New Zealand High Commission London, United Kingdom

City of London Festival: 26 June to 16 July 2011

The City of London Festival presents an unprecedented array of music and culture from New Zealand, Australia, and the South Pacific. Visit www.colf.org for programming and ticketing information.

 Music, dance, art and film from down under are celebrated in this year’s City of London Festival, continuing its annual Trading Places theme, in which Festival Director Ian Ritchie explores and develops diverse connections between the City of London and the rest of the world – cultural and commercial, historical and still emerging. 

The Festival opens on 26 June with a tribute to one of Australia’s greatest – and quirkiest – composers Percy Grainger, who died 50years ago this February. A Fifteen Piano Salute to Grainger is a promenade performance beginning at Peter’s Hill near St Paul’s Cathedral. The students of the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and the Centre for Young Musicians perform some of Grainger’s best-known works on Luke Jerram’s iconic Street Pianos. After the performance, the pianos will be scattered throughout the Square Mile for anyone and everyone to play. Grainger’s music will be heard at eight further concerts throughout the Festival and he is the subject of two lectures – Percy Grainger: Musical Gigolo and Percy Grainger: Australia’s greatest composer? – and a free exhibition.

Australia’s foremost didjeridu player William Barton takes up residence during the Festival. He joins the Choir of Southwark Cathedral for the London première of a new version of Australian musical visionary Peter Sculthorpe’s deeply moving Requiem (4 July). The unique programme includes one of Barton’s own improvisations. He also appears at two of London’s most beautiful livery halls – Apothecaries’ Hall with pianist Piers Lane (1 July) and Goldsmiths’ Hall with the Goldner String Quartet (6 July).

Over 30 living composers from Australia and New Zealand are represented at this year’s Festival. Illustrious figures such as New Zealand’s Gillian Whitehead and Australia’s Brett Dean and Peter Sculthorpe will be in London to hear their work being performed by world-class musicians. 

Legendary Australian guitarist John Williams and the English Chamber Orchestra present Sculthorpe’s Nourlangie, a guitar concerto inspired by a stunning rock escarpment in the Australia’s Kakadu National Park, at Guildhall Old Library (27 June). The concert is followed by a unique happening in Guildhall Yard – Dusk Chorus is a musical soundscape of birdsong and wildlife recorded in the Australian Outback, with new choreography depicting the dance of the lyrebird and giant birds made from recycled rubbish. The piece is created by David Lumsdaine, realised by Craig Vear with choreography by Rachel Lopez de la Nieta.

Ora Barlow and Kim Halliday from Pacific Curls – one of Oceania’s most creative group of performers – join cellist Alexander Ivashkin at Girdler’s Hall (30 June). Their indigenous-meets-classical programme features one of Bach’s masterpieces as well as recent works by Brett Dean and Gillian Whitehead. Grammy Award-winning The King’s Singers give the world première of Australian composer Elena Kats-Chernin’s River’s Lament at the Lord Mayor’s residence Mansion House (7 July). Kiwi baritone Jonathan Lemalu performs with the New Zealand String Quartet at Merchant Taylors’ Hall (11 July). New Zealand-born organist Dame Gillian Weir and rising star soprano Anna Leese perform with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra conducted by Simone Young at St Paul’s Cathedral (12 July). Richard Nunns, New Zealand’s leading exponent of Maori instruments, performs with the New Zealand String Quartet at Haberdashers’ Hall (13 July) and the NZTrio at Butchers’ Hall (14 July).  Nunns will also give a presentation on traditional instruments, Voices of the Land: Nga Reo o te Whenua (12 July).

The Festival’s programme of ever-popular free outdoor events offers some Australasian gems. Didges on the Bridges brings ancient rhythms to the early morning commute for thousands of Londoners crossing the City’s bridges (28 June). Waka on the Thames sees an ornate Maori war canoe crewed by 16 Maori in full traditional dress from New Zealand’s Toi Maori and London’s Ngati Ranana communities (1 July). The Origins Family Day on Hampstead Heath (3 July) features a host of activities for the family including a Powhiri  (traditional Maori welcoming ceremony), Maori kite flying, Dreamtime story tent, and the chance to learn a Haka and walk away with a Ta Moko tattoo. Australasian musicians and music can also be heard throughout the Festival’s Commuter Music, Pacific Sounds and Music in the Yard events including a performance by Frank Yamma, a traditional Pitjantjatjara man from the central desert (7 July). Regarded as one of Australia's most important indigenous songwriters, Yamma’s brutally honest tales of respect for the old law and the importance of country are spine-tingling.

The first-ever London New Zealand Film Festival (1 to 3 July) features Boy by the Oscar-nominated Taika Waititi, best known for his comedy Eagle vs Shark, and an outdoor screening of the enchanting Whale Rider in Canada Park Square. The Royal New Zealand Ballet comes to the Barbican to give the London première of a triple bill including a new work by home-grown talent Andrew Simmons (14 to 16 July).

Festival Director Ian Ritchie has enjoyed working very closely with both the Australian and New Zealand Governments through their High Commissions this year. 

Australia’s High Commissioner John Dauth comments: "I am delighted to be an Honorary Patron of this year's City of London Festival. The Festival will see a dazzling array of Australia and Oceania's finest artistic talent performing in some of the great historic buildings of the City of London, underlining the close and longstanding ties between the City of London and Australia.  I would like to congratulate the Festival organisers for their commitment to creating a magnificent celebration of the arts for the residents, workers and visitors to this great city."

New Zealand’s High Commissioner Derek Leask says: “New Zealand is proud to support this year's City of London Festival.  And we are proud to share some of our most talented artists and performers with the City of London. The Festival showcases New Zealand’s distinct and dynamic culture - it brings to London the talents of New Zealand’s Māori community, it reflects New Zealand’s British and European heritage, and it captures the breadth of New Zealand as a multicultural nation with its strong Pacific Island and Asian influences.”

BNY Mellon is sponsoring the City of the London Festival for the second year running. Woody Kerr, vice-chairman of Europe, says, “BNY Mellon has a significant presence in Australia and New Zealand, and so is particularly pleased to be able to support bringing some of the leading artists from those countries to the City.”

Last year’s City of London Festival has recently been awarded Event of the Year for its celebration of music and culture from the Lusophone-speaking world by the UK’s leading Portuguese-language newspaper, As Notícias, in association with APE Associação dos Portugueses no Estrangeiro. This prestigious annual award is given in recognition of the promotion of the Portuguese-culture in the UK.

Festival Director Ian Ritchie says: “We are delighted that our international explorations and artistic connections with other countries and cultures have been recognised in this way. This summer we look forward to celebrating the rich creativity of Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific, which is so powerfully inspired by unique local traditions and the wonderfully diverse sights and sounds of nature.”

Visit www.colf.org for futher information.

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