Tonight sees the announcement of this year’s BRIT Awards nominees. Since 1977 the awards have celebrated the very best in British music and we wait with baited breath to see this year’s shortlist.
England is certainly alive with the sound of music in 2013, the year that marks 100 years since the birth of Benjamin Britten. The country has a broad and diverse musical heritage spanning all genres, from opera to dubstep. Here, VisitEngland rounds up some of the country’s finest moments in musical history, and where you can experience them today.
1910s – Birth of Benjamin Britten
1913 saw the birth of Benjamin Britten, the world’s most-performed 20th century opera composer. While the anniversary falls in November, events and activities will take place throughout the year and millions are expected to join Britten 100, the widest ever global celebration of an English composer. Opening on Easter weekend, a new Britten Trail, developed by the Britten–Pears Foundation and local community groups, will link Britten-associated sites in a walking tour around Aldeburgh, the Suffolk coastal town where he lived and worked for most of his life. Hotspots include The Maltings at Snape, Aldeburgh Parish Church, Blythburgh Church, Orford Church and Jubilee Hall. The Red House, where Britten lived and worked for the last decades of his life, reopens this summer. The most comprehensive archive of any composer, The Red House will feature a recreation of Britten’s composing studio and a major new exhibition about the man and his music. Inspired by the legacy of Britten, the Aldeburgh Festival has launched a year-round programme of artistic endeavour celebrating all things Britten. In its 66th year, the festival will present Britten’s most famous opera, Peter Grimes, on Aldeburgh beach in June 2013. General booking opens 19 February 2013.
The Roaring Twenties – Flappers Delight
The roaring twenties saw dance clubs become enormously popular, and dance music came to dominate all forms of popular music. The foxtrot, waltz and tango that dominated in the 1910s were the foxtrot, waltz and tango gave way to more eccentric novelty dance styles being developed in the 1920s. The first of these were the Breakaway, Charleston and later the Lindy Hop. The decade was immortalised by the flapper, a cultural image that was to redefined modern womanhood. Fans of the era can bring back the roaring twenties and learn to dance like a real flapper with JiveSwing! . This swing dance club offers classes, workshops and events throughout Hertfordshire, Essex and North London. Social classes from £5 per person. In the South East, Proud Brighton Ballroom offers an array of vintage inspired evenings and experiences.
1930s – To the Manor Glyndebourne…
The annual English opera festival held at Glyndebourne, an English country house near Lewes in East Sussex, has become a longstanding beacon for England’s classical music scene and social season. Under the supervision of the Christie family, the festival has been held annually since 1934. The festival presents six productions each year in its 1,200-seat opera house and in 2013 the festival will take to the road with three large scale productions in the autumn, including a new production of The Rape of Lucretia, directed by Fiona Shaw. Locations, dates and the full performance schedule will be released shortly but audiences in Plymouth and Canterbury can book now.
1940s – Jazz Finds an Audience
British jazz came into prominence soon after the end of World War I. Jazz began to be played by British musicians from the 30s but really came into its own in the 40s, with performances often accompanied by dance bands. In 1948 a group of young musicians including John Dankworth and Ronnie Scott began a movement toward “modern jazz” or Bebop, focused on the Club Eleven in London. The legacy of such performances lives on today through England’s jazz festivals in cities such as Cheltenham, Oxford and Gateshead. In 2013, Bristol will play host to some of the world’s most exciting and innovative jazz musicians in the new Bristol International Jazz and Blues Festival, which will run from 1 – 3 March. The city’s flagship concert space, Colston Hall, will put on more than 24 individual concerts, late night jam sessions and instrumental and vocal workshops catering for all levels of musicianship. A Weekend Festival Pass costs £130 per person.
1950s – Shake, Rattle and Roll
The 50s saw the beginnings of rock’n’roll, the genre that was to revolutionise England’s musical landscape. Channel your inner teen idol at the 50s inspired Shake, Rattle and Roll Weekender, now in its 11th year. Running 22 – 25 March, this year’s rock’n’roll event will be held at Vauxhall Holiday Park, Great Yarmouth and I set to feature an unbeatable all-star line-up. Packages cost from £120 per person for 3 nights, based on two sharing. To get that 50s look, head to Viviane of Holloway in London, a one-stop shop for 1950s reproduction clothing, and just generally making the world a more glamorous place.
Swinging 60s – Beatlemania!
The Beatles epitomise the 1960 for many. Those four lads from Liverpool changed the face of popular culture forever. Today, their home city of Liverpool does ample justice to the Fab Four, with The Beatles Story (tickets cost £15.95 for adults and £7 for children) at Albert Dock, The Cavern Club (admission free until 8pm, then £3 on the door) and The Beatles Childhood Homes of John Lennon and Paul McCartney (tours cost £20 for adults and £5 for children), both must-sees.
Step aboard the colourful Magical Mystery Tour bus for a fun and fascinating two-hour tour of the Beatles’ Liverpool. You’ll see all the places associated with John, Paul, George and Ringo as well as locations that inspired some of their most memorable songs - including Penny Lane and Strawberry Field. You’ll be kept entertained along the way by a qualified Beatles Guides and some classic Fab Four tunes. Ticket cost £15.95 per person. Stay the night at a ‘Fab Four’ star Liverpool hotel, the Hard Days Night Hotel, the world’s only Beatles-inspired hotel. Located at the heart of Liverpool’s ‘Beatles Quarter’ in the magnificent Grade II listed Central Buildings which dates back to 1884, this beautifully-restored hotel is steeped in history. Luxury rooms from £95 per night, room only.
1970s – Glam Rock and Festival Firsts
After Woodstock in 1969, the 70s saw the arrival of the music festival to English shores – still an iconic part of English summers today. Those looking for an unforgettable music experience should ensure there’s an English music festival at the top of their to-do list. The annual Isle of Wight Festival (13 – 16 June) – England’s first and widely acknowledged as the largest musical event of its time, with even more attendees than Woodstock – continues to go from strength to strength. For a glimpse of the world’s biggest stars, head to Glastonbury (26 – 30 June), back after a year’s hiatus, or VFestival (17 & 18 August). Rock and Indie fans need look no further than Leeds and Reading festivals (both 23 – 25 August), while Bestival (5 – 8 September) and The Secret Garden Party (25 – 28 July) promise a more eclectic offering. Just don’t forget your wellies!
The 70s also saw the evolution of glam rock – an era symbolised by David Bowie. After a three-year period of experimentation, Bowie re-emerged in 1972 with the flamboyant, androgynous alter ego Ziggy Stardust. From March, London’s V&A has been given unprecedented access to the David Bowie Archive to curate the first international retrospective of the extraordinary career of David Bowie - one of the most pioneering and influential performers of modern times. The David Bowie is exhibition (23 March – 18 July) will explore the broad range of Bowie’s collaborations with artists and designers in the fields of fashion, sound, graphics, theatre, art and film. Tickets cost £14 for adults and £9 for children.
1980s – Pop Socks and Dirty Dancing
The 80s saw the rise of the modern day dance flick which catapulted many actors into superstardom, with films such as Flashdance, Fame, Footloose and Dirty Dancing. Today, England’s theatre pays homage to Dirty Dancing, which is currently doing the rounds with its first ever national tour. Tickets from £14.50 per person. Additionally, London’s most raucous musical Rock of Ages features a potent mix of 80s-themed hilarity and eyebrow-scorching tunes, including: Don’t Stop Believin’, We Built This City, The Final Countdown, Wanted Dead or Alive, Here I Go Again, Can’t Fight this Feeling and I Want to Know What Love Is. The show moves to London’s Garrick Theatre from 18 January and tickets start from £25 per person.
1990s – Girl Power vs. Britpop
The Spice Girls were far and away the biggest pop phenomenon of the 90s. By the time they split, they had sold 75 million records, become cultural icons and endowed a generation of schoolgirls with a rallying cry: “Girl Power”. They also left us with some catchy tunes which are showcased in the new musical VIVA FOREVER! at the Piccadilly Theatre in London’s West End. The show tells the story of a beautiful, talented girl and her best friends who get swept up in the obsession of today’s TV celebrity culture. Tickets from £20 per person. The Spice Girls stole all the headlines at the 1997 Brit Awards when Halliwell wore a microscopic Union Jack dress, which became a defining image of the decade. Today, ‘that dress’ is on display at the o2 at The British Music Experience. Tickets cost £13 for adults and £6.50 for children.
Projecting a different view of the 90s, ‘Cool Britannia’ was on the rise and its musical mouthpiece, Britpop, was causing a stir with bands like Oasis and Blur. Hometown of the Gallagher brothers, Manchester was credited as the birthplace for the movement with its legendary nightclubs and music venues – including The Free Trade Hall, The G-Mex Centre, The Boardwalk and Hacienda – bred an eclectic and wildly successful mix of bands. Find out more about the city’s rock and roll history with Manchester Music Tours, which give fans an insight into the stories of Oasis, Joy Division, The Smiths, Morrissey and The Stone Roses. Tours from £20 per person.
The Noughties – The Rise and Fall of Camden’s Most Famous Daughter
Amy Winehouse was arguably the voice of the noughties. Winehouse’s 2003 debut album, Frank, was critically successful in the UK but it was her 2006 follow-up, Back to Black, that saw the singer reach legendary status. The London borough of Camden was Winehouse’s muse: her last public appearance took place at Camden’s Roundhouse and she will forever be associated with her adopted home. Camden Town’s musical reputation has attracted more than its share of media companies from record labels like Creation to the television giant MTV (Europe) which has its studios on the canal at Camden Lock. Camden has always been a hub for London’s live music scene, with legendary venues that have launched many big names. Some of the best include Koko, The Underworld Camden, Electric Ballroom and Proud Camden to catch the latest bands. You can also see top jazz and blues performances at the Jazz Café or The Blues Kitchen, while The Black Cap offers a glittering array of drag acts.
Twenty-tens – England Leads the Way…
In 2012 both Adele and One Direction topped Billboard’s top 200 album chart in the US. The latter (known as 1D to their fans) is the latest global phenomenon to come from our green and pleasant land. On 23 July 2010 One Direction were put together as a band for the first time at Wembley Arena, where they qualified for the ‘Groups’ category of The X Factor. It’s where their phenomenal journey began, so the famous music venue holds a special place in the boys’ hearts and is a must-visit for any music fan: artists from The Beatles and Bob Dylan, to the Spice Girls and Madonna have performed there. Catch the X Factor 2013 Live Tour at Wembley this February and you too can talent-spot the next hot act. Wanna party like the 1D boys? The group have been seen out and about at London’s Mahiki, Aura and Funky Buddha. But they’re just as likely to be spotted having a sneaky ice-cream fix at Milkshake City, where they’ve even got their own flavour!
And Beyond…Rebirth of the Superclub
Post-dubstep, future garage, UK bass music … no one knows quite what to call it, but some of the most exciting music in the world right now is being made by young, English producers raised on drum’n'bass and UK garage. Discover the joys of dance music at fabric, a London club showcasing the very best of this country’s underground DJ talent. Its playlists are dedicated to cutting-edge house, techno, electro, disco, dub-techno…and anything else that fits within the confines of the night’s future-forward and ever-evolving programming. Ticket prices vary.