten Sinfonia will perform twice this autumn.

London Philharmonic Orchestra. Picture: Benjamin Ealovega (51093523)
London Philharmonic Orchestra. Picture: Benjamin Ealovega (51093523)

The LPO and its new principal conductor, Edward Gardner, will play Lili Boulanger’s D’un matin de printemps alongside Sibelius’ Symphony No.2 and Lutosławski’s Cello Concerto with Nicolas Altstaedt (Sat Oct 2, 7.30pm).

Then Sir Mark Elder conducts them for Sir James MacMillan’s Christmas Oratorio, with soprano Lucy Crowe and baritone Roderick Williams, on Sunday December 5 (3pm), the day after the work’s UK premiere.

Britten Sinfonia pair Mozart’s Serenade for 13 Wind Instruments with Mark Simpson’s Geysir, a 2013 work written as a direct response to Mozart’s music (Sun Oct 10, 7.30pm), before returning to perform Handel’s Messiah with conductor David Watkin, leader Thomas Gould and the Choir of Jesus College, Cambridge (Sat Dec 18, 7.30pm).

Britten Sinfonia. Picture: Benjamin Ealovega (51093560)
Britten Sinfonia. Picture: Benjamin Ealovega (51093560)

Other visiting orchestras include BBC Symphony Orchestra and conductor Dalia Stasevska performing William L Dawson’s Negro Folk Symphony and Samuel Barber’s Violin Concerto with Elena Urioste (Fri Nov 19, 7.30pm), while the BBC Concert Orchestra get 2022 off to a celebratory start with their New Year concert (Sun Jan 2, 4pm).

Three star pianists appear at Saffron Hall: Budapest-born Sir András Schiff gives a solo recital of works by Bach, Mozart and Beethoven (Wed Nov 10, 7.30pm), and Paul Lewis and Steven Osborne present a four-hands recital of French repertoire – including Debussy, Fauré and Ravel – following their acclaimed recording (Sun Nov 28, 3pm).

Andras Schiff. Picture: Nadia F Romanini (51093537)
Andras Schiff. Picture: Nadia F Romanini (51093537)

Violinist Randall Goosby performs a Young Artist Concert with pianist Jonathan Ware in a programme exploring music written by Black composers such as Samuel Coleridge-Taylor and Florence Price (Sun Oct 3, 3pm). Young Artist, guitarist Michael Butten, presents a programme of British works from the two Elizabethan ages (Sun Oct 24, 11am).

Offering a new insight into the work of Beethoven, cellist Matthew Barley and pianists Ivana Gavrić and Tim West improvise in and around his sonatas, revealing a different perspective to one of the world’s best-known composers (Sun Oct 24, 4pm).

Vocal music remains central to Saffron Hall’s programming. Highlights include mezzo Jamie Barton’s recital with composer and pianist Jake Heggie, which includes works by Schubert, Florence Price, Brahms and Heggie himself (Fri Dec 3, 7.30pm).

Jamie Barton. Picture: BreeAnne Clowdus (51093535)
Jamie Barton. Picture: BreeAnne Clowdus (51093535)

Handel’s opera Amadigi is fully staged by English Touring Opera and The Old Street Band (Sat Oct 30, 7.30pm & Sun Oct 31, 3pm) and his Coronation anthems are performed by Harry Christophers and The Sixteen (Sun Nov 7, 7pm).

Award-winning period instrument ensemble La Serenissima and director Adrian Chandler present an all-Vivaldi programme alongside soloists Claire Booth, Renata Pokupić and Jess Dandy (Sat Oct 23, 7.30pm).

Local talent is celebrated with performances by Saffron Walden Choral Society, performing Brahms' Ein Deutsches Requiem (Sat Nov 13, 7.30pm), and Saffron Walden Symphony Orchestra, who open their new season with the world premiere of Der Trommler, a new work by Jacob Bride (Sat Nov 27, 7.30pm).

Courtney Pine. Picture: Roger King (51093564)
Courtney Pine. Picture: Roger King (51093564)

The king of British jazz saxophone, Courtney Pine, returns to extend Saffron Hall’s jazz programming with a celebration of Afro-Caribbean musical heritage that includes influences from merengue, ska, mento and calypso, inspired by Pine’s 2012 hit album House of Legends (Fri Nov 26, 8pm).

Jacqui Dankworth (51093528)
Jacqui Dankworth (51093528)

The jazz orchestra and big band sound is set to ring round the hall as Jacqui Dankworth & Her Orchestra present numbers inspired by music of the stage and silver screen (Fri Oct 1, 7.30pm), while the Glenn Miller Orchestra delights with original arrangements from the 1940s (Sun Nov 21, 3pm). The BBC Big Band brings "A Swinging Christmas", conducted by Barry Forgie with singer Emer McParland (Sat Dec 11, 7.30pm).

Kathryn Tickell. Picture: Georgia Claire (51093570)
Kathryn Tickell. Picture: Georgia Claire (51093570)

Folk musician Kathryn Tickell is joined by The Darkening for a programme rooted in the tales and melody of Northumberland (Sat 16 Oct, 7.30pm).

Saffron Hall’s ‘Thoughts & Talks’ series continues, opening with shepherdess and best-selling author Amanda Owen. Sharing stories from her book Adventures of the Yorkshire Shepherdess, audiences will get a unique insight into her life (Sun Oct 17, 3pm).

And broadcaster, writer and political commentator Michael Portillo takes to the stage to share anecdotes and insights in a talk entitled "Life: A Game of Two Halves" (Thu Oct 21, 7.30pm).

This year, Saffron Hall will present its first ever panto. Families will be able to enjoy a magical Christmas production of The Wizard of Oz with a live band and professional cast (Wed Dec 22-Wed Dec 29).

There are plenty of chances to get involved this autumn. Highlights include The Benedetti Sessions, with sessions for primary schools, as well as opportunities for over 200 young string players.

Together in Sound, offering music therapy for people with dementia and their companions in partnership with Cambridge Institute of Music Therapy Research at Anglia Ruskin University, resumes face-to-face sessions following 18 months of online activity.

Saffron Hall’s creative community, Come Together, will collaborate with visiting artists and Saffron Walden Museum to unlock local stories through music, movement, words and performance.

Saffron Hall is a registered charity and receives no regular funding from local authorities or Arts Council England. It is solely reliant on ticket sales and donations.

Since opening eight years ago, it has sold more than 190,000 tickets – 10% of them to under-18s – with 21% of audience members travelling 30 miles or more.

To book tickets for any of the events, visit the Saffron Hall website at https://saffronhall.com/.



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