It would be reasonable to expect the City of London Festival to have a quiet one in 2011 considering that next year is its fiftieth birthday. But the Square Mile’s arts festival, an annual reminder that there is life in the City beyond the drudgery of finance, has expanded geographically for its 2011 programme.
This summer’s festival, which takes place from 27 June to 16 July, will present three concerts outside the city: over London Bridge in Southwark Cathedral. A frequent concert venue and a landmark piece of London architecture, this bit of boundary pushing makes good practical sense.
London’s summer classical music calendar may be dominated by the BBC Proms, but the City of London Festival offers Londoners a very different experience. The festival showcases the numerous, beautiful and underused churches of the City, presenting a range of intimate concerts. With many free and outdoor events, the festival has a community feel, but it also does some Proms-style pomp with the opening concert at St Paul’s Cathedral each year.
Jazz, world music, visual arts, film and walks are also a part of the programme, which is heavily themed (unlike the Proms these days), often focusing on different areas of the world. This year it's Australasia and the Pacific, a fact reflected by one of the Southwark concerts. There is the first London performance of a Requiem by Aussie composer Peter Sculthorpe, a piece that features top didgeridoo player William Barton alongside the Choir of Southwark Cathedral (4 July).
If that’s not Antipodean enough, an event titled Waka on the Thames on 1 July should do it. A war canoe, manned by New Zealand- and London-based Maoris will glide to Blackfriars from Tower Bridge. In another Thames-style event, five didgeridoo players will serenade London commuters on five London bridges on the morning of 28 June.