Celebrating the Britten Centenary

On Friday afternoon, Emma and I trekked over to Suffolk for the weekend. I say trekked because it was a long, slow, journey that coincided with rush-hours in several parts of the country, but we made it – just before 7 – at our home for the weekend. My Mum and Dad, and my brother and his family had already arrived at Iken Barns, and there was dinner waiting for us on the table, although my Mum and Dad did leave pretty promptly to head out to the Snape Maltings and to the Britten Centenary Concert.

On Friday, it was, to the day, the 100th anniversary of the birth of Benjamin Britten. Snape Maltings have had a year of special celebrations for the Lowestoft-born composer (I used to go to the dentists formerly-owned by Britten’s parents…), and this weekend saw the culmination of these celebrations with a weekend of concerts many of which broadcast live on BBC Radio 3.

I confess that I’ve had an uneasy relationship with Britten over my life. He was obviously a local composer to where I grew up through my whole childhood, and his music is beautifully synonymous with the Suffolk landscape, but I have not always found it easy. My mum and dad and my brother love is music, and can talk for hours about it. Some of his work I love, but an equal amount I find it difficult and hard to get into.

The main musical highlight of the weekend was a family trip, small-people too, to see Britten’s Noye’s Fludde in Lowestoft’s St Margaret’s Church. From the first moment we knew that we were in for something special, with the church transformed…

524674_10152013976185630_2006356845_nFrom the old medieval mystery plays, it is the story that we all know and love from the Bible told through music and singing, and performed brilliantly by a mix of professionals to children from the local Youth Orchestra and schools. I feel a bit guilty now for not knowing more of Britten’s music. It can be epic, and great.

It was great to be back in St Margaret’s Church too, which I used to parade to with the Cubs and the Scougts on St George’s  Day. Afterwards, I did a bit of drive-by letterboxing, depositing a copy of my novel through the front door of my first, and inspirational, English teacher.

A beautiful film that perfectly captures the beauty of Britten’s music…

The Tocher – Lotte Reiniger, Benjamin Britten (1938) from Thomas Shepherd on Vimeo.