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Happy Birthday Britten! 250 global events across weekend

(November 2013)

The Britten Birthday weekend, 22-24 November, brings centenary celebrations around the world, including 100,000 children singing his Friday Afternoons songs.

More than 100,000 children in every corner of the UK will sing Benjamin Britten’s Friday Afternoons on Friday 22 November to mark the 100th anniversary of the composer’s birth. They will be joined worldwide by thousands more across ten time zones, as Friday afternoon tracks west from Melbourne to Singapore, Aix-en-Provence and Santa Monica.

Composed by Britten for the Prestatyn school run by his brother, Friday Afternoons is a set of 12 songs  for children’s voices. The international singing project is run by Aldeburgh Music, founded by Britten himself, and has attracted the support of  project ambassadors including: composer and broadcaster Howard Goodall; jazz legend Dame Cleo Laine; singer and broadcaster Aled Jones; and author and politician Floella Benjamin. From Aldeburgh in the East, to Belfast in the West, Inverness in the North and Jersey in the South - and from school assemblies to public performances with major orchestras and opera companies - Friday Afternoons is a fitting culmination of Britten100, the widest global celebration of a British composer ever.

Among the most notable Friday Afternoons performances is the largest, at Bristol’s Colston Hall, where exactly 1913 children from Bournemouth Symphony Youth Chorus and 39 schools from the South West join the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and conductor Kirill Karabits. In Snape Maltings Concert Hall, over 600 children perform with the concert live streamed on the Friday Afternoons website and in the capital, the London Youth Choir perform at Middle Temple with project ambassador Suzi Digby.

For more information on Friday Afternoons, including a virtual map of all events taking place worldwide, please visit 

In Lowestoft there will be a unique opportunity to explore Britten’s early musical development in the house where he was born. For the first time since the 1930s manuscripts that Britten wrote there as a boy will return to his childhood home and be displayed, alongside his nursery rocking horse,  in a special pop-up exhibition. (22-24 November). For details, please visit

Lowestoft also sees  a special centenary performance of Britten’s much-loved community opera Noye’s Fludde on 21 November. With a stellar cast including Dame Felicity Palmer and Andrew Shore and school children from Lowestoft, it will be conducted by Paul Kildea, author of revelatory biography Benjamin Britten: A Life In the Twentieth Century.

BBC Radio broadcasts live from Suffolk throughout the birthday weekend. The residency begins on Friday 22 November with a special broadcast of In Tune from the Britten Studio at Snape Maltings (BBC Radio 3 16.30). Later, Tom Service presents a special Britten Centenary Concert live from Snape Maltings Concert Hall with the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Chorus conducted by Oliver Knussen in a programme featuring Spring Symphony, selections from Peter Grimes and the rarely-heard Cantata Academica (BBC Radio 3 19.30). The live radio follows a rich celebration on BBC Four including: John Bridcut’s rich and poignant Britten’s Endgame (transmission 14 November 21.00); and Benjamin Britten on Camera, narrated by James Naughtie with contributors including David Attenborough, Michael Crawford, Humphrey Burton and Nicholas Kenyon (16 November 20.00). BBC Four will also broadcast Glyndebourne’s recent Billy Budd (Sunday 17 November 19.00) and a Britten-inspired Prom from the 2013 season (Friday 15 November 19.30). Sky Arts will screen Tony Palmer's recent Britten film Nocturne (Sunday 17 November 22.00).

Highlights in the UK and abroad for the centenary weekend include:
War Requiem presented at Metz Arsenal, France, with the Bachchor Mainz and Deutsche Radio Philharmonie. (21 November).

• New York Philharmonic with Alan Gilbert in series of Britten concerts including Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings and Spring Symphony (21-23 November).

• Benjamin Grosvenor joins the Leipzig Gewandhausorchester to perform the Piano Concerto, conducted by Andrew Manze (21-22 November).

• Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra performs Sinfonia da Requiem at the Philharmonic Hall, conducted by Vasily Petrenko (22 November).

• Carnegie Hall presents concert staging of Peter Grimes with St Louis Symphony Orchestra (22 November).

• 100,000 children around the UK and around the world sing Britten’s Friday Afternoons (22 November).

• Oliver Knussen conducts the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Chorus in a concert including Cantata Academica, Four Sea Interludes, Passacaglia and Spring Symphony at Snape Maltings (22 November).

• BBC Television and Radio 3 celebrate throughout the month and present an all-Britten weekend on Radio 3 (22-25 November).

• Wiener Staatsoper presents Peter Grimes conducted by Graeme Jenkins and directed by Christine Mielitz (23 November).

Albert Herring performed by the BBC Symphony Orchestra at the Barbican (23 November).

• Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra concludes its ‘Britten’s Russian Friendships’ series and performs the War Requiem in Bristol conducted by Adrian Partington (23 November).

• Centenary weekend opening at The Red House, Aldeburgh, including the Britten-Pears Foundation’s new Archive (22-24 November).

Britten 100

The scope and number of events worldwide throughout the centenary year has included at least 240 performances of The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra, 167 of War Requiem, 158 of Noye's Fludde, 140 of Saint Nicolas, 113 of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, 108 of the complete Peter Grimes, and 51 of Billy Budd. These figures are increasing daily, and will continue to do so until the end of the centenary period, which spans the two seasons either side of the anniversary on 22 November 2013 (September 2012 to August 2014).

A full calendar of UK and international performances and events is available at

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