Ludlow English Song Weekend

Book your tickets now for a wonderful weekend of song and celebration in one of England’s prettiest small towns

The Parish Church of St. Laurence, Ludlow, where part of the Ludlow English Song Weekend will take place

Is there anything more delightful-sounding than the Ludlow English Song Weekend? This summer, the picturesque market town of Ludlow in Shropshire will be filled with melody for four days of performances by well-known and emerging musicians.

“Visitors can expect a wide range of different sorts of English songs going back to the 17th century, but mostly focused around the early 20th century – the golden age of English song,” says the Song Weekend’s artistic director, the visionary musician Iain Burnside. “The songs are performed by a wonderful array of top-notch British singers.”

Highlights of the weekend, the fifth in 15 years, include soprano Elizabeth Watts, winner of the Rosenblatt Recital Song Prize at the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World competition in 2007, and the performing of two new works, which have been specially commissioned. One by the well-established composer Brian Elias and another by Julian Philips, who has recently also been commissioned to write a brand new opera for the Royal Opera House.

Ludlow Castle, Shropshire © VisitBritain

There will be a master class from world-famous bass player Sir John Tomlinson, as well as films and discussions. The winners of the Ludlow English Song Weekend national Young Composers’ Competition will have their works performed to audiences.

Ludlow is the location for the song weekend partly because of its accessibility – it’s right in the middle of the country – but also because of its aesthetic.

“I think it is the most beautiful small town in England,” says Burnside of the little town that lies on the borders of England and Wales. “It’s magical, just an enchanting place. There is a terrific atmosphere and you see familiar faces the whole time.”

There are usually up to 300 visitors at the Ludlow English Song Weekend, and one of the features of the event is the relaxed atmosphere. There is plenty of mingling between audiences and performers. Events take place in the elegant Assembly Rooms as well as within the Parish Church of St Laurence, where English poet AE Housman is buried.

“A lot of songs are set to his poems, so that is a lovely resonance,” says Burnside. “You can go and lay flowers on his grave and five minutes later be listening to songs that feature his poems. People interested in English poetry would find it really interesting.”

Visitors don’t have to be music buffs either; the organisers want to make the event as accessible as possible for all.

“There’s something for everyone,” says Burnside. “We have modern commissions but not in a frightening way. We don’t want it to just be about dead composers, so there’s a young composer competition. It’s not fossilised in any way – it’s definitely about regenerating English song.”

Burnside explains that English song has roots in Germanic musical traditions – from the likes of Brahms, but also in English folk song: “If you look at some of the pieces created between the two world wars you get a combination of different musical languages that I think make the song very special and particular to England.”

The Ludlow English Song Weekend runs from 30 May – 2 June. Tickets cost £10 – £25. For more information and to purchase tickets, call 01584 878141.