A version of this article was originally written for Londonist.com.
Ahead of the gargantuan and all-encompassing BBC Proms season in July, two of London’s boutique summer classical music festivals kick off in June. The Spitalfields and City of London festivals celebrate two very different, albeit geographically close, areas of town. The festivals have much in common however. Both have a community feel and boast a fantastic, quirky array of venues.
City of London Festival (24 June — 27 July)
Marking its very own Jubilee (Golden) this year, the City of London Festival (CoLF) is in the mood to celebrate. The festival was founded in the early sixties with the idea of injecting some culture into London’s mercantile centre. Today, CoLF hosts a blend of international classical recitals, big set piece concerts and free outdoor events.
Sticking closely to the anniversary theme, the festival is returning to an outdoor piano scheme, this time leaving 50 golden coloured pianos in spots around the city (see where they will be). The project opens with a roadshow at major London stations in the first week of the festival.
Elsewhere outdoors, as part of the festival’s launch on 24 June at 12.45pm, Spandau Ballet singer Tony Hadley will sing his hits on the Millennium Bridge with the National Youth Jazz Orchestra. From 27 to 29 June, meanwhile, Sydney Dance Company will present pop-up performances of a dance duet set to solo piano pieces composed and played by jazz artist Gwilym Simcock.
Other major highlights include: the LSO performing in St Paul’s Cathedral (25 June), the Brodsky String Quartet performs a programme titled ‘The Wheel of Four Tunes’ (we’ll let you work out what that means) on 2 July, and saxophone legend Jan Gabarek, also at St Paul’s (12 July).
Spitalfields Music Summer Festival (8 — 23 June)
Hawksmoor’s masterpiece, Christ Church Spitalfields, and the Village Underground in Shoreditch don’t have too much in common at first glance. But they are united twice a year as Spitalfields Music venues, when community arts events mingle with top-class contemporary and early classical music.
This summer’s offering focuses on E1, with events that “reflect and are inspired by one of London’s most adventurous areas”. That means: massed brass in Spitalfields Market to launch the festival (12.30pm, 8 June); British choral music from award-winning choir The Sixteen (9 June); chamber music led by Associate Artist Matthew Barley (pictured, 11 June); and a performance of The Fairy Queen by baroque composer (and Londoner), Henry Purcell, by renowned ensemble the Gabrieli Consort & Players (12 June). At the more modern end of things, cultish Dutch club promotion, Night of the Unexpected, comes to Bishopsgate Institute on 16 June.
Images courtesy of the festivals.