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Although not so well known as some events, the City of Exeter’s Summer Arts Festival has been running for almost thirty years, usually during the first two weeks of July. The festival offers a culturally diverse programme of theatre and dance as well as a broad spectrum of music, often attracting eminent artists as well as less famous names. A good selection of classical music is usually provided and this is certainly so this year.
Exeter has no dedicated concert hall unfortunately, but the city’s cathedral provides a good alternative venue despite its resonant acoustic. This year's events in the cathedral, all starting at 8pm, are as follows:
July 9th: The Jocelyn Pook Ensemble performing Pook’s own music. This event is for a full ensemble with multi-screen video projections by Dragan Aleksic. It combines diverse musical forms with fragments of theatre, music and visual art to create the multi-faceted experience offered by Pook’s performances.
July 15th: Devon Baroque performs
Handel’s ‘Acis and Galatea’. Devon Baroque is
a professional chamber orchestra directed by Margaret Faultless,
leader of the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra, co-leader of the Orchestra
of the Age of Enlightenment and director of studies of the European
Union Baroque Orchestra.
July 16th: Evelyn Glennie and
the Armonico Consort with ‘The Prodigal Son,’ a new
work by Jonathan Girling and other music for voices and percussion.
The Brodsky Quartet will give a concert in the
Northcott Theatre located on the University of Exeter’s main
campus on the 8th July at 7.30pm, and the festival’s traditional
‘Last Night of the Proms’ concert takes place in the
grounds of Killerton House, a National Trust property not far out
of the city’s boundary. As well as the usual music and fireworks,
the ‘Last Night’ this years features the Band of the
Grenadier Guards, Brian Blessed and Linda Richardson. The concert
starts at 8pm.
Alongside the classical music programme, there is a broad spectrum of jazz, folk, rock and world music too. Something of a coup for the festival is the presence of Grand Master Oguchi, inventor of Japanese Taiko drumming in the 1950’s, his group Osuwa Daiko and the Exeter’s own group Kagemusha Taiko who will also appear in this year’s Blue Peter Proms. Oguchi is one of the few musicians to be designated a ‘living national cultural treasure’ in Japan and the word ‘Taiko’ (big, fat drum) refers to both the drum itself and the drumming style that he created. Taiko differs from traditional Japanese drumming in providing more than just music; it is an impressive visual spectacle as well as exciting listening.
Among other festival events are talks by Ken Russell
and Joan Bakewell and appearances by Bob Geldof, Susheela Raman
and the Asian Dub Foundation Sound System. Theatrical events include
the world premiere of ‘Leading Lady’ a play about the
relationship between Chekhov and the actress Olga Knipper, a production
of ‘As You Like It’ and a single performance of Yazmina
Reza’s award winning play ‘Art’ directed by Nigel
Havers. The dance programme includes the Jaleo Flamenco Dance Company,
Ballet Ireland and Subitango.
In these days of cutbacks to UK local authority services it is refreshing to find that Exeter City Council still takes time and trouble to organise the festival. That fact alone makes supporting it worthwhile, but if this year repeats the successes of the past, the many events in the programme will also be rewarding in themselves.
Brochures can be obtained by calling + 44 (0)1392 265198