Brighton Early Music Festival celebrates women as composers, performers and inspirational figures

Niamh Cusack. Picture by Catherine Ashmore
Niamh Cusack. Picture by Catherine Ashmore

Tickets for the UK’s biggest celebration of women composers of the past go on sale on Wednesday, September 2.

The Brighton Early Music Festival runs from October 23 to November 8.

Festival producer Cathy Boyes said: “Brighton Early Music Festival, now in its 13th year, is planning its biggest festival ever, including a fully-staged opera production of the earliest opera written by a woman.

“This year’s festival is celebrating women as composers, performers, inspirational characters, muses and symbols, and includes the largest UK celebration of historical women composers.

“The main festival runs from Friday, October 23 to Sunday, November 8 in an eclectic range of venues spread across Brighton & Hove, but before that pre-festival events and workshops run from mid-September.

“Participatory events have always been an important part of BREMF, and this year members of the public have the chance to take part in an open workshop with Belinda Sykes of Joglaresa, listen to young vocal ensembles being coached by Eamonn Dougan of The Sixteen or attend an event featuring female singer-songwriters past and present.

“The festival mainly runs across three weekends, and highlights of the first weekend (October 23-25) include women’s songs from ancient Arabic, Jewish and Christian traditions with Joglaresa; newly-discovered music attributed to Suor Leonora d’Este, the daughter of Lucrezia Borgia; and a dramatic retelling of the life and music of Hildegard of Bingen, with Niamh Cusack as Hildegard.

“The second weekend (Oct 30-Nov 1) opens with the Orlando Consort’s Voices Appeared, which marries the classic 1928 Carl Theodor Dreyer silent film The Passion of Joan of Arc with live medieval music from the period of Joan’s life.

“The music continues with the London Handel Players, with Laurence Cummings (director) and Ruby Hughes (soprano) in a concert featuring works by baroque composer Elisabeth Jacquet de La Guerre, before finishing with a programme in which Clare Wilkinson joins the BREMF Consort of Voices for 17th Century works by Margarita Cozzolani, Francesca Caccini and Barbara Strozzi.

“The Festival culminates (Nov 4-8) with a new production of the earliest opera by a woman composer – Francesca Caccini’s La Liberazione di Ruggiero dall’Isola d’Alcina (1625), directed by Susannah Waters, with a cast headed by Anna Devin, Denis Lakey and Nick Pritchard.

“The final week also includes an appearance by the Festival’s patron Emma Kirkby and lutenist Jakob Lindberg; and The Carnival Band in a raucous evening on women as depicted in broadsheet ballads of the 17th Century, followed the next morning by two concerts for families.”

Cathy added: “The festival is committed to widening access, and for the second year is offering restricted view or standing prom tickets to most events for just £5.

“Under-12s attend for free when accompanied by an adult, and anyone aged 12-25, over-60 or in receipt of state benefits is entitled to the discounted concessionary price.”

For full concert listings, see

Tickets will be on public sale from Wednesday, September 2, following priority booking for festival friends.

Tickets can be booked online at or via Brighton Dome ticket office on 01273 709709.

To request a brochure or join the mailing list, call 01273 833746.

September events

Saturday, September 19, St Paul’s Church, 2-4pm – Cantum pulcriorem invenire, discovering song. A workshop introducing medieval conductus to both experienced and less experienced singers. Led by Three Medieval Tenors: John Potter, Christopher O’Gorman, Rogers Covey-Crump.

Saturday, September 19, St Paul’s Church, 8pm. Conductus – the forgotten song of the Middle Ages. A free concert, open to workshop participants and members of the public.

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