In case you missed the meeting, Christmas is coming, and various London events are taking the festive theme and running with it as they do every year from about September. Thankfully for those already flagging under the weight of baubles and tinsel, Spitalfields Music’s Winter Festival comprises 24 events without a single Santa reference between them.
The annual winter gathering takes place in various East End venues from 5-16 December, and we’re here with a handy preview selecting our pick of the festival’s events, which should see you through to mid-December with the minimum of Xmas-related humbuggery.
One of the most exciting events of the opening weekend is Orpheus of England at St Leonard's, exploring the work of John Dowland, Henry Purcell and George Frederic Handel. Unfortunately it’s already sold out so our opening recommendation is instead The Sixteen, at Christ Church Spitalfields on 6 December. The Sixteen are a renowned British choir who will be performing their take on 16 pieces of music with a wintery theme.
If you can't blag yourself into that Orpheus of England event, which involves renowned theatrical countertenor Iestyn Davies, he will be performing a show of his own at Christ Church Spitalfields on 11 December. The Welshman’s voice is often startling, as demonstrated in this ENO piece, recorded earlier this year.
‘A radical programme of contemporary works’ is the putative description of Quatuour Diotima, only two of whom appear to have surnames. The quartet perform at St Leonard's on 14 December with the praise of no less than the New York Times ringing in their ears, and at the event’s centre will be the world premiere of the latest work of famed Balham-bred composer Sam Hayden, entitled Transience.
Such a festival wouldn’t be complete without an especially famous face to draw the punters in, and few faces are more famous than Simon Callow’s. The celebrated London thespian will be taking part in This Year’s Midnight at St Leonard's on 15 December, a ‘meditation’ of songs, poetry and instrumental music for the winter solstice, the longest night of the year, though in a bout of lamentable scheduling the winter solstice itself is actually six days later.
An intriguing thread through the festival is Conversations, in which music technologist Gawain Hewitt mixes the sounds of London and Dhaka in Bangladesh to make music exploring the connections between the two cities. Conversations will be touring venues throughout the festival.
Spitalfields Music Winter Festival takes place from 5-16 December across the East End, and tickets are available via the event website.