The Leeds Lieder Festival returns to mark both its 20th anniversary in 2024 and acclaimed pianist Joseph Middleton’s 10th anniversary as Director.The Festival takes place from Saturday 13 April – Sunday 21 April 2024 in venues across the city as it fills Leeds with the beauty of song and joyous music-making.

Bouncing back from the well-documented funding crisis of last season and building on last year’s record number of first time concert attendees, Festival Director Joseph Middleton has programmed the most inclusive, eclectic and vibrant audience experience possible for the double anniversary season in 2024.

The range of venues has also expanded this year, taking in as ever two of the finest recital spaces in Yorkshire, Opera North’s ‘Howard Assembly Room’ and Leeds Conservatoire’s ‘The Venue’, whilst also moving to the very heart of the city’s diverse cultural scene for events in the popular Hyde Park Book Club, the Leeds Sikh Centre, Kirkstall Abbey, Leeds Minster and to Pudsey Civic Hall for the culmination concerts of the Festival’s award-winning education projects.

Included at this milestone festival are star artists Benjamin Appl, Fleur Barron, James Gilchrist, Nikola Hillebrand, Graham Johnson OBE, James Newby, Ema Nikolovska, Carolyn Sampson, Roger Vignoles and Roderick Williams OBE alongside Festival Director, Joseph Middleton.  

The Festival will also embrace Young Artists with sought-after masterclasses lead by vocal legends Sir Thomas Allen and Dame Felicity Lott, new commissions receiving their world première performances, a unique Composers and Poets Forum, lecture recitals, film screenings, talks, community events, a musical walking trail and an extensive outreach educational programme for local schools.

Leeds Lieder Commissions for 2024 include 2 world premières:-

~ world première of Tansy Davies’s Thunder: Perfect Mind written for Ema Nikolovska and Joseph Middleton

~ world première of a new collection of miniatures by Cheryl Frances Hoad setting Punjabi Proverbs written especially to be performed in the Leeds Sikh Centre, exploring the cross-cultural art of British and South Asian composers and poets.  This event will feature three outstanding artists: Nina Kanter, faculty member at Chennai Music Conservatory; Oscar Castellino, “a rising star in the opera world” (BBC News) and award-winning British-Indian pianist, Keval Shah.  

Other Festival highlights include:-

~ A Schubertiade 20th Anniversary Gala recital featuring Roderick Williams OBE, baritone; Roger Vignoles, piano; Nikola Hillebrand, soprano; Joseph Middleton, piano and Leeds Lieder Young Artists

~ A French song day, led by Dame Felicity Lott and Graham Johnson, which will pay homage to Fauré in the centenary year of his death

~ A continuation of last year’s ‘Leeds Songbooks’ project, described by The Guardian as “electric”, that brings together 10 Leeds poets with 10 postgraduate composers to write responses to everyday life in Leeds, performed by Leeds Lieder Young Artists

~ Deepening roots within the local community, the popular ‘Bring and Sing!’ event invites amateur singers to come together to perform Vivaldi’s choral masterpiece ‘Gloria’ in a community-led performance at Leeds Minster. 

~ An evening recital in Leeds’ iconic Hyde Park Book Club in partnership with ‘Through the Noise’, a pioneering promoter dedicated to bringing classical music to diverse audiences

~ The musical walking trail SongPath, which will explore the rich natural setting of the 900 year old ruins of Kirkstall Abbey, led by singers Jess Dandy and Joanna Harries

~ The Leeds Lieder Young Artists Programme, where twenty outstanding Leeds Lieder Young Artists will participate in a series of masterclasses with specialists such as Sir Thomas Allen, Dame Felicity Lott, Graham Johnson OBE, James Gilchrist, Anna Tilbrook and Benjamin Appl.  They will perform to Festival audiences at a special showcase concert and at the late-night Lieder Lounge in the informal setting of Leeds Conservatoire’s rooftop bar

~  Leeds Lieder will also incorporate its two award-winning Learning and Participation projects: ‘Living Lieder’ and ‘Discovering Lieder’ into the main festival with two school concerts featuring some 1000 children at Pudsey Civic Hall.  

Festival Director Joseph Middleton says:“What began in 2004, as a group of inspired friends wanting an alternative to getting on the train to London if they were to hear the finest exponents of Lieder, has flourished into one of the UK’s most exuberant Festivals.    The Daily Telegraph called us “an excellent festival” and The Guardian referred to our programming as “world class”.  

For this year’s anniversary theme,  I have turned to one of the most beloved lyrics in all of Lieder, Heine’s ‘Auf Flügeln des Gesanges’, made immortal for song lovers by Mendelssohn.  Heine describes being carried “On wings of song…To the sweetest place I know…”  The sweetest place must surely be one of mankind’s greatest faculties – our own imagination.  Song gives us the possibility to fly to far off lands, to empathise with others and to look into ourselves,  all from the comfort of the concert hall seat.  On these wings of song we can connect with both others and with ourselves and that is indeed one of the key aims of Leeds Lieder.  Supported by the artists we champion, promote and commission, our audience, our wide community of Friends and everyone who generously rallied to our cause, we have put in much effort to try and overcome recent financial difficulties and are so grateful to everyone who has invested in the charity.  Thanks to you we are able to present this year’s 20th Anniversary Festival with music that is eclectic in scope and outstanding in quality, so a heartfelt thanks to you all and here’s to the next 20 years”.