Global Music: The Harrogate International Festival

by Lexa Pennington /
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Jul 17, 2009 / 0 comments

The Harrogate International Festival is bringing the best in world music to Yorkshire’s doorstep: it’s a view you won’t want to miss.

For a few short, hot summer nights, Harrogate will become the epicentre of cool as global talent lands in God’s own county. This small Yorkshire town will widen its horizon to the best in world music as Cuban cool, Acid jazz and Celtic passions beat powerfully through the retiring foundations of the spa town.

Headlining the summer music festival is Britain’s favourite soprano Lesley Garrett for a rare appearance in Yorkshire. The weather may be unreliable, but the eclectic line up promises to turn up the heat for a sizzling summer. Opera, cabaret, jazz and orchestral music will stir the foundations of our spa town as the Festival asks Harrogate to ‘Take the Plunge’. 

Havana comes to Harrogate in the form of Roberto Fonseca. Ibrahim Ferrer has said about Roberto: “This “muchacho”, despite having a jazz background, gets me and respects my music, and - boy, can the kid play…!” The young Cuban-born pianist infuses jazz, funk, soul, Afro-Cuban music and salsa to create a sound that fuses traditions and defies boundaries. Fonseca counts such greats as Herbie Hancock amongst his fans. As the Sunday Times put it: “The man has soul”

Festival director Sharon Canavar explains: “This year we’ve decided to take inspiration from Harrogate’s famous Turkish Baths; we want to encourage new audiences to put their toes into unknown waters, try some events they wouldn't usually try and experience what we believe is ‘the ultimate spa for the soul.’”

Acts this July include acid jazz powerhouse the James Taylor Quartet, who have collaborated with Tom Jones and U2; BBC Radio 2 personality Clare Teal, and the Berlin Symphoniker, who will bring Beethoven to the Royal Hall for a breathtaking finale. 

Across the world, cultures are swaying to global rhythms in back street jazz bars and pub sawdust floors. Scottish songstress Julie Fowlis is a passionate torchbearer for the culture of her native Western Isles. She has taken her extraordinary talent all over the world, touring with the likes of Lou Reed and Suzanne Vega. Since Julie was presented with the 2008 Radio 2 Folksinger of the Year award by KT Tunstall, the Daily Telegraph predicted she could be “the first Scottish Gaelic crossover star in the making.” Her soulful voice prompted Radiohead’s Phil Selway to declare:  “You would need a cold heart indeed not be moved by her music.” 

From Cuban and Celtic cool to the cult music of the Penguin Cafe: the Philip Glass infused sounds of the Penguin Cafe have featured on movie soundtracks, including the off-beat flick Napoleon Dynamite. Their explosive and melodic sounds have been described by the Evening Standard as, “a knock out.” Arthur Jeffes brought together Music from The Penguin Cafe, continuing and evolving the work of his late father Simon Jeffes. Signed to Brian Eno’s record label, the Penguin Cafe attained cult status thanks to their experimental melodic sounds. Hits include the wonderful Telephone and Rubber Band that is written round the tape loop of an engaged and ringing telephone sound, Perpetuum Mobile, and the delicate Paul's Dance, a duet for ukelele and Venezuelan cuatro. 

To add a little edge to the folksy vibes, funky jazz and soulful melodies, the Festival brings you an Acid jazz powerhouse: the James Taylor Quartet.
James Taylor is legendary and regarded as one of the greatest instrumentalists of his generation.  The Theme from Starsky and Hutch cemented his reputation as master of the jazz-funk-r ‘n’ b workout; 60s spy themes, psychedelic and free-form jazz create a distinctive sound that has led to collaborations with Tom Jones - U2, The Pogues and the Manic Street Preachers have all featured James on their albums. In 1997 James had the chance to fulfil a dream when he was asked to score the theme tune to Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery, the spy spoof starring Mike Myers and Elizabeth Hurley. 

The Festival also plans to sweep Harrogate off its feet with a special Come Dancing event and exclusive dance class with stars of Strictly, Camilla Dallerup and Ian Waite. And the usual Festival favourites will be back, including the Young Musician series; the French continental markets, and Shakespearean thespian frolics at Harlow Carr Gardens with the Oddsock’s Theatre Company.

For over 40 years, the Harrogate International Festival has been bringing the most prestigious performers from across the globe to the region’s doorstep. And 2009 promises to be the most family-friendly festival ever, with the ‘bring a kid for a quid’ scheme, a Children’s World Music Day, Musical Story times at the Harrogate Theatre, and Famous Five inspired events across the town.

The Festival is also warning shoppers to keep their eyes peeled as young artists will appear in unexpected places - on the street, in bars, at the station - the town will be buzzing with talented musicians.

To see the full programme and find out more, visit:


Harrogate International Festival