Amici concerts series will be at the heart of the Festival of Chichester

Harriet Mackenzie
Harriet Mackenzie

Once again, the Amici concerts series will be a key part of the Festival of Chichester.

Organisers and musicians Amanda Cook and Meg Hamilton have put together a rich and varied series to run within the overall festival.

As Meg explains: “We started in 2013 when Kosmos came, and in 2014 we did our pilot series at St John’s during the Festival. This year will be our fifth Amici concert series. We love to bring really brilliant musicians, specialists of the really top quality, to Chichester, and the Festival of Chichester is an amazing opportunity to do that.

“We love new projects and new ensembles and we also love traditional and folk music, and I especially play music from across the Balkans. Putting on a series gives us a chance to do that.”

Meg admits there is a pressure to bring new ideas, rather than bringing the same things back every year: “We really like to provide variety.”

And Harriet Mackenzie, who will open this year’s series, typifies precisely that variety. She has become a Festival of Chichester regular, but always rings the changes.

This year, in Chichester Cathedral on Thursday, June 27 at 7.30pm, she will offer Eight Seasons And A Blackbird when she returns to Chichester to direct her Celoniatus Ensemble juxtaposing Vivaldi’s Baroque masterpiece The Four Seasons with the heat of Argentinian tango in Piazzolla’s Four Seasons of Buenos Aires and an evocative orchestral work by Canadian composer Emily Doolittle, depicting a blackbird singing in the rain.

“She absolutely loves playing in Chichester, and people love the way she plays,” Meg said. “She is very virtuosic and very flamboyant. She loves Chichester and she loves the area. She has been here with Kosmos a couple of times, and she also has her Karolos ensemble.

“This year she is bringing her Celoniatus Ensemble which she has named after her violin. It is a group she formed while she had a fellowship at Trinity College of Music in London.

“And it is really exciting to be in the cathedral. It has a beautiful acoustic.”

It is a concert which effectively sees Amici branching out before returning to their more usual venue, St Pancras Church for the final week of the festival: “St Pancras has also got great acoustics and is a very welcoming church. It has got a very warm sound.”

It all comes at an exciting time for Amici concerts who are setting themselves up as a charity.

As Meg says: “We need to do it properly. We want to be an official organisation. We want to make it easier for people to be able to support us and to volunteer. We have got so many great ideas for Chichester, but to make them a reality we need to have proper funding and to be a proper organisation. As a charity, we will be in a much better position.”

This year’s Amici series includes:

Saturday, July 6, 12 noon-1pm. Bogdan Vacarescu (violin) & Julian Jacobson (piano): The Ruins Of Athens, Amici Concerts, Pallant House Gallery, North Pallant, Chichester, PO19 1TJ. Bogdan Vacarescu and Julian Jacobson return to Chichester with a selection of beloved pieces and lost masterworks for violin and piano featuring music by Beethoven, Chopin and Castelnuovo-Tedesco.

Monday, July 8, 7.30pm. Una Danza Para Violeta, Amici Concerts, St Pancras Church, Eastgate Square, Chichester, PO19 7LJ. Contemporary flamenco dancer and choreographer Natalia García-Huidobro presents her homage to traditional flamenco, completing Violeta Parra’s unfinished work El Gavilán (Sparrowhawk).

Wednesday, July 10, 7.30pm. Nature Versus Nurture: Bibi Heal, Soprano & Amanda Cook, Guitar, Amici Concerts, St Pancras Church, Eastgate Square, Chichester, PO19 7LJ. From the heart-warming to the heart-breaking, this exquisite pairing of voice and guitar delves through the universal truths of our nature and along the paths of our own nurture.

Thursday, July 11, 7.30pm. Unicorn Frequency, Amici Concerts, St Pancras Church, Eastgate Square, Chichester, PO19 7LJ. Dazzling classical music juxtaposed with Russian gypsy gems, Hungarian folk, Romanian laments, Bulgarian dances, free improvisation and jazz.

Friday, July 12, 7.30pm. Oculi Ensemble, Amici Concerts, St Pancras Church, Eastgate Square, Chichester, PO19 7LJ. Violinist Emma Parker and friends from the internationally award-winning Badke Quartet have formed Oculi Ensemble to continue their rich history of collaborations, inviting the finest of chamber musicians.

Saturday, July 13, 3pm. Going for a Song: A Chronicle Of The Uk Record Shop, Amici Concerts, St Pancras Church, Eastgate Square, Chichester, PO19 7LJ. In an entertaining talk illustrated with music from old records, author Garth Cartwright discusses how the humble record shop grew from selling wax cylinders into the huge HMV chain.

Sunday, July 14, 3pm (entry and picnics from 1.30pm). Mary Ann Kennedy: Glaschu, Amici Concerts, Halnaker Park Cottage, far end of Park Lane, Halnaker, Near Chichester, PO18 0QH. Glasgow Gael Mary Ann Kennedy was brought up surrounded by music. A multi award-winning musician, singer, writer and producer, she’s joined by long-time musical partner, Finlay Wells on guitar, bringing to life the real people, places and stories of her Gaelic songs.

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