A festival dedicated to Arvo Pärt’s music to start in Oxford

Friday, 18 November sees the opening of “Arvo Pärt… and a Littlemore” in Oxford, the largest festival dedicated to the Estonian composer’s work in the UK to date.

Taking place across the city until 25 November, the festival will feature British premieres of several of Pärt’s works performed by acclaimed interpreters, the organisers said.

The concerts will take place across Oxford, including fascinating architectural venues such as college concert halls, churches and the arthouse cinema Ultimate Picture Palace. 

The opening concert will be given by the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir and Christopher Bowers-Broadbent on organ conducted by Tõnu Kaljuste at Christ Church Cathedral, which was founded in 1546 by King Henry VIII. The concert will also feature the UK premiere of Arvo Pärt’s latest work, “O Holy Father Nicholas,” completed in 2021.

Other acclaimed ensembles from the UK and around the world to take part in the festival include the Rascher Saxophone Quartet, violinist Hugo Ticciati with the O/Modernt Chamber Orchestra and soloists, the Carice Singers and others.

The Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir performing at the St Ignatius Loyola Church in New York, 2017. Photo by Esper Linnamägi.

The UK premiere of Pärt’s children’s songs

“With this festival, we pay a profound tribute to Arvo Pärt, Estonia’s best-known cultural representative in the world, whose music speaks across borders and has been a source of comfort in difficult times. The festival’s program offers audiences the opportunity to discover new things about the beloved composer, Estonian music and musicians, and Estonia,” Kersti Kirs, the Estonian cultural counsellor in London, said.

“This is an ambitious project, which we originally wanted to realise for Arvo Pärt’s 85th birthday, but then the pandemic thwarted our plans. Now the joy is all the greater to finally be able to enjoy Pärt’s works in Oxford.”

The UK premiere of Pärt’s children’s songs by the Oxford children’s choirs is also highly anticipated. In addition to Pärt’s works, the concert will feature music by Galina Grigoryeva, Evelin Seppar, Erkki-Sven Tüür, Tõnu Kõrvits and other Estonian composers. A chamber concert presenting Estonian music will be given by cellist Marcel Johannes Kits and pianist Sten Heinoja, attended by composers Galina Grigoryeva and Evelin Seppar.

In cooperation with the Arvo Pärt Centre, the festival also offers the opportunity to participate in talks and film screenings. Joonas Sildre will be presenting his graphic novel about Arvo Pärt, and representatives of the Arvo Pärt Centre – Anu Kivilo, Kristina Kõrver and Aile Tooming – will be introducing Pärt’s work as well as the activities and architecture of the centre in discussion groups.

During the festival, the Estonian embassy in London will organise its own pop-up embassy in Oxford.

Arvo Pärt Centre in Laulasmaa, Estonia. Photo by Tõnu Tunnel.

A homage to Pärt’s sense of humour

The title of the festival, “Arvo Pärt… and a Littlemore,” pays homage to Pärt’s sense of humour and love of wordplay, while also referring to the work Arvo Pärt composed in 2000 called “Littlemore Tractus”. It was created to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the birth of the now canonised English Cardinal John Henry Newman (1801-1890). 

The work was premiered in Littlemore Church, on the outskirts of Oxford, and will be performed for the Littlemore community by the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir.

In 2016, Arvo Pärt was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Oxford.

The festival is organised by Music at Oxford in collaboration with the Estonian embassy in London and the Arvo Pärt Centre. The festival patron is the Estonian ambassador to the UK, Viljar Lubi.

Arvo Pärt is one of the most well-known Estonians and one of the most performed living composers in the world.

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