Leeds Lieder Festival returns to mark its 20th anniversary, filling the city with song from Saturday 13 April to Sunday 21 April 2024. Bouncing back from the well-documented funding crisis of last season, and building on last year’s record number of first time concert attendees, the Festival has programmed the most inclusive, vibrant and colourful audience experience possible.

While the headline recitals take place in two of the finest recital spaces in Yorkshire, Opera North’s Howard Assembly Room and Leeds Conservatoire’s The Venue, Leeds Lieder will reach new audiences by taking the most eclectic programme of song to the very heart of the city’s diverse cultural scene: for the first time to the trendy Hyde Park Book Club, Leeds Sikh Centre, Kirkstall Abbey, Leeds Minster and, for the culmination concerts of our award-winning education projects, Pudsey Civic Hall.

The festival offers a ‘who’s who’ lineup of recitalists, as well as Young Artist masterclasses, new commissions, our unique Composers and Poets Forum, lecture-recitals, film showings, talks, community events, a musical walking trail, and extensive work in schools.

Headlining this milestone festival include star performers: Roderick Williams OBE, Benjamin Appl, Carolyn Sampson, Fleur Barron, James Gilchrist, Nikola Hillebrand, Ema ikolovska, James Newby, Roger Vignoles, Graham Johnson OBE and Joseph Middleton. Dame Felicity Lott and Sir Thomas Allen lead the Young Artist masterclasses.

LF 2023 - Véronique Gens & Susan Manoff © Light Attitude

LF 2023 – Véronique Gens & Susan Manoff © Light Attitude

Festival highlights include a Schubertiade 20th Anniversary Gala recital; building on the success of last year’s ‘Leeds Songbook’ by bringing together 10 Leeds poets with 10 postgraduate composers to write relevant responses to everyday life in Leeds; a community-led performance of Vivaldi’s Gloria in Leeds Minster; an evening recital in Leeds’ iconic Hyde Park Book Club promoted alongside Through the Noise; and a musical walking trail in the ruins of Kirkstall Abbey. Leeds Lieder commissions in 2024 include world premières of a new collection of miniatures by Cheryl Frances Hoad setting Punjabi Proverbs to be performed in Leeds Sikh Centre, and Tansy Davies’s Thunder: Perfect Mind written for Nikolovska and Middleton.

2024 is a landmark year for Leeds Lieder as the Song Festival celebrates its 20th anniversary. ‘On Wings of Song’ delves deeper into local communities and features an array of concerts and events, bringing the art of song to an ever-wider audience in and around the city of Leeds.

Programmed by Festival Director Joseph Middleton, this 20th anniversary festival will break new ground in collaboration with Through the Noise, a pioneering promoter dedicated to bringing classical music to diverse audiences by transforming popular club locations like Hyde Park Book Club into musical sanctuaries.

A continuation of the acclaimed 2023 ‘Leeds Songbook’ project, the Composers & Poets Forum adds further creative contributions to Leeds Lieder’s song collection. Stories about the people of Leeds, told in poems by the people of Leeds, set to music by composers brought to Leeds and performed by our Leeds Lieder Young Artists. It was described last year in the Guardian as ‘electric’. A hugely important aspect of Leeds Lieder is the opportunity it offers to young performers through its Leeds Lieder Young Artists Programme. Twenty outstanding 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.

Deepening roots within the local community, the popular Bring and Sing! event invites amateur singers to come together to perform Vivaldi’s choral masterpiece, his Gloria at Leeds Minster. Leeds Lieder will 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. The musical walking trail SongPath returns this year to the rich natural setting of the 900-year-old ruins of Kirkstall Abbey, led by singers Jess Dandy and Joanna Harries.

For the 2024 Festival, Leeds Lieder explores the cross-cultural art of British and Indian composers and poets. Three outstanding artists including 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, will give the world première of a new collection of miniatures by Cheryl Frances Hoad setting Punjabi proverbs written especially for performance in Leeds Sikh Centre.

A French song day, led by Dame Felicity Lott and Graham Johnson, pays homage to Fauré in the centenary year of his death and we also screen the UK premiere of Sense ficció – Brava, Victoria!, a documentary film celebrating Victoria de los Angeles and made up mainly of film footage captured by Victoria herself. We turn Opera North’s restaurant, Kino, into a cabaret venue for Claire Barnett-Jones and Libby Burgess and new poems by Kate Wakeling are read, interspersed between new translations of Schumann’s Myrthen by Jeremy Sams, performed by Burns, Pritchard and Glynn.

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 most exuberant Festivals. The early days of the Festival reads like a who’s-who of Lied performers, and while being mindful to maintain that outstanding roll call, we now compliment concerts given by star performers with an arresting skein of masterclasses and outreach activities to entertain, enlighten and educate our audiences.””The Telegraph summed it up pretty well last year when they wrote: “This excellent festival…wins converts to the apparently rarified and “difficult” genre of art-song among people who might never normally encounter it: schoolchildren, disabled people, ex-offenders. This miracle the festival achieves by following one simple rule: don’t assume something has to be made more palatable to be accessible. Offer the best performers singing the greatest songs from yesterday and today, and the rest will follow.” I think we’ll achieve this again in 2024 and hopefully for the next 20 years too.”