My regular summer festival of choice these days is Voices of London Festival, which takes place in late June in St James’ Sussex Gardens. Placed at the nub of a busy London traffic intersection, this is a much more beautiful church on the inside than you’d expect, with many notable decorative details such as this series of 'biblical plants and flowers' in inlaid marble.
A group of very young choral directors get these concerts together, and if I wasn’t habitually running around like a mad thing during this end-of-term period I’d attend every one of them, as they offer such a varied set of views on what ‘vocal music’ is. As it was, my single visit this year to hear the Voices of London Consort conducted by Helen Smee was real balm to the soul. Maybe there is an inexhaustible fount of perfectly-trained consort singers (don’t count on it in future Britain) but this sounded particularly exquisite to me.
I also much enjoyed the quite substantial introductions by musicologist Katy Hamilton, leading us through this programme titled 'Songnights', which effortlessly laid out the links between English and German music in the 19th and early 20th centuries. I particularly liked the way that Katy integrated the very substantial contributions of Clara Schumann and Fanny Mendelssohn to the German musical scene; rather than, as most people still seem to do, adding them apoologetically at the end.