The Bath International Music Festival has an illustrious artistic history and has long been a well-established event of national significance and international reputation, presenting a dynamic mix of world-class performers. The Festival takes place annually over 12 days in late May to early June, and showcases a rich range of high quality events featuring orchestral and classical virtuosos, jazz giants, folk, roots and world musicians, innovative collaborations and unique commissions.
Bath International Music Festival was established in 1948, and at different times has been led by Yehudi Menuhin, Michael Tippett and William Glock.This tradition of leadership by an acclaimed performer continues to the present day, under the direction of Joanna MacGregor, an internationally renowned pianist, curator, teacher, conductor and composer.
The Bath International Music Festival stands out nationally for the strong identity that Joanna MacGregor has created for it, in the diversity of the programming, the thoughtfulness with which collaborations are created, and the intelligent exploration of contemporary social issues though music.
‘I don’t really understand classical music, but that event with Brian Eno and Joanna MacGregor – combining Eno’s music with Thomas Tallis – was an eye-opener. I would never willingly have gone to a Tallis concert but I would now’ Music Festival visitor.
The musicians featured range from international stars such as Willard White and Ute Lemper to emerging younger talent, to students from a wide range of conservatoires, universities and colleges, to local musicians, both professional and amateur. The programme is supported with films, talks, multi media events, music theatre, exhibitions, dance and site specific projects.
On the opening Friday evening, over 2000 performers take part in the free Party in the City event, an exuberant celebration of music-making in Bath. Venues across the city host events and many thousands attend.
Appointment of New Artistic Director from 2013
The 2012 Music Festival will be Joanna MacGregor’s seventh and final festival in Bath. Joanna has created an extraordinary series of festivals, and her immense contribution, innovation, and incredible versatility will be hugely missed.
A worthy successor has been appointed however, in the composer Alasdair Nicolson,whose work has been presented and broadcast internationally, with commissions and premieres in recent years with the London Symphony Orchestra, the BBC Symphony Orchestra, the Nash Ensemble and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra. He is also the director of the St Magnus Festival in Orkney, and will continue to work on this alongside his role in Bath. His appointment follows in Bath International Music Festival’s long tradition of leadership by practising artists. For more information on Alasdair seewww.bathfestivals.org.uk
History of the Festival
As far back as the sixteenth century, well before Bath became a fashionable destination, the city was attracting audiences for its music, with Queen Elizabeth I visiting to hear the choristers from Wells perform at Bath Abbey. With a rich musical background that was firmly cemented by Beau Nash’s introduction of an Orchestra in Orange Grove in the early 1700’s, it seemed only natural that Bath should organise its own music festival, yet it was not until 1948 that a proposal to do so was made.
After initial success both culturally and financially, the city took it upon itself to organise an annual event and since 1948 (with an exception of a few years) the Bath International Music Festival has been in existence. Over the last 64 years the Festival has been host to many internationally acclaimed artists and has showcased many spectacular events including the now famous collaboration between Yehudi Menuhin and Ravi Shankar.
For twelve days in May the city’s many venues come alive with the sounds of classical music, international jazz, world and contemporary music, and free events. 2006 saw the latest major development with the appointment of pianist Joanna MacGregor as Artistic Director. Her vibrancy and enthusiasm is re-shaping the festival and bringing new audiences to this long-standing institution.
The introduction in 2006 of a new format to the Festival saw electronica in the programme for the first time and a return to cross-genre collaborations which included Brian Eno performing in Bath Abbey alongside Bath Camerata; 2007's highlights included the Paco Peña Company, violin virtuoso Maxim Vengerov and the legendary Charles Mingus Big Band from New York. 2008 celebrated Bath International Music Festival's 60th Anniversary.
2009 featured Jazz greats Branford Marsalis and Maceo Parker; classical music from BBC Concert Orchestra conducted by Charles Hazlewood; South African vocal music from Sibongile Khumalo; Appalachian folk from country legend Ralph Stanley; plus our usual panoply of internationally renowned musicians.
2010's programme was the biggest and boldest yet with a focus on dance which brought English National Ballet to Bath Abbey. We celebrated the work of two remarkable women, Kathleen Ferrier and Judith Weir; embarked on a number of special commissions including a performance of Handel's Israel in Egypt in the Roman Baths; and brought popular and diverse artists such as The Unthanks, The Wilders and Martha Reeves and the Vandellas to Bath.
In 2011, we launched with a magical evening of work by Sir James MacMillan and Joanna MacGregor in a concert at Bath Abbey, kicked off by an outdoor performance by the Bristol Pipes and Drum band, playing high up on the Abbey – and finishing with a joyful Ceilidh. Other higlights included a rare performance of Stravinsky’s Les Noces, with four grand pianos and a massive ensemble of performers, and Sir Willard White’s programme on Paul Robeson, Didn’t My Lord Deliver Daniel.