The 2019 London Song Festival features nine concerts, taking place between October 17 and December 5 and has a theme of ‘Outsiders’. This year’s festival features two concerts with an LGBT link, a celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the Stonewall riots and composer Walt Whitman. Dave Cross spoke to founder Nigel Foster about these special concerts.
Hi Nigel, can you tell us what is the London Song Festival?
The London Song Festival is an annual series of concerts that basically use songs to tell stories. At an LSF concert you might hear classical art-songs, musical theatre and jazz classics, alongside spoken word, elements of staging and video projections; all combining to create a whole entertainment with no musical style excluded. The aim is to entertain, perhaps to provoke as well, but always to speak to people’s hearts and guts.
How long as the Festival been running?
I started the Festival in 2007 and have been running it ever since. It has grown from very small beginnings and this year has nine concerts, running from October to December, all based on the theme of Outsiders.
We know you have two LGBT themed events this year, can you please tell us about the Stonewall anniversary with Peter Tatchell?
As a gay man I really wanted to include a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising in the Festival. This concert, ‘The Outsiders Fight Back’, tells the story of the uprising through songs and through the words of people who were there and took part, and there’ll also be projected photos from the time – the idea is to bring home not only the violence, but also the touches of humour that happened – us gays can always transform anything with a bit of magic and sparkle. Two highlights of this concert that I am very proud of are a new work composed specially for the Festival, And Another Song Comes On, based on the songs on the jukebox at the Stonewall Inn at the time of the uprising, with lyrics by Grammy Award-winner Mark Campbell and music by Ben Moore, and I am honoured that Peter Tatchell, one of my absolute heroes, is the guest of honour and is speaking about his experiences carrying on the struggle after Stonewall.
And the Walt Whitman concert?
Walt Whitman was an extraordinary poet, who has always fascinated me. The poems that make up Leaves of Grass are amazingly sexually explicit, especially when you remember they were written in the 1850s and 60s. He wrote of his vision of a world where “manly love” and “adhesiveness” as he called it, would be something so ordinary and unremarkable – a world where people could be completely open about being gay. In the middle of the 19th century no-one else was writing anything like this, and a worldwide community of gay men latched onto this and became like a single global family, united by reading and understanding Whitman’s words, which is very inspiring. In this concert, ‘The Sexual Outsider’, you’ll hear settings of Whitman by British and American composers, and extracts from Leaves of Grass, taken of course from the more explicit early editions, not the later, tamed-down versions.
How can Boyz readers find out more information or buy tickets for the concerts?
Tickets are available to buy on the London Song Festival website londonsongfestival.org go to the ‘concerts’ page, which also has more information. Tickets are just £20, and £15 for the usual concessions. The dates are Thursday Oct 17 (Stonewall) and Thursday Oct 24 (Whitman), both at 7pm. The venue is Hinde Street Church W1, in the heart of London’s West End; a very LGBT-friendly venue for this very non-religious Festival!
Get details and tickets for these concerts and the whole festival at londonsongfestival.org