The Return of the London Ear

Following its successful first incarnation, it’s great news that the London Ear Festival of Contemporary Music will be returning at the end of this month. When the Ear launched last year in close proximity to the more widely publicised London Contemporary Music Festival, I feared that they might end up crowding each other out. But in the end, they’re quite different styles of festival, with quite different musical remits. Not bad going, if you’ve got the impression that contemporary music is blinkered and narrow-minded.

Of the two, the London Ear is the more apparently traditional, in that it all takes place in a concert venue, rather than a car park, and there are seats and central heating and that sort of thing. (Plus on-site food and interval wine.) But at the same time, it’s more adventurous in terms of repertoire. Certainly its directors, Gwyn Pritchard and Andrea Cavallari, are following through on last year’s promise to focus on (mostly European) composers who are rarely or never heard in the UK – this year’s programme includes music by Georg Katzer, Anne LaBerge, Helmut Zapf and Helmut Oehring. More than half the programmed works are world or UK premieres.

The programme features nine concerts in all, with performances from, among others, the London Sinfonietta, Trio 7090, We Spoke and Uroboros. If had to pick favourites on paper, I’d say the two evening concerts on Saturday look most tempting: plenty of potential for weirdness in the 6pm concert by 3 from Berlin, 7090 and Serge Vuille, featuring music by Kagel and Oehring, and a new piece by Zapf; followed music for instruments, video and electronics by Simon Steen-Andersen, Jürg Frey and others at 9.30. Like last year, there are also various fringe events, including instrumental masterclasses and educational workshops for children and teenagers. I will be probably be chairing some pre-concert conversations with composers.

The London Ear Festival of Contemporary Music runs from Thursday 27 to Sunday 30 March. Events take place at the Warehouse and Cello Factory, Waterloo, London. Full details available from the festival website. Tickets start from a fiver.

Update:  Just confirmed: I’m going to be hosting a 1-hour radio show on Resonance FM tomorrow evening (Friday 21 March), 8–9pm, on the subject of the London Ear. I’ll be chatting with festival directors Gwyn Pritchard and Andrea Cavallari, playing some music, and we’ll have flautist Jenni Hogan playing live too. Resonance is on 104.4FM if you’re in London, or streaming online if you’re anywhere else in the world.

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