Keble Early Music Festival


6th week blues? Nope, classical.

We catch festival organisers James Hardie and Beth Potter to find out what’s happening next week.

What does ‘Early Music’ mean? Is it music played early in the morning? Or aimed specifically at young children? A glance at the timing of the festival’s headline events ruins our first hypothesis; most of the concerts start at about 8pm, which isn’t early by anyone’s standards.

Now in its third year, the Keble Early Music Festival its happening in 6th week and invites a broad audience to get acquainted with the genre and hopefully break some misconceptions. The team behind it are keen to showcase the lively Oxford scene with both professional and student performers. Festival founder, James, is straightforward in his marketing: ‘It’s stunningly beautiful music, that’s the reason to go’. Aside from the merits of the crop of exciting up-and-coming young performers in Oxford, he adds that “very cheap tickets” are another motivation for attendance (only £5 for students for the headline events and the rest are free). Its clear that Early Music in Oxford has some significant momentum and appreciation, “I can only describe it as shredding a guitar, just so virtuosic” jokes Beth, referring to a soloist at a Bach performance.

Whether you’re the leading light of Oxford’s musical crowd, or you don’t know your Bach from your Chewbacca (sorry), the main event you need to get to is the launch night (Monday 22nd February, 8pm). Its an evening of 5-10 minute taster sets from some of the performers, some extracts from The Faery Queen (on at the Oxford Playhouse in May) with free cheese and wine. It’s not a concert and the informal setting in the open plan space of Keble college café means you’re free to drop in and out all the evening. If you’re normally too fidgety for formal concerts, this is your moment.

The festival is hosting a broad range of events and not just concerts. Highly anticipated are The Queen’s Six (Friday 26th), an all male group from Windsor Chapel whose repetoire features a more modern perspective with arrangements of Gershwin or some 60s jazz-funk. Other headliners are The Marian Consort, Mahan Esfahani and Keble College Chapel Choir. The week will crescendo (no?) with a charity recital from ex-Magdalen student and Fatima Lahham and friends. Admission is free, with donations going to the Save The Children Syria Appeal (Sunday 28th, 1.30pm).

See the very jazzy, full programme here:

As if to prove just how 21st century and relevant classical music is, you can keep track of the festival via the internet: