For the last instalment of their ‘Six Chapters of Enlightenment’ at Southbank Centre*, the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment (OAE) announce Songs of Travel. From October 2022-June 2023, the OAE will perform eight concerts which are inspired by the Enlightenment’s fascination with exploration and adventure. 
The idea of travel and the allure of discovery was a prominent theme in 18th century Enlightenment ideals and literature. The travelogue was a key feature in Enlightenment literary form, probing people to test new thoughts and challenge received ideas. It wasn’t just physical roaming that provided inspiration; sentimental and spiritual journeys were depicted in post-18th century art and the political and economic implications of travel enthused discussion about issues closer to home such as the state, the monarchy and the competency of our leaders. 
Crispin Woodhead, OAE Chief Executive, says: 
“The eighteenth century was a whirlwind of correspondences. International navigation was leaping forward with Cooke and his maritime adventures whilst newspapers, novels and engravings were distributing ideas and images in a manner previously unparalleled. As a result, the intellectual aspiration of the common man gained a wholly new stride, one which would reach beyond the bounds of the immediate and conventional into new realms of existence: far off lands, radical political thought, belief beyond convention and transports of the poetic soul which stretch, eventually, into the passions and turmoil of romanticism.” 
As with each of the OAE’s season themes, Songs of Travel acts as the lens through which society may observe the musical system. The season opens with The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (Wednesday 5 October 2022, Southbank Centre’s Queen Elizabeth Hall) which features music from Henry Purcell interspersed with narration of the eponymous poem by actor and playwright Rory Kinnear. 
The programme was curated by OAE Principal Oboe, Katharina Spreckelsen. She explains:
“There are many elements of Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner which intrigued me. Its demonstration of the power of poetry and language reminded me of song settings by Henry Purcell, and so, I started putting the two together. It’s a poem about a man with a story to tell. A story about guilt and penance, but it is also an ecological reading which speaks so strongly to us now as we hear how ‘both man and bird and beast’ are intertwined. Purcell’s song ‘Tis nature’s voice’ becomes a central part of the programme, accompanied by some of his most glorious instrumental music. This is a programme where sublime music and language go hand in hand.” 
Following this, students from Acland Burghley School*, where the OAE is an educational partner, and surrounding local primary schools join the Orchestra for The Moon Hares (Wednesday 2 November2022, Southbank Centre’s Queen Elizabeth Hall) on a journey of fulfilment and self-realisation. This magical family opera was commissioned by the OAE in 2019 and features a libretto by Hazel Gould accompanied by original music from James Redwood and excerpts from Purcell’s semi-opera Dioclesian. Cherry Forbes, OAE Education Director, describes The Moon Hares as “a story of magic, wonder and ultimately freedom; a real community event to celebrate what we can all achieve together!”
Later in the season, renowned cellist Steven Isserlis and conductor Maxim Emelyanychev perform a selection of works from Saint-Saëns, the original French master of colour, in Saint-Saëns: Sounds for the End of a Century (Thursday 26 January 2023, Southbank Centre’s Royal Festival Hall). Journeying around the globe is then imagined through Handel’s eyes in Handel Around the World (Wednesday 1 February 2023, Southbank Centre’s Queen Elizabeth Hall) with Ian Bostridge and Czech harpsichordist Vaclav Luks leads the Orchestra through Bach in excelcis: The Mass in B Minor (Sunday 19 March 2023, Southbank Centre’s Queen Elizabeth Hall).
A double header of Mozart begins with Mozart on the Road: Part 1 (Wednesday 5 April 2023, Southbank Centre’s Queen Elizabeth Hall) with pianist Kristian Bezuidenhout performing three works from 1784; the peak of Mozart’s fame. Mozart on the Road: Part 2 (Thursday 18 May 2023, Southbank Centre’s Queen Elizabeth Hall) follows CPE Bach, JC Bach and Mozart on their musical journeys after they left their respective homes to find their own distinctive voices, conducted by Riccardo Minasi. Rounding off the season, the OAE and John Wilson venture to the semi-fictional world of Gilbert and Sullivan’s Princess Ida (Wednesday 7& Thursday 8 June 2023, Southbank Centre’s Queen Elizabeth Hall).
The theme of travel also creates an urgency to acknowledge and deepen our understanding of the ramifications of the expeditions that set out from European shores. The OAE will reflect on the consequences of colonialisation in talks and content linked to the season’s events. 
Crispin Woodhead, OAE Chief Executive, comments:
“It is very clear today that in the 250 years since Rousseau’s declaration that ‘Man is born free but everywhere he is in chains’ that the Enlightenment aspiration of emancipating all humans is still out of reach for too many. The same vessels which sailed from nations avowing a belief in ‘égalité, liberté et fraternité’ also exported inequity and injustice and on an industrial scale. It is impossible to separate the journey described in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner from the injustices of the transatlantic slave trade and the devastating impact of Cook’s arrival on the first peoples of Australia. The OAE seeks to better realise these ‘Enlightenment values’ and to contribute to creating a new social contract for those who are underserved in our work and in particular our partnership at Acland Burghley School in Tufnell Park.”