Since Leeds Lieder’s inception in 2004 as a biennial weekend mini-festival, the sapling has grown and matured into a great tree laden with fruit.

Leeds Lieder’s effect on the musical landscape of Leeds has been transformational. This friendliest of festivals, I might add in the friendliest of big cities, has nurtured a generation of aspiring young singers.

Leeds Lieder continues to attract the brightest stars in the musical firmament: Soprano Louise Alder and pianist Joseph Middleton’s programme of Schumann, Schubert, Mozart, Medtner and Sibelius delighted an audience at Opera North’s Howard Assembly Room. The packed nine-day-festival just completed is the widest ranging in the organisation’s history. It has probably injected well over £1m into the city’s visitor economy.

Curious is it not, that after years of project-funding the festival, this year’s should be the one that Arts Council England decides not to support. ACE’s rejection of Leeds Lieder’s application for a £60,000 grant, received just days before the festival’s opening, posed an acute dilemma for festival director Joseph Middleton and his intrepid team. In order to make immediate savings, the planned livestreaming of all recitals had to be scrapped.

A filmed appeal by a host of luminaries of piano and song was shown to the audience at Leeds Conservatoire before Saturday’s closing recital. This was devoted to Schubert’s epic song cycle Winterreise - Winter’s Journey. To describe the interpretative insight of of legendary baritone Sir Simon Keenlyside and pianist Joseph Middleton as mesmeric is not an overstatement. A large audience listened in rapt silence for 70 minutes before the eruption of cheers, bravos and foot-stamping. Their searing performance is now available on YouTube.

Schubert of course loved and quoted from Mozart’s Requiem. Last Saturday’s performance at Leeds Minster by Leeds Lieder’s Bring and Sing! Chorus, was simply awesome. Conductor Andrea Brown had shaped and moulded the 70 singers into a cohesive force in just two hours beforehand. Andrea is head of choral conducting at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama. The splendid quartet of soloists were members of Leeds Lieder Young Artists 2023: soprano Bethan Terry, alto Anna Trombetta, tenor Jonny Maxwell-Hyde and the bass Florian Stortz. Florian’s powerful declamation of the Tuba Mirum spiked my eyes with tears. William Campbell accompanied at the mighty organ of Leeds Minster. Unforgettable!

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