Year of British Music

More than 30 concerts and 1200 educational activities will take place in Portugal in 2017, under the umbrella of a Year of British Music and, in partnership with Casa da Música, the British Council helped to organise a packed opening weekend.

British Council Director (Music) Cathy Graham joined a symposium on Brexit, chaired by Tom Service (BBC Radio 3 and The Guardian), to discuss the potential impact that the referendum result could have on the music industry in Britain and Europe. Susanna Eastburn (Chief Executive at Sound and Music), Sir Nicholas Kenyon CBE (Director of the Barbican Centre) and Emmanuel Hondré (Philharmonie de Paris) completed the panel.

Supported by the British Council, four young composers travelled to Portugal to showcase their work and make connections with commissioners and wider music industry contacts within the European Union. The composers were Philip Venables, Edmund Finnis, Emily Howard and Daniel Kidane. You can read more about them in our exclusive series of interviews below.

A further six composers have been invited to join an online, digital showcase aiming to raise the profile of early to mid-career composers among venue programmers, commissioners and other organisations across the EU. This will enable programmers to explore the vibrant work of our fantastic British composers and encourage exchange between the classical music worlds within the UK and the EU. We'll be sharing our interviews with each of the composers throughout 2017. Watch this space! You can keep up to date via Twitter and the hashtag #YoBritishMusic or subscribing to the Year of British Music newsletter.


Beyond Pomp and Circumstance

"I love the way this intensely rich opening weekend sets the ambition and bold chronological sweep of the year of British Music in the first two pieces of the very first concert,” says Cathy Graham. “How wonderful to see the extensive education work in the programme which has been inspired by Benjamin Britten, composer, founder of the Aldeburgh Festival, pacifist and passionate advocate and creator of music for young people … I thank and pay homage to my colleague Antonio Pacheco for his vision and insightful programming.”

We hope to delight everyone with the great geniuses of British music

And why choose British music to form the core of this year’s programme?

“The reason is twofold,” explains Antonio Pacheco. Partly it is a celebration of historical and ancestral connections between Portugal and the UK and secondly, “the urgency of sharing with our audience a musical heritage of prime importance that goes far beyond Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, Handel’s Messiah, Thomas Arne’s Rule, Britannia!, Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance … the richness of harmonic textures, the boldness and vigour of the melodies, a very particular compatibility with the English language, in addition to a constant oscillation between the respect for the national traditions and the openness to foreign influences …

“Let us pay attention to the music, the great British music … it may be a mere confirmation for some, but it will be a true revelation for many. We hope to delight everyone with the great geniuses of British music from various eras and musical genres.”

And was the programme in any way a response to the Brexit referendum result?

“I've been working on the 2017 schedule for three years now, when we could not guess what would happen,” says Pacheco, but admits the theme has now certainly taken on added significance.

You can find out more by following us on Twitter and the hashtag #YoBritishMusic or subscribing to the Year of British Music newsletter.