Welcome to Echoes Festival!
A New and Unique UK Festival on a Mission to De-Colonise Classical Music
Echoes Festival is the UK's first and only annual festival showcasing the classical music of Spain, Portugal and Latin America.
Echoes Festival was launched in 2016 as the new flagship project of ILAMS (the Iberian and Latin American Music Society), in collaboration with the Cervantes Institute. Now in its 4th year, the Festival has brought unique classical Iberican programming to some of London's most prestigious venues, including the Barbican (Milton Court Concert Hall), the Wallace Collection, St John's Smith Square, St Martin-in-the-Fields, The Royal Academy of Music, The Other Palace (Studio), Bolívar Hall and St James's Piccadilly, amongst others, whilst providing a platform to some of the most authentic and illustrious voices within Latin and British classical music today - from La Grande Chapelle to the Assad Brothers, the Quiroga Quartet, Clara Rodríguez, Iain Burnside, Carles Trepat, Luis Gomes, José Menor, Laura Snowden, Fernando Espí and Nina Corti.
Pictured right: Jordi Granados, great-grandson of Spanish composer Enrique Granados, opens proceedings at a special Echoes Festival Granados centenary concert at St John's Smith Square.
Echoes Festival aims to showcase the vastly rich and vibrant classical music legacies of Latin America and Iberia, which span more than five centuries and 22 countries across more than 21,000,000 km². With an estimated population of 1,000,000+ Latin people now residing in the UK, we want to foster a pluralistic appreciation of classical music within the wonderfully diverse country that is 21st-century Great Britain, to further promote a more bi-lateral understanding of British-Latin cultural relations.
Echoes Festival was conceived to fill a conspicuous gap in our national music programming. Whilst the UK boasts one of the most abundant and varied festival offerings in the world, an often conservative approach to music curation continues to push classical music's rich BME heritage to the periphery. In an increasingly globalised, postcolonial world, however, the imperative to improve the ethnic diversity of our classical music institutions is becoming impossible to ignore - not only within the distribution of current performer and living composer demographics, but also from a more retrospective need to recuperate the longstanding legacy of BME composers who have been excluded from the mainstream history of classical music since the beginning of the colonial era. We strongly believe that the future of classical music now lies in the de-colonisation of its story, and that through positive action we can play a part in shaping a more progressive direction for classical music.
Why 'Echoes' Festival?
Echoes Festival takes its name and inspiration from the Cuban writer Roberto Fernández Retamar, who challenged Eurocentric cultural views of Latin America as being 'merely a disfigured echo of what occurs elsewhere'. Retamar's vocabulary continues to resonate strongly with the reception of Luso-Hispanic classical music worldwide - music which has always shared an umbilical chord with Europe but which has also developed unique and original discourses of its own; discourses which have, in turn, produced their own 'echoes' in influencing European classical music-making practices. An important principle of our approach to curation is the juxtaposition of European and non-European repertoires in order to faciliate new musical dialogues and elucidate the shared, and often hidden, 'foreign' influences and 'echoes' in our culture.
Pictured left: Spanish soprano Amaia Azcona performs art songs by Venezuelan composer Antonio Estévez in a commemorative centenary concert for Echoes Festival at Bolívar Hall.
Authenticity. We regard the cultivation of authenticity as integral to the representation of foreign cultures in an imperatively respectful and sensitive way, and we strive to lead by example in offering discerning musical programming curated by genuine specialists who bring passion and local knowledge to our events. We know the territory: with 20 years' experience promoting Latin classical music through the Iberian & Latin American Music Society, our contact network of native artists, composers and musicologists remains unrivalled in the UK (and across much of the non-Iberican world).
Innovation. We advocate for events in the UK which otherwise wouldn't happen without us, because we know that some of the best examples and traditions of our musical culture are rare gems still waiting to be discovered. We shine a light on the more 'underground', hidden currents of cultural production, and seek to empower those artists who are least privileged.
Excellence. We understand that the negative reception of Latin classical music is most effectively challenged when represented by artists of the highest calibre, in events underpinned by the highest production values.
Inclusivity. We welcome audiences of all backgrounds, and we are open to collaborating proactively with new artists and promoters. We value the power and broader community benefits of leveraging the collective genius.
Diversity. We appreciate that there is no one, single way to represent the Iberican world and its incredibly vast and diverse cultural iterations. We dare to be different, we eschew cultural tropes and we challenge preconceptions. We encourage healthy debate and differences of opinion.
Solidarity. The great paradox at the heart of Latino culture is the extent of solidarity that exists historically across the Luso-Hispanic world in spite of its rich cultural diversity. Our Festival promotes this spirit of solidarity with the intention of bringing people together and forging long-lasting networks of professionals and music-lovers looking to connect with like-minded people. Teamwork, and our dedicated troupe of volunteers, are fundamental to the production of our activities.
Integrity. We respect the intellectual property and professional relationships of artists, venues and promoters.
Harmony. We promote happiness, peace and well-being through the arts, and cultural understanding between different peoples and communities.
Fun. Latinos are famous for their sense of celebration. Iberican classical music helps us demonstrate that classical music doesn't have to be boring or alienating, even when addressing the most profound of subjects.
Passion. We love what we do, and we want our work to energize, engage and inspire others.
Blue skies. Blue-sky thinking has been crucial in helping us challenge negative discourses about 'World Classical' music. With the majority of our events attracting either near-capacity or sell-out audiences, we have repeatedly defied cynical expectations about the viability of this music by demonstrating that it can be just as successful in the UK concert hall as more standard repertoire.
Fostering education and nurturing emerging talent
Education is at the heart of our Festival, and in particular the nurturing of emerging talent. Each edition features performance opportunities for students and recent graduates, and working closely with London's schools and major conservatoires we introduce new generations to Iberican repertoire through masterclasses and workshops given by distinguished professionals with specialist expertise in this field. We aim to provide the catalyst for new artistic relationships and open doors for exceptionally talented young musicians.
For the broader public, our programme is enhanced by lectures and pre-concert talks designed to elucidate the contexts of musics often dismissed as 'exotic', and whose appreciation is often clouded by the existence of cultural barriers.
Pictured left: Cuban guitar maestro, Leo Brouwer, gives public masterclasses for ILAMS at London's Bolívar Hall
Championing new music
Echoes Festival has a strong commitment to promoting contemporary music, with repertoire by 20th-century and living composers at the forefront of our programming, including the UK premiere of countless works, and the commissioning of new ones. 2018 saw our first collaboration with the Europa Project for the promotion of contemporary Spanish music, with concerts by the Quiroga and Dalia Quartets at St James's Piccadilly and Eaton Square Concerts.
Here are just a few of the living and 20th-century composers whose works we have premiered so far in the UK:
Enrique Granados, Benet Casablancas, Antonio Estévez, Vicente Goicoechea, Nicolás Ledesma, Amadeo Vives, Nemesio Otaño, Isaac Albéniz, Frederic Mompou, Juan Pablo Contreras, Roque Baños, Carlos Fariñas, Eduardo Martín, Agustín Castilla-Ávila, David del Puerto, Alberto Costa, Álvaro González Cortés, Manuel López Jorge, Diego Sánchez-Haase, Alejandro Peralta, Manuel Esperón, Federico Ruiz, Lino Gallardo, Celso Machado, David Ruiz Molina, Zeltia Montes and Horacio Castillo, including bespoke commissions by pre-eminent Latin American composers, Ricardo Lorenz and Enrique González Medina.
Other contemporary & 20th-century composers also featured in previous editions of Echoes Festival:
Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, Antón García Abril, Xavier Montsalvatge, Fernando Obradors, Joaquín Turina, Manuel Penella, Roberto Gerhard, Joaquín Rodrigo, Leonardo Balada, Ernesto Halffter, Joaquín Nin-Culmell, Miguel Llobet, Heitor Villa-Lobos, Alberto Ginastera, Ignacio Cervantes, Isaac Albéniz, Joaquín Nin y Castellanos, Pablo Sorozábal, Teresa Carreño, Ernesto Lecuona, Wim Statius Muller, Karen D. Russel de Corrales, Luis González Valdés, Ludovic Lamothe, Juan Carlos Núñez, Moisés Moleiro, Gerónimo Giménez, Federico García Lorca, Manuel de Falla, Francisco Javier Jáuregui, João Loureiro, Leonard Bernstein, Astor Piazzolla, George Gershwin, André Previn, Carlos Chávez, Leo Brouwer, Gary Schocker, Antonio Lauro, Francisco Tárrega, Inocente Carreño and Agustín Barrios.
More inclusive classical concerts
Inclusion is the guiding principle of our Festival, which offers something for people of all ages and backgrounds - from bespoke concerts for toddlers and children, to Come&Sing events and numerous volunteer opportunities. At this time of prolongued austerity, we ensure that our line-up includes events which are free admission or 'pay what you can', alongside generous discounts for students and those who are retired or unwaged.
We thrive on reaching out to new audiences, and we find that Iberican repertoire makes a good ambassador for classical music more broadly. In Iberia and Latin America, where the line between popular and classical music is often difficult to define, the latter has a 'built-in' capacity to convert even the most reluctant non-believers into classical music enthusiasts. We also like to relax the more formal conventions of classical concert etiquette: in most concerts our audiences can clap where they want, no shushing allowed! Events often include drinks receptions and the chance to mingle and socialise with the artists and other concert-goers.
Pictured above: Local Colombian community dance troupe, Talentos Group, take part in our 'PanAmericana' concert at Barbican's Milton Court Concert Hall in aid of the British charity LAWA (Latin American Women's Aid), bringing their own unique choreography to Louis Moreau Gottschalk's 'Escenas campestres'.
The Festival is proud to form part of Mes Amigo (Amigo Month) – 5 weeks of events celebrating the contribution of the UK’s Spanish and Portuguese speakers (now collectively constituting London’s largest linguistic minority), and our outreach work has involved collaborations with local Latino community groups such as Talentos Colombian Dance Group, as well as benefit events for various Latin American charities.
Helen's approach to programming is informed by an intimate and extensive knowledge of Latin culture. Following two degrees in Spanish and French at the University of Cambridge (Corpus Christi College), including a year abroad studying Piano at the Conservatorio Nacional Superior in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and an MMus in Piano at Trinity College of Music in London, Helen now combines her two great loves - music and hispanicity - as a concert pianist, musicologist, curator and educator specialising in Luso-Hispanic reperoire.
Daughter of a Rotherham greengrocer and a Spanish school teacher, Helen Glaisher-Hernández enjoyed a cosmopolitan upbringing which allowed her to appreciate the music of different cultures and traditions from an early age. Today she remains an adventurous explorer of undiscovered musical territories, unafraid to challenge convention and cross borders in seeking out new repertoire rarely heard in the UK. She has premiered many works by Latin American composers in the UK, including pieces by Villa-Lobos, Estévez, Vitier, Sojo, Carreño, Guastavino and Camargo Guarnieri, and ofern blurs the boundaries between 'classical' and 'popular' music with her own, unique arrangements. She has also commissioned new works by pre-eminent Latin American composers such as Ricardo Lorenz and Enrique González Medina.
With a special passion for chamber music and vocal accompaniment, Helen has collaborated with many leading artists in her field, including Dominic Miller (Sting), Luis Gomes, Ian Anderson, Vanessa Lucas-Smith, Omar Puente, Coro Cervantes, Bárbara Llanes, Clara Rodríguez, José Menor, Leonardo Pastore and Nina Corti, and she has also shared a platform with Morgan Szymanski, Fábio Zanon and Marcelo Bratke. More recently Helen launched a tango project entitled 'TangOpera' with Argentine tenor, Leonardo Pastore and Argentine soprano, Rocío Giordano. Helen has performed live on BBC Radio 3 and BBC Radio 4, and across London's major venues, including sell-out appearances at Southbank Centre's Purcell Room at Queen Elizabeth Hall, Barbican's Milton Court Concert Hall, St John's Smith Square, St Martin-in-the-Fields, St James's Piccadilly, Bolívar Hall, Fairfield Halls, The National Gallery and La Linea Festival.
As a curator, Helen's ability to capture the imagination of the public in the promotion of relatively unfamiliar repertoire has led to many sell-out events. Her approach to programming is often theme-based, and extends to the celebration of various anniversary events in homage to Albéniz, Granados, Rodrigo, Victoria, Villa-Lobos, Lauro, Estévez and Ginastera. She recently curated a chamber concert entitled 'Music in the Time of Goya' for The National Gallery in London, as part of the blockbuster exhibition, Goya: The Portraits.
She is currently co-curating a new guitar series, 'Guitarrísimo', with the Instituto Cervantes, which saw its inaugural event take place in February 2016 in collaboration with Sadler's Wells and the London Flamenco Festival. Other clients and partners include the Wallace Collection, the Naval and Military ('In & Out') Club, Canning House, the Canning Club, the Caribbean Council, Linklaters, Anglo Arts, Guildhall School of Music & Drama, Seville International Guitar Competition, City of Trujillo International Song Competition & Festival (Peru), London Lyric Arts, ¡Cómo No! (La Linea Festival), KAPA Productions, Victoria and Joaquín Rodrigo Foundation, Fundación Piu Mosso, Acción Cultural Española, INAEM, Lacock Courses, Music Beyond Frontiers, Lisa Peacock Concert Management, LAWA, KyG Productions, Journey Latin America, King's College London and many of the Latin American embassies based in London. Helen directed the London Classical Guitar Festival under the Venezuelan Embassy for six years.
Helen has engaged some of the most illustrious names and ensembles in the classical music world, such as John Williams, Chineke!, Paco Peña, Cecilia Rodrigo, Leo Brouwer, Celso Machado, Anabel Montesinos, Marco Tamayo, Aidan Oliver, Carlos Fernández Aransay, Eduardo Martín, Jesús León, Marcelo Bratke, Carlos Bonell, Morgan Szymanski, Onix, the Aquarelle Guitar Quartet, José Antonio Escobar and Christoph Denoth. At the same time she has also been instrumental in providing a platform for young, emerging classical musicians, and in bringing leading artists from the Luso-Hispanic world to the UK that British concert-goers would otherwise not get the chance to hear perform live.
Meet our Artistic Director: Helen Glaisher-Hernández
Echoes Festival could not happen without amazing support from our partner organisation, the Cervantes Institute, our venues, our Friends organisation, several Trusts and Foundations, generous businesses and individuals, and various embassies and government departments. We are incredibly grateful for everyone who has supported us. If you would like to join our network of supporters please click HERE to read more about the various ways you can help us.
Pictured right: Catalan Romantic guitar specialist, Carles Trepat, performs a recital of works by Llobet and Granados for Echoes Festival 2016, in collaboration with Guitarrísimo.
Background image: The Great Mayan Pyramid at Chichen Itza, Yucatan, Mexico