Concert orchestras top the bill as Kenwood goes classic this summer

The prominence of classical music on this year's Kenwood Concerts line-up has been welcomed

The prominence of classical music on this year's Kenwood Concerts line-up has been welcomed - Credit: Archant

Some of the country’s finest concert orchestras will headline this year’s Kenwood Picnic Concerts alongside rock bands Suede and Keane – in a programme praised for putting classical music at its heart.

The popular open air concerts return this summer after a year’s break for a season called Live by the Lake in a breath-taking setting on Hampstead Heath.

Indie legends Suede and guitar-indie pop band Keane are the big name pop acts on the bill, but the headline Saturday night shows see the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra and the English National Opera Orchestra take centre stage.

There will also be an outdoor screening of classic movie Singin’ In The Rain, featuring a live musical score played by the Royal Philharmonic and the season will close with Gershwin.

The programme has won praise for returning to the concert’s classical roots while maintaining a balance of mainstream acts.

John Plews, artistic director of Upstairs at the Gatehouse theatre, Highgate, said: “I can’t really comment on the rock and pop acts because I’m the wrong generation, but I think the rest of the line-up are great, I love that stuff. My opinion is these will sell out as well as the rock concerts.

“A big orchestra playing to a movie, that’s a bit unusual and it’s a classic film – those MGM musicals are great. The choral music also gives a good balance. I always think the Kenwood concerts bring a lot of people to the area and it’s a great use of an open space.”

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Since the concerts were established in 1961, the annual event has featured world-class classical orchestras and respected contemporary acts including Tom Jones, Liza Minnelli, James Morrison, Simply Red and Blondie.

But the lawns around Kenwood House fell silent last summer when English Heritage, which owns the historic house, failed to renew its contract with concert managers IMG.

In February this year Rouge Events, whose clients include Comic Relief and Kensington Gardens, signed a new deal for the next three years and announced the concerts would be held over two consecutive weekends rather than the usual eight.

Indie band Suede, who along with Blur and Oasis led the Britpop insurgence of the ’90s, will headline the opening concert with Keane closing the first weekend. But the rest of the bill is dominated by a classical theme.

The Royal Choral Society and the Royal Philharmonic will celebrate Choral Greats accompanied by a spectacular firework display on August 24 and a night of Opera Alfresco led by the English National Opera Orchestra follows on August 31.

Nathan Homan, director of Rouge Events, said “Our mission, as ever, has been to programme innovative exciting performances for both classical and popular music and we couldn’t be more pleased with this stunning programme.”

* Vsit to www.livebythe to book.