Jenifer Toksvig to direct this special one-off performance

featuring Simon Armitage, Kerry GodlimanNina Wadia and CLS musicians

Southbank Centre, Queen Elizabeth HallSaturday 14 January at 7:30pm

‘The World Rediscovered’, City of London Sinfonia’s seven-part concert series, continues on Saturday 14 January 2023 with the first-ever staging with music of Poet Laureate Simon Armitage’s The Owl and the Nightingale at the Southbank Centre’s Queen Elizabeth Hall.

Armitage’s witty and enchanting version of The Owl and the Nightingale was published in 2021 and is based on a traditional Middle English debate poem in which two birds engage in a fierce verbal contest to prove which is the superior bird.

Now staged together with City of London Sinfonia musicians, the poem will be performed live on stage with Simon Armitage as narrator, Kerry Godliman as the Owl, and Nina Wadia as the Nightingale in an unmissable one-off performance directed by Jenifer Toksvig.

The musical accompaniment to this highly entertaining “medieval slanging match” features a raft of argumentative, avian-inspired music by Janequin, Couperin, Watkins, Vasks and Vivaldi, amongst others, to illuminate the fact that instruments can joust just as effectively as two squabbling birds.

Elaine Baines, Acting CEO of City of London Sinfonia, said: “We are so excited to be collaborating with Faber to present this performance of Simon’s wonderful poem. This will be the first time that the text of the poem and music have been integrated into a continuous entertainment and we are thrilled that Kerry and Nina have agreed to represent our warring birds! We have chosen a pretty eclectic mix of music from Janequin to a recent work by Huw Watkins but we hope all the pieces will illuminate and comment upon the story as it unfolds. The orchestra first takes sides with the Nightingale, then with the Owl, sometimes commenting ironically on the braggadocio of the birds as they battle for supremacy. I can’t tell you which bird you will choose as the winner, but I can promise that you will enjoy the argument!”.

The Owl and the Nightingale is presented by City of London Sinfonia in association with Faber Members, and there will be a book signing with the Poet Laureate following the performance.

The World Rediscovered’ is a seven-part concert series across the 2022-23 season offering musical discoveries alongside fresh perspectives on well-loved chamber repertoire. The series opened in October 2022 with a double-bill of concerts featuring Nick Pritchard and Huw Watkins as part of Southwark Cathedral’s Gaia events programme. Future highlights include Dance with the Devil (1 February 2023) a whirlwind musical tour that explores how the diabolical has inspired composers past and present, and Painting with Music (1 March 2023) a kaleidoscopic concert curated by Principal Clarinet, Katherine Spencer, and an invitation to enter a different kind of art gallery, where pictures are painted with sounds instead of colour. For more information, visit: