"A splendid mixture of poetry, music and simply outstanding performers.""Brilliant story-telling, thank you!"
About the London Song Festival Nigel Foster founded the London Song Festival in 2007 with a mission to 'fly the flag' for Song. This wonderful art-form, ranging from Schubert to Britten and beyond, is a unique joining together of music and poetry that is capable of expressing great beauty and emotional depth in ways that can equal or even surpass any other genre.
"Superb artistry from both performers, a privilege to be at the recital."
The London Song Festival takes a different theme or themes each year, often using composers' or poets' anniversaries as a starting point. Audiences can expect to hear rarely performed and perhaps unpublished vocal gems presented alongside standard repertoire in unusual and innovative programming. A typical London Song Festival programme might place a Berlioz song next to a Kurt Weill, or Schubert next to Noel Coward in ways that are perhaps unexpected, perhaps unorthodox, but always coherent, interesting and exciting. Three unpublished songs by Debussy were highlights of a 2012 performance of all the songs he wrote for Madame Vasnier. 2008 saw performances of all the solo songs of Vaughan Williams, and the songs of Verdi and Wagner were presented in their entirety in 2013.
The London Song Festival is friendly, warm and welcoming. Refreshments are served during the interval, and audience members are increasingly returning to enjoy the relaxed and unstuffy atmosphere of the concerts.
Detailed programme booklets are a much-loved feature of the London Song Festival. They enable both the novice and the experienced listener to appreciate the songs fully: all the texts are written out in full, translations given where applicable and historical and background information about the composers and poets provided. The poet is always given equal prominence to the composer.
A song recital is nothing without the singers. The London Song Festival gives audiences the opportunity to hear both young up-and-coming singers and prize-winners and internationally established artists. Singers who have appeared in the Festival include Yvonne Kenny, Elizabeth
Watts, Ashley Riches, Gillian Keith, Jennifer Johnston, Sergei Leiferkus, Roderick Williams, Louise Winter, James Gilchrist, Anna Devin, Nicky Spence, Elizabeth Llewellyn, Robin Tritschler and Ruby Hughes to name but a few.
"Lovely selection of songs - very informative programme"
"Elegant piano playing, beautifully balancing the singers."
"Wonderful controlled and expressive singing. Bravi!"
"The song festival always has interesting themes and a programme full of surprises"
"Amazingly well researched with a terrific programme. Performers put over the songs with style, ‘edge’ and conviction."
The educational and outreach part of the London Song Festival takes the form of master classes and workshops in schools. Master classes have been given by Ian Partridge CBE (2014), Roger Vignoles (2013), Sarah Walker CBE (2013), Simon Keenlyside (2012), Dame Ann Murray (2011) and Louise Winter (2010), who have worked on the Song repertoire with students and young professional singers. These masterclasses are open to all singers under the age of 30.
The London Song Festival's Education project, launched in 2015, presents a programme of workshops in schools across London. This is often the childrens' first opportunity to hear a live classical singer and pianist, as well as their first exposure to the great master-works of the Song repertoire, a genre which, with its unintimidating and approachable format of singer and pianist, is a fantastic way of opening children's minds to classical music. In our workshops we explore how Song tells stories and paints pictures in words and music, and how a singer and a pianist can evoke so many emotions through what the composer and poet have given us. Interaction with the children is central to our workshops, which are tailored for all ages from primary right through to A-level. It is wonderful to see how a foreign language is no barrier to children's appreciation and enjoyment of Song. I will always remember how a particularly rowdy group of over thirty 10 and 11 year-old children in Princess May Primary in Hackney, none of whom had any previous experience of classical music, and none of whom spoke French, listened in absolute silence and with rapt attention to a performance of Faure's Clair de Lune. Staff members told us later that the children's concentration levels for the rest of that day were noticeably higher than normal. Given the correct approach, even the most esoteric and subtlest music can speak very powerfully and directly to children and teenagers!
This awareness of music is so important for children and young people. Exposure to the Arts is decreasing in so many schools, and these workshops will play a vital and necessary part in children’s development, not only in music, but in all other areas of their education and growth too. To quote from the website of Stamford Hill Primary School (one of the schools we've visited), the Arts enable children to:
"actively develop a deeper understanding of both the arts and curriculum subjects. [we] believe that that learning through the arts greatly enhances the children’s experience of School, enabling learners to develop many areas of their education such as: creative thinking and problem solving, knowledge and understanding, speaking and listening, language skills and vocabulary, confidence and teamwork, powers of self-expression, as well as performing arts skills”.
These words sum up the London Song Festival's philosophy perfectly. Stamford Hill is a rare instance of a school which actively encourages the Arts, but there are many in London that sadly do not, either through lack of resources or lack of interest from the staff. The London Song Festival workshops prove that classical music is a truly inspiring and enjoyable experience for children from all backgrounds, cultures and religions.
Any school wishing to book a workshop should contact the London Song Festival on firstname.lastname@example.org .
Nigel is also Musical Director of Opera and More. This is a year-long part-time course aimed at talented singers of Undergraduate and Post-Graduate level. A maximum of 12 participants, selected by audition, work on style and interpretation, audition preparation, presentation and communication techniques, stagecraft and acting skills, programming and preparing a recital, diction, text work and improvisation with an exciting team of conductors, directors and pianists. The course will cover every area of vocal repertoire including opera, art-song, concert repertoire and oratorio. Full details on operaandmore.org
Nigel Foster, Artistic Director for The London Song Festival
Nigel Foster was born in London and studied piano at the Royal Academy of Music, the Guildhall School of Music and Drama with Graham Johnson, and also privately with Roger Vignoles. At both the Academy and the Guildhall he won every prize and award available for piano accompaniment, and has been appointed an Associate of the Royal Academy of Music.
Nigel enjoys a busy schedule performing on the concert platform. He has played for artists including the late Philip Langridge, Sarah Walker, Ian Partridge, Roderick Williams, Neil Jenkins, Yvonne Kenny, Jeremy Huw Williams, Maire Flavin, Anna Devin, Ruby Hughes, Gillian Keith, Nicky Spence, Jane Manning, Marcus Farnsworth, Benedict Nelson and violinist Madeleine Mitchell, as well as many of Britain's leading young singers. He performs at major venues including the Wigmore Hall, South Bank Centre, St John Smith Square and Royal Opera House (Crush Room) in London, and St David's Hall in Cardiff.
In his formative years Nigel played for Graham Johnson's Songmakers Almanac, the Park Lane Group and several opera companies including Glyndebourne. Nigel has worked with John Eliot Gardiner CBE, and he has happy memories of his time as a rehearsal pianist for the late Georg Solti, playing for singers including Renee Fleming, Angela Gheorghiu and Roberto Alagna. Nigel worked closely with Sarah Walker in the Vocal Department at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.
Nigel's CD recordings include several discs of contemporary music and anthologies of songs of Alun Hoddinott and Mansel Thomas with baritone Jeremy Huw Williams for the Sain label. He features on the soundtrack of the French film L'Homme est une Femme Comme les Autres.
Nigel performs extensively abroad. He has played all over Europe, Asia (Japan, Malaysia), New Zealand and the Americas (USA, Canada, Colombia) and has broadcast on BBC Radio 3, Classic FM and on French, Welsh and Greek television.
Sir Vernon Ellis
Graham Johnson OBE
Yvonne Kenny AM
Sarah Walker CBE
The London Song Festival gratefully acknowledges the support, during 2014, of the following:
Angus Allnatt Charitable Foundation
Association of English Singers and Speakers
Ernest Cook Trust
Lord Lloyd of Berwick
P A Childs
Richard Strauss Society
Several Anonymous donors
Teddington Tax Services Ltd
The Schubert Society of Great Britain (in association with the German YMCA)