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Performers setting the stage for 40th Spitalfields Music Festival in all the strangest settings

PUBLISHED: 09:55 02 June 2016

Setting the stage for 40th Spitalfields Music Festival [photo: James Berry]

Setting the stage for 40th Spitalfields Music Festival [photo: James Berry]

© James Berry

Musicians and performers from all over the world are setting the stage in London's East End for the 40th Spitalfields Music Festival opening today (Thurs) with venues over the next three weeks including an eerie cemetery and a canal bank next to disused gasworks.

Clare College Choir... past performers at Spitalfields Festival [photo: Nick Rutter]Clare College Choir... past performers at Spitalfields Festival [photo: Nick Rutter]

More prestigious venues include Hawkersmoor’s classic 18th century Spitalfields Church once under threat of demolition in the 1970s.

Composer Anna Meredith premieres her new work, Anno, on Monday and Tuesday, based on Vivaldi’s baroque classic Four Seasons suite, in a specially-constructed installation at Bethnal Green’s Oval Space next to the old gasworks by the Regent’s Canal off Hackney Road. The piece is “an immersive voyage through a passing year”, with projections from visual artist Eleanor Meredith, commissioned by Spitalfields Music’s trust and the Scottish Ensemble.

The atmospheric setting of Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park at Mile End is the scene for Depart, performed June 16-19 and 23-26, depicting the journey through the dark space between life and death.

It is staged at dusk, with artists from Circus Circa, choral singers, musicians and designers, including students from the National Centre for Circus Arts in Shoreditch.

L'avventura London and The Old Blind Dogs... past performers at Spitalfields Festival [photo: Jen Anderson]L'avventura London and The Old Blind Dogs... past performers at Spitalfields Festival [photo: Jen Anderson]

Other highlights include Once Around the Sun on June 10, a free concert in Spitalfields Market celebrating 40 years of the festival including a new piece for 120 children, with festival trainee music leaders past and present, and The Sixteen ensemble performing Allegri’s Miserere on June 11 at Spitalfields Church.

Spitalfields Music began as a one-off classical concert 40 years ago by Save Britain’s Heritage, when Hawksmoor’s early 18th century church was under threat of demolition to make way for a housing estate.

The first official summer festival was staged in 1977 by Friends of Christ Church.

None of the venues used today were formal concert halls, so a characteristic informality has emerged over four decades.

The festival has also expanded with a year-round learning programme in Tower Hamlets schools and a Winter Festival added each December.

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