IT’S set to be a line-up of international acts taking to the stage at Hexham Abbey Festival of Music and Arts this month.

Returning for its 67th year between Thursday, September 19 to Sunday, September 22, the festival has gained quite the reputation for its repertoire of traditional choral music and this year promises to be no exception.

Acclaimed singing ensemble The Ebor Singers will be the stars of this year’s Abbey Candlelight Concert taking place on the Friday evening.

The group, who have toured the length and breadth of the UK performing in churches and at festivals, will treat audiences to their programme ‘Dusk Songs’, written specifically for them by Kerry Andrew, and which include a rendition of the hymn O Lux Beata Trinitas.

Returning for another year will be the annual performance from the Festival Chorus, this year treating audiences to a selection of classic works from composer Johannes Brahms, which the group promises will enthral Brahms fans and newcomers alike.

Also taking on the work of some of the world’s most well-known composers is young Syrian pianist Riyad Nicolas, who is known internationally for both his talent, and for raising awareness for the plights of the Syrian people, performing for many organisations such as the International Rescue Committee, the Arab British Centre, and Said and Asfari Foundation.

Riyad, who made his first solo stage appearance at only age ten in Aleppo, will be performing a lunchtime concert on Saturday featuring music from Frédéric Chopin, Robert and Clara Schumann and also Brahms.

On Thursday, primary school children from Greenhead, Henshaw, Allendale and Newbrough are joining together for the new West Northumberland Primary Schools Music Project, which is led by musical educationalists Sarah Atter, Emma Cunliffe with Keith Dale, and funded by Northumberland Cultural Fund.

The free Abbey performance is the culmination of a series of music workshops led by Sarah at the schools during September, based on material from the BBC’s Ten Pieces Programme. The event begins with the children sharing the stage with the specially formed Festival Community Choir and Festival Band to perform the Coronation anthem, Zadok the Priest by Handel, which will then be followed by the Project’s Ten Pieces concert and finally Voyage Round the World concert, which will feature works from composers all around the world including Puccini, Bernstein, Shostakovitch and Bizet.

If you’ve never seen a theorbo played now is your chance, as emerging new period music ensemble FIGO Ensemble bring history to life on Friday, by showcasing their skills on a selection of original and replica period instruments of the17th and 18th century.

Taking to the stage as the festival’s breakthrough artist this year is Emilia Jaques, who is originally from Tynedale. Emilia was awarded the title of Young Chorister of the Year in 2018, and will perform a varied 40-minute programme after the morning service on Sunday.

Returning to the Abbey on Sunday, after their performance last year at the Nordic Voices Festival, are Danish group KOTTOS.

KOTTOS made waves at their last visit to Hexham with their unique sound, which they created through combing a 17kg Russian Bayan concert accordion for an orchestral flavour, the cello which the group said is influenced by Nordic folk music, and the bouzouki which brings a Mediterranean feel.

Fresh from this year’s Glastonbury and their tour of North America and Europe, The Turbans will make their Hexham debut on Thursday. With their rich mixture of sounds and styles taking inspiration from Balkans to the Middle East and North Africa, the British fusion band describe their music as coming from ‘manywhere’.

Bringing the musical side of the festival to a close with an evening of relaxing contemporary jazz on Sunday will be composer and pianist Nikki Iles, who will be accompanied by tenor saxophonist Karen Sharp.

The festival finale will be a showing of the classic ballet drama The Red Shoes at the Forum Cinema which focuses on one woman’s struggle between her dedication to ballet and her desire to love.

Joint festival director Denis McCaldin said: “We want our festival to be truly attractive and festive and this year’s programme is both. With an unusually lively mixture of exciting events, we look forward to welcoming friends old and new.”

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