Isata Kanneh-Mason credit Robin Clewley

Things are really kicking off on the local classical music scene and you are going to be spoilt for choice this month. Summer opera festivals and live concerts are go – so grab your diaries, get booking, blow the dust off your picnic hampers and enjoy!

  1. Longborough Festival OperaJune 1 to August 3, Longborough, Moreton-in-Marsh, GL56 0QF

Longborough has a slightly different look this year. Due to the difficulties in maintaining social distancing in the theatre, performances will take place in a stunning new Big Top (see main pic). Other than that it’s business as usual – sumptuous opera and interval picnics in the midst of some of the Cotswolds’ finest countryside. This month, choose from Wagner’s Die Walküre or Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte; Monteverdi’s The Return of Ulysses and Janáček’s The Cunning Little Vixen follow in July and August. Warm clothing and sensible footwear are recommended. Bring your own picnic, pre-order a picnic hamper or treat yourself to a meal in the festival restaurant.

Longborough Festival Opera

2) Garsington Opera, June 2 to July 30, Wormsley Estate, HP14 3YG

Garsington Opera kickstarts its new season the day after Longborough with a welcome return to the spectacular opera pavilion in its stunning lakeside location. Coming up this month are Richard Strauss’ Der Rosenkavalier (from June 2nd), Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin (from June 3rd) and Handel’s Amadigi (from June 19th). Coming up later in the season are Rossini’s Le Comte Ory (from 2nd July) and two world premieres – the Youth Company production of John Barber’s The Selfish Giant (29th July) and the Adult Company production of Orlando Gough’s Weather the Storm in collaboration with arts-in-health charity Rosetta Life. Glamorous evening wear is traditional at Garsington, but warm layers are also essential! Arrive early to enjoy the extensive grounds, bring your own picnic for the interval or dine in the Long Room Restaurant.

3) Orchestra of St John’s – 5th, 13th, 26th-28th June. Dorchester Abbey and SJE Arts

The OSJ follows its successful return to live concerts last month with another tempting selection of musical treats. Catch the orchestra at Dorchester Abbey on June 5 in ‘Violin and Voices’, featuring orchestra leader Jan Schmolck, and the OSJ Oxford Voices in a programme of English choral music, from Tallis to film composer Harry Escott.

Maki Sekiya

An undoubted highlight will be a choral arrangement of one of Vaughan Williams’ most popular pieces, the magnificent The Lark AscendingThe OSJ’s new residency at the SJE is fabulous news for Oxford music lovers. The OSJ Proms series continues on June 13 with music by Finzi, Copland, Warlock and Price, featuring piano virtuoso Maki Sekiya. The orchestra will then be back at the SJE from 26th-28th June for a Summer Festival, which includes Orff’s Carmina Burana, Faure’s Requiem and Journeys Through the Silver Screen.

4) Oxford Philharmonic – 5th, 13th, 26th & 30th June, 7pm, Sheldonian Theatre, Oxford

5) The Oxford Philharmonic makes a welcome return to live performance for the first time since March 2020 with four magnificent concerts at the Sheldonian Theatre. This mini series launches on UN World Environment Day, 5th June, with the UK premiere of Michael English’s The Moonflower alongside popular nature-themed pieces by Delius, Vaughan Williams, Butterworth and Vivaldi. 


Two concerts on 13th and 30th June feature the intriguing pairing of Mozart and the little-known composer Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges, one of the first major classical composers of African ancestry. The two programmes include two of Bologne’s symphonies alongside Mozart’s Flute Concerto No.2 in D major, Clarinet Concert in A major, Divertimento in B flat major and a selection of opera arias. 

Renowned cellist Steven Isserlis

Renowned cellist Steven Isserlis joins the orchestra on 26th June for an all-Haydn programme, which includes the Cello Concerto No.1 in C major and Symphony No.92 in G major. Garsington Opera’s Douglas Boyd guest conducts.

Concerts on 5th, 13th & 26th June start at 7pm; the concert on 30th June starts at 7.30pm and will also be livestreamed.

6) SJE Arts International Piano Series, 10th & 25th June, SJE, Iffley Road

Isata Kanneh-Mason credit Robin Clewley

This popular piano series is back this month with two outstanding soloists. Isata Kanneh-Mason, eldest of the sensational Kanneh-Mason siblings and a finalist in the BBC Young Musician of the Year competition, is at the SJE on 10th June with a programme of Mozart, Chopin, Gershwin and Barber. She is followed on 25th June by the prize-winning Hungarian pianist Daniel Lebhardt, who will perform music by Schubert, Liszt and Beethoven. Both of these one-hour concerts will be performed twice, at 6pm and 8pm.

Daniel Lebhardt 28 © Kaupo Kikkas

7) Music at St Peter’s, 12th & 26th June, St Mary-le-More, Wallingford

Following its successful return last month, Music at St Peter’s is back with two more irresistible chamber concerts, both continuing the Beethoven thread in a belated celebration of the composer’s 250th birthday in 2020. 

young cellist Indira Grier and pianist Florian Mitrea

First up, on 12th June, is outstanding young cellist Indira Grier and pianist Florian Mitrea playing Beethoven’s Cello Sonata in A and Brahms’ Sonata in F major. This concert will be performed twice, at 5.30pm and 8pm. This is followed on 26th June by Pocket Sinfonia – Rosie Bowker (flute), Eleanor Corr (violin), Thomas Isaac (cello) and Emil Duncumb (piano/fortepiano) – performing Beethoven Symphony No.5 (arr. Hummel) and Prokofiev’s Suite from Romeo and Juliet. Assuming Covid restrictions have been eased by this time, this concert will be performed once, at 8pm.

Pocket Sonfonia feature in one of the St Peter’s concerts

8) The Choir of The Queen’s College/Academy of Ancient Music – Handel’s London Rival: Choral Music by Giovanni Bononcini, 19th June, 7pm. SJE Arts

While Handel was busy writing choral classics such as Messiah and the Coronation anthems in early 18th century London, he had a rival – the Italian-born Giovanni Bononcini, whose popularity equalled Handel’s and led to the pair being known as Tweedledum and Tweedledee. But while Handel’s popularity has endured, Bononcini’s had faded into obscurity. This intriguing-looking concert attempts to redress the balance with a selection of Bononcini’s choral works, including When Saul was king over us, Ave maris stella, Laudate pueri and Te Deum in D. With Rowan Pierce (soprano), Esther Brazil (mezzo-soprano), Helen Charlston (mezzo-soprano), Guy Cutting (tenor) and Giles Underwood (bass). Owen Rees

9) Stile Antico -Toward the Dawn, June 20, 6pm & 8.30pm. SJE Arts

Stile Antico Photo: Marco Borggreve

Outstanding early music ensemble Stile Antico takes audiences on a journey from twilight to sunrise with a glorious mix of sacred music, chansons and madrigals, including Allegri’s magnificent Miserere mei and works by Byrd, Tallis, Monteverdi and Taverner, as well as Nico Muhy’s Gentle Sleep, a piece based on words by Shakespeare and written especially for Stile Antico’s twelve voices.

10) Oxford Pro Musica Singers  Orchestra, The Trumpet Shall Sound, 23 June, 7.30pm, SJE Arts

Michael Smedley conducts this glorious programme of choral and instrumental music in tribute to Oxford musician John King, who died last year aged 76, and was probably best known for co-founding the Oxford Pro Musica orchestra (now the City of Oxford Orchestra) in 1965. Music includes celebratory and contemplative works by Biber, Purcell, Copland, Telemann and JS Bach.


Marios Papadopoulos, who performed with the Oxford Pro Musica in 1975 and went on to found Oxford Philharmonic (then Philomusica) in 1998, will play the ‘Andante sostenuto’ from Schubert’s Piano Sonata in B flat. Proceeds to the Royal Society of Musicians of Great Britain.

Nicola Lisle