Bath is a unique English city, with its rich history and memorable architecture; and the Bath International Music Festival has certainly raised its profile even more. Every year, for a little over two weeks during May and June, a plethora of musical events of the very highest quality takes place throughout this lovely city. Although the Bath International Music Festival wasn’t inaugurated until 1949, the city itself has long-held musical associations. Indeed, it is known that Queen Elizabeth I once visited Bath in 1668 with the express intention of hearing the Wells Cathedral Choir perform at the Abbey – the same abbey that still serves as a one of the venues for the modern festival.
The festival now traditionally opens with a giant celebration – the Party in the City. Opened by the peeling of bells of churches throughout Bath at 6 pm, there are several different party venues to really get things under way. For example, at the Assembly Rooms, the Pavilion, the Guildhall, the Forum and the Bandstand in Parade Gardens all manner of musical activities will take place, with nearly a hundred groups of musicians participating – and everything is completely free!
For the following two weeks or so, the events just keep on coming. Orchestral, chamber and choral music; contemporary jazz; world music; folk and roots; early and baroque music – each year the programme seems to become even more comprehensive. In 2006, the festival had its first contemporary electronic experimental music with a memorable collaboration between Brian Eno and Bath Camerata in the Abbey. The deliberately eclectic programme has earned a world-wide reputation because of the quality of the musicians attracted to the Festival. In addition to performances in some of the most beautiful buildings in Bath, the Festival also moves to lovely venues outside the city each year – such as Conygre Hall in nearby Timsbury, St Andrew’s Church in Chew Magna and the Fry Club at Keynsham.
The Bath International Music Festival also has its own Fringe events, offering a varied programme of workshops, activities for children, drama and fun in the Spiegeltent in the town, as well as evenings featuring late night comedy, cabaret and film and drama. The Fringe always finishes with the appropriately named Bedlam Fair – a weekend of totally exhausting indoor and outdoor madness.
Throughout the Festival, visitors will be able to attend events throughout the day – talks, lectures, workshops, walks and masterclasses as well as lunchtime and coffee concerts. Many of these events are offered free of charge. Whatever your age and whatever your musical passion, the Bath Festival will be able to entice you with its diversity of excellent activities.
Bath’s majesty has attracted visitors – from outside the United Kingdom as well as from within – for many years. Famous for the hot springs in its Roman Baths, the Palladian masterpiece that is the Royal Crescent and the beautiful Pulteney Bridge, the city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with few peers in Britain. However, it would be wrong to consider the city to be an open-air museum; it is, in fact, a lively and cosmopolitan town. With some of the best restaurants and pubs in the south of England – over 150 of them, apparently – and with some of the best shopping as well, Bath is a vibrant, active and fun place. There could, in fact, be few better places in England to spend time in – especially when there is such a high-quality music festival taking place.
Bath is handily placed on the way to England’s south-west. By train from London’s Paddington Station, it can be reached in 70 minutes, and it is only 20 minutes from Bristol and 100 minutes from Birmingham. On the road, by leaving the M4 at Junction 18 and joining the A46, the city is quite accessible. Accommodation in the city is plentiful – although it does pay to reserve it in advance if possible. Hotels range from the famous Royal Crescent Hotel to established chains such as Express by Holiday Inn and lots of Bed and Breakfast places. There are a number of very fine camp sites in the area, notably the well-established and popular Newton Mill Camping Site, within easy reach of the city.
For more information take a look at the official website of the Bath International Music Festival.