Passion and innovation

Passion is the theme for this year’s Brighton Early Music Festival which runs from October 25 to November 10.

Among the highlights will be soprano Dame Emma Kirkby with lutenist Jacob Heringman performing the lute songs of Dowland, dynamic ensemble Red Priest, medieval group Joglaresa performing steamy Songs of sinne and subversion and group L’Avventura with love songs from Portugal and Brazil in a romantic candlelit setting.

There’s also a performance by the festival’s own BREMF Consort of Voices of the 40-part motet Spem in Alium by Thomas Tallis, which raced to number one in the classical charts due to the piece’s role in EL James’s novel 50 Shades of Grey.

Co-artistic director Clare Norburn said: “Brighton Early Music Festival is not what you might expect from a classical music organisation. There are also two key events which should appeal to those who might not normally come to a classical music concert:

“The first of these is Early Music Club Night. Where else can you hear 25 of the very best young professional musicians performing all around you, up close? Early Music Club Night is based on the festival’s very popular White Night spectacular music event of previous years, which was described by one of the musicians as ‘a kind of early-music Jools Holland Later event’.

“25 musicians perform music on the theme of Cool Passion in the beautiful setting of St Bartholomew’s Church in Brighton, a huge cavernous space and the tallest church in Europe, reputedly built to the measurements of Noah’s Ark.

Deborah Roberts, the other co-artistic director, added: “Its cavernous space is increasingly being used for rock concerts, and for Early Music Club Night we hope to create a similar ambient chill-out space with atmospheric lighting design. There will only be seats around the sides of the church, so people can wander around, lie on the floor, stare at the amazing building or get close to the musicians.”

Another event is a newly-commissioned music-drama by Clare Norburn, which will explore the life and music of 16/17th century composer Carlo Gesualdo (1566-1613), who is also famed for murdering his first wife and her lover.

“Gesualdo really was a one-off, both as a character and a composer,” Clare explains. “Although he was living and working in a period when composers were exploring a new musical language, Gesualdo’s music stands alone in its own sound world. It is emotionally taut in its chromaticism and intensely personal.”

“Gesualdo was not an easy man to live with. Contemporary accounts refer to both his arrogance and cruelty and yet he was also clearly sensitive and fragile. He was known for talking continuously for hours on end.”

The performance will feature live music from the young vocal ensemble the Marian Consort.

Recognised as a key classical music event in the south-east, Brighton Early Music Festival attracts local audiences as well as significant numbers of visitors to the city. This year ticket sales have been soaring, with some events looking likely to sell out.

The festival showcases local singers and provides a programme of top quality performances of live early and classical music performed on authentic instruments.

Visit or call 01273 833746 for a brochure. Tickets (from £4-£23) are available from