Opera superstar opens world-class season of entertainment lined up at Saffron Hall

American opera star Joyce DiDonato will perform at Saffron Hall.

American opera star Joyce DiDonato will perform at Saffron Hall. - Credit: Simon Pauly

An opera superstar, a sprinkling of British jazz legends and the BBC Concert and Symphony Orchestras are just some of world-class entertainment lined up at Saffron Hall this autumn.

Creatives at the concert hall in the grounds of Saffron Walden County High School have announced a stellar first half of its 2021/22 season, running from this month through to January 2022.

Saffron Hall is situated in the grounds of Saffron Walden County High School in Essex.

Saffron Hall is in the grounds of Saffron Walden County High School in Essex. - Credit: Saffron Hall

Three-time Grammy Award-winning opera singer Joyce DiDonato’s My Favourite Things opens a season that encompasses classical, jazz and folk in the award-winning concert hall built in the grounds of the Essex secondary school.

The programme includes artistes such as Jacqui Dankworth, Courtney Pine, and pianist András Schiff, as well as English Touring Opera and Harry Christophers and The Sixteen.

Angela Dixon, chief executive of Saffron Hall, said: “The past 18 months have been challenging for everyone, but it’s a testament to Saffron Hall’s staff and supporters that we are able to announce such a line-up of great artists and ensembles.

"We have been open throughout the pandemic, but we are looking forward to welcoming our audiences back to the atmosphere and joy of a full hall.”

Opera singers don’t come any starrier than American mezzo Joyce DiDonato, who opens the season on Saturday, September 18.

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Her My Favourite Things tour features a selection of baroque arias accompanied by her regular performing and recording partner, the period instrument ensemble il pomo d’oro under the direction of conductor/leader Zefira Valova. 

The London Philharmonic Orchestra will perform at Saffron Hall.

The London Philharmonic Orchestra will perform at Saffron Hall. - Credit: Benjamin Ealovega

Both of Saffron Hall’s resident orchestras – the London Philharmonic Orchestra and Britten Sinfonia – return to perform twice this autumn.

The LPO and its new principal conductor Edward Gardner perform Lili Boulanger’s D’un matin de printemps alongside Sibelius’ Symphony No. 2 and Lutosławski’s Cello Concerto with Nicolas Altstaedt on Saturday, October 2.

Sir Mark Elder then conducts Sir James MacMillan’s Christmas Oratorio with Lucy Crowe and Roderick Williams on December 5, the day after the work’s UK premiere.

Britten Sinfonia will perform at Saffron Hall.

Britten Sinfonia will perform at Saffron Hall. - Credit: Benjamin Ealovega

Britten Sinfonia pair Mozart’s Serenade for 13 Wind Instruments with Mark Simpson’s Geysir, a 2013 work written as a direct response to Mozart’s music, on October 10, before returning to perform Handel’s Messiah with conductor David Watkin, leader Thomas Gould and the Choir of Jesus College, Cambridge, on December 18. 

Other visiting orchestras include BBC Symphony Orchestra and conductor Dalia Stasevska performing William L Dawson’s Negro Folk Symphony and Samuel Barber’s Violin Concerto with Elena Urioste on November 19, and the BBC Concert Orchestra get 2022 off to a celebratory start with their New Year’s concert on January 2.  

Three star pianists appear at Saffron Hall this term. Sir András Schiff gives a solo recital on November 10, and Paul Lewis and Steven Osborne present a four-hands recital of French repertoire on November 28.

Before then, violinist Randall Goosby performs a Young Artist Concert with pianist Jonathan Ware in a programme exploring music written by Black composers such as Samuel Coleridge-Taylor and Florence Price on October 3.

Guitarist Michael Butten presents a programme of British works from the two Elizabethan ages on October 24.

Offering a new insight into the work of Beethoven, cellist Matthew Barley and pianists Ivana Gavrić and Tim West improvise in and around Ludwig’s sonatas on October 24, revealing a different perspective to one of the world’s most well-known composers. 

British jazz saxophonist Courtney Pine will perform at Saffron Hall.

British jazz saxophonist Courtney Pine will perform at Saffron Hall on November 26. - Credit: Roger King

Meanwhile, the unchallenged king of British jazz saxophone, Courtney Pine, returns on November 26 to continue Saffron Hall’s jazz programming with a celebration of Afro-Caribbean musical heritage, that includes influences from merengue, ska, mento and calypso, inspired by Pine’s 2012 hit album House of Legends. 

The jazz orchestra and Big Band sound is set to ring round the auditorium on Friday, October 1 as Jacqui Dankworth & Her Orchestra present numbers inspired by the music of the stage and silver screen.

Jazz singer Jacqui Dankworth will perform at Saffron Hall.

Jazz singer Jacqui Dankworth will perform at Saffron Hall. - Credit: John Kentish

The Glenn Miller Orchestra will delight with original Miller arrangements from the 1940s on November 21, and the BBC Big Band brings ‘A Swinging Christmas’ conducted by Barry Forgie with singer Emer McParland to Saffron Walden on December 11.

Saffron Hall’s insightful ‘Thoughts & Talks’ series continues this season, opening with Amanda Owen sharing stories from her book Adventures of the Yorkshire Shepherdess on October 17.

Four days later, broadcaster, writer and political commentator Michael Portillo takes to the stage to share anecdotes and unrivalled insights.

Vocal music also remains central to Saffron Hall’s programming and highlights of the forthcoming season include Jamie Barton’s recital with composer and pianist Jake Heggie.

Their concert on December 3 includes works by Schubert, Florence Price, Brahms and Heggie himself. 

Handel’s opera Amadigi is fully staged by English Touring Opera and The Old Street Band on Saturday, October 30 and Sunday, October 31, and his Coronation Anthems are performed by Harry Christophers and The Sixteen on November 7.

The Sixteen will perform at Saffron Hall.

The Sixteen will perform at Saffron Hall. - Credit: Firedog

Award-winning period instrument ensemble La Serenissima and director Adrian Chandler present an all-Vivaldi programme alongside soloists Claire Booth, Renata Pokupic and Jess Dandy on October 23. 

Local talent is celebrated with performances by the Saffron Walden Choral Society performing Brahms' Ein Deutsches Requiem on November 13, and the Saffron Walden Symphony Orchestra, who open their new season with the world premiere of Der Trommler, a new work by Jacob Bride, a fortnight later on November 27. 

KD Theatre Productions and Saffron Hall present The Wizard of Oz this Christmas.

KD Theatre Productions and Saffron Hall present The Wizard of Oz this Christmas. - Credit: KD Theatres

Creatives haven’t forgotten about Christmas either, with Saffron Hall this year presenting their first ever pantomime. 

Click your heels and follow the professional cast down the Yellow Brick Road for a magical Christmas production of The Wizard of Oz with a live band from Thursday, December 23 to Wednesday, December 29, with previews on December 22.

For more information and to book tickets, visit the Saffron Hall website at saffronhall.com

A feast of world-class artists and ensembles encompassing classical, jazz and folk will perform at Saffron Hall.

A feast of world-class artists and ensembles encompassing classical, jazz and folk will perform at Saffron Hall. - Credit: Saffron Hall

Saffron Hall - September 2021 to January 2022 listings

Saturday, September 18, 7.30pm
Joyce DiDonato’s My Favourite Things with il pomo d’oro

Friday, October 1, 7.30pm
Jacqui Dankworth & Her Orchestra

Saturday, October 2 , 7.30pm
London Philharmonic Orchestra

Sunday, October 3, 3pm
Randall Goosby, violin, and Jonathan Ware, piano

Sunday, October 10, 7.30pm
Britten Sinfonia

Saturday, October 16, 7.30pm
Kathryn Tickell & The Darkening

Sunday, October 17, 3pm
Amanda Owen: The Yorkshire Shepherdess

Thursday, October 21, 7.30pm
Michael Portillo – Life: A Game of Two Halves

Saturday, October 23, 7.30pm
La Serenissima

Sunday, October 24, 11am
Michael Butten, guitar

Sunday, October 24, 4pm
Ludwig: Composer and Improviser

Saturday, October 30, 7.30pm & Sunday, October 31, 3pm
English Touring Opera and The Old Street Band 

Sunday, November 7, 7pm
The Sixteen

Wednesday, November 10, 7.30pm
Sir András Schiff, piano

Saturday, November 13, 7.30pm
Saffron Walden Choral Society 

Friday, November 19, 7.30pm
BBC Symphony Orchestra

Sunday, November 21, 3pm
Glenn Miller Orchestra

Friday, November 26, 8pm
Courtney Pine - House of Legends

Saturday, November 27, 7.30pm
Saffron Walden Symphony Orchestra

Sunday, November 28, 3pm
Paul Lewis and Steven Osborne

Friday, December 3, 7.30pm (tbc)
Jamie Barton, mezzo-soprano, and Jake Heggie, piano

Sunday, December 5, 3pm
London Philharmonic Orchestra

Saturday, December 11, 7.30pm
A Swinging Christmas, BBC Big Band

Saturday, December 18, 7.30pm
Britten Sinfonia

Wednesday, December 22 to Wednesday, December 29
Family Christmas Show - The Wizard of Oz

Sunday, January 2, 4pm
New Year’s Celebration - BBC Concert Orchestra.