Shakespeare’s reflections on life’s major milestones, voiced in As You Like It by Jacques in his ‘All the world’s a stage’ monologue, is a mirror of Wigmore Hall’s pioneering Learning programme, which has long provided a strikingly wide body of work for people of all ages. It now serves as the inspiration for Wigmore Hall’s first major festival celebrating the breadth of Wigmore Hall’s award-winning Learning programme, Seven Ages, which reveals its extraordinary network of connections with everyone from babes in arms to care home residents.
Learning runs as a major theme throughout the Hall’s artistic programme during its 2017/18 Season, and Seven Ages (Saturday 10 – Saturday 24 February 2018) celebrates life’s stories and phases with a major celebration inspired by one of Shakespeare’s most famous speeches. The festival fortnight offers an irresistible snapshot of Learning’s outstandingly wide world. Seven Ages celebrates Wigmore Hall’s ongoing community work, including creative music making with teachers and pupils, people who have experienced homelessness, children and young people in hospital and people living with dementia.
“We have created Seven Ages to give our audiences a flavour of the richness and diversity of the unique range of work we lead across the community, with people of all ages and backgrounds,” comments John Gilhooly, Wigmore Hall’s Director. “Wigmore Hall Learning will present more than 500 events this year. Many of these, including masterclasses with Richard Goode and Sir András Schiff, are integral to our main evening programme. There are also so many opportunities for people to make and explore music at Wigmore Hall, to be part of a great and growing community of performers and listeners. Learning stands at the heart of Wigmore Hall.”
In addition to workshop sessions, interactive events and discussions, Seven Ages includes two fascinating evening concerts. The first, on Thursday 15 February, offers the world première of a major new song cycle by Helen Grime, specially commissioned for soprano Ruby Hughesand pianist Joseph Middleton, which sets haunting poems about the joy and pain of parenthood from Fiona Benson’s collection Bright Travellers. Grime, Wigmore Hall’s Composer in Residence, joins Fiona Benson in a pre-concert talk about parenthood and how it can influence art. Hughes and Middleton’s programme contains other musical perspectives on parenthood, Mahler’s impassioned Kindertotenlieder, Ives’sCradle Song and James MacMillan’s The Children among them.
The timeless metaphor of life as an unfolding, unpredictable journey flows through Seven Ages. Shakespeare’s reflections on the journey’s major milestones provide the frame for an evening of songs old and new, programmed and accompanied by Graham Johnson (Friday 23 February). Soprano Ailish Tynan, mezzo-soprano Anna Huntley, tenor Ilker Arcayürek and bass-baritone Stephan Loges share the stage for a recital that includes the world première of a new Wigmore Hall commission by Joseph Phibbs, and a compelling mix of songs by Brahms, Britten, Mahler, Poulenc, Schubert, Schumann, Haydn, Wolf, Gilbert and Sullivan, Duparc and Noël Coward.
Daisy Swift, Wigmore Hall’s Head of Learning, notes how Seven Ages represents a microcosm of the wider Learning programme, and charts a journey through life guided by the multiple strands of Learning’s work.
“Seven Ages celebrates the different journeys we all take through life, and explores just some of the many ways we can make music at different stages of our lives.
“We’re thrilled to collaborate with community, social and healthcare organisations to enable more people to take part in music making, regardless of background or circumstance. Just some of our partnerships include Great Ormond Street, Fairbeats and Positively UK to bring families together through Family Sounds, and Turtle Key Arts and National Portrait Gallery to continue our work with young people with Autistic Spectrum Conditions.
“Alongside many events for under-fives, schools, families and adults, we’re also launching two new events: Sound Connections and Wired4Music invite anyone to drop in and explore their own Musical Pathways in a visual art activity, and we launch a brand new series of Bechstein Sessions, informal early evening performances in our Bechstein Bar.”
Wigmore Hall’s award-winning Music for Life programme touches Seven Ages in the form of the festival’s Come and Sing event on Tuesday 20 February. People living with dementia and their families and carers, regardless of ability or singing experience, will join vocal leader Isabelle Adams for a session of group singing exploring a mixture of music from across the ages.
Seven Ages closes on Saturday 24 February with the Big Sing!, a special opportunity for people of all ages to sing as part of a choir, develop singing skills and explore new music with Isabelle Adams and soprano Milly Forrest, alongside singing groups from across the Learning Programme.
“We’re fully committed to serving the community, building new audiences and sharing the experiences of extraordinary music-making at Wigmore Hall with the widest possible audience,” comments John Gilhooly. “We know that music has such a positive role to play in education, personal development, wellbeing and mental health, areas of the highest importance to society. That’s why we are investing so heavily in Learning now and for the future.”