Special Reports

[Off The Beaten Path]
Setúbal Music Festival

March 31, 2015

Location: Setúbal, PORTUGAL
May 28-31, 2015


As much about social regeneration as about art, the Setúbal Music Festival was started at a time when Portugal was negotiating an $89 billion rescue program, and the local mayor looking for a strategy to revive her town through music. Former City of London Festival Artistic Director Ian Ritchie was brought in and he met with heads of local education and cultural institutions, social inclusion specialists, the department of youth, and the immigrant associations to build a festival from the ground up. It was launched in 2011 with a songwriting project for primary schools and a drumming workshop.

The theme for 2015 is “Climate.” Highlights include a Four Seasons project, in which Vivaldi’s seasons are interwoven with Piazzolla’s, with soloist/director Hugo Ticciati and the Portuguese Chamber Orchestra sharing the stage with young musicians from the two local music schools, and a choral concert inspired by the great earthquake of 1755 featuring Officium (one of Portugal’s best professional choirs) with the U.K.-based Pandora’s Box brass ensemble and the choir of the local Conservatoire. A new show, The Tide Suite, created through the continuing collaboration between the Conservatoire’s Contemporary Music Group and the special-needs school Rumo ao Sucesso (“Aim to Succeed”) features a guest appearance of John Kenny and his carnyx (2,000-year-old bronze Celtic war-trumpet). The school’s teachers composed the work.

The festival has a budget of approximately $200,000, funded by the Helen Hamlyn Trust and the local Town Hall, working in partnership. The trust puts in $130,000 to cover all fees and expenses for the guest artists, the leaders of the school and community workshops that run for six months in advance of the festival, and the part-time artistic director. The Setúbal Municipality adds about $60,000 in kind for venues, stages, transport, and promotion materials. Most events are free, and the modest box office income of about $10,000 is used to cover costs of musical instruments and sound equipment. —Keith Clarke



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