Cat no. 518

Benjamin Britten And His Festival

Running time42:20 Colour Sound 1967 Aldeburgh, Suffolk

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Behind the scenes look at the Aldeburgh festival, including interviews with Benjamin Britten and the other major players


Archive AliveArtsDocumentaryPortrait of a Place

This film begins with scenes from Paris where Benjamin Britten's Opera A Midsummer Night's Dream was performed in the International Theatre Festival in preparation for the Aldeburgh Festival. There are shots of the cast making up. The film follows these young singers around Paris and on a trip up the Eiffel Tower, accompanied by the opening chorus of the Opera and are intercut with scenes from it. The sequence also features interviews with a local fisherman and with someone from the Festival Scenes. The fisherman claims that the Festival is separate from Aldeburgh life, although he knows Britten and considers him a very nice man. The people involved in the Festival see it as a community event. In Cambridge, there are scenes from a May Ball and of students punting on the Cam. At the 1967 Aldeburgh Festival, Britten's Spring Symphony will be performed by the University Orchestra and the Chorus. It will also feature the Kings College Choristers. There are views of the Choristers entering Kings College Chapel and interior scenes of them in performance. The scene cuts to rehearsals at Snape with Benjamin Britten. This is followed by scenes of the first performance in the Guildhall, Cambridge. In Vienna, the film introduces the Vienna Boys' Choir, who will perform the Golden Vanity at the Festival. There are shots of the boys in rehearsal intercut with views of Vienna. There are interviews with the Director of the Choir and with Graham the librettist. Back in England, the film highlights one of the aims of the Aldeburgh Festival; to give a platform to people who would not normally have a chance to perform. The trumpeters of the Royal Artillery will play a fanfare from Britten's Gloriana when HM The Queen visits the Festival. A Suffolk farmer is filmed on his tractor, talking about singing with a local Lowestoft choir at the Aldeburgh Festival. There are shots of the harbour at Lowestoft, Britten's home town. The film highlights some of the problems faced by the Festival, particularly the poor transport, now that the railway had been closed. A 'lawyer'(sic) brings his family to the festival by boat. There are shots of Imogen Holst working at her desk and of Stephen Reiss, the Festival's General Manager, putting out chairs in a Church Hall. At the new Concert Hall at Snape Maltings, there is an aerial shot of the sight. Henry Moore visits with Benjamin Britten to oversee the sighting of his sculptures, made for the premises. Peter Pears talks about the acoustics of the hall. Inside the concert hall there are scenes of Benjamin Britten rehearsing his choral overture The Building of the House. This is based on psalm 127. There are scenes from Aldeburgh intercut with the rehearsals. These show the Church of St. Peter and St. Paul, the Jubilee Hall and the Moot Hall. HM the Queen opens the Maltings Concert Hall. She visits the Guildhall where she is accompanied by Benjamin Britten. At the Maltings, she refers in her speech to the visit by the Duke of Edinburgh to the Festival in 1962. The Duke of Edinburgh stands behind. Benjamin Britten explains the involvement of himself and Peter Pears. There are lengthy scenes of a performance of A Midsummer's Nights Dream. Sir William Walton and Julian Bream talk about the Festival. Bream is filmed in The Church of Holy Trinity, Blythburgh playing a medieval lute piece and then playing Nocturne, written for him by Britten. There are further scenes of the town and of the crowds at the Maltings. Film shot earlier shows Benjamin Britten playing a Mozart piano duet with Svia to slav Richter. There are shots of performances of The Golden Vanity and of A Midsummer Night's Dream. Peter Pears singing a Schubert love song, accompanied by Benjamin Britten on the piano. Benjamin Britten talks about his early life and there are stills from his childhood. As he lists his early compositions, Pears can be heard laughing in the background. Black and white film of Britten conducting at a promenade concert at the Royal Albert Hall is shown. The film ends with a montage of shots; a recapitulation of the themes of the film.


Aldeburgh, Suffolk. A Time There Was... 1980.The words of psalm 127 are as follows.But they shall thrive Whom God doth bless, There house shall stand Through storm and stress.; See: Aldeburgh, Suffolk, 1980, A Time There Was.

Featured People:

HM Queen Elizabeth II; HRH The Duke of Edinburgh; Julian Bream, classical guitarist; Sir Benjamin Britten; Imogen Holst; Henry Moore, sculptor; Peter Pears, singer; Stephen Reiss, General Manager of the Aldeburgh Festival; Sviatoslav Richter, pianist; Sir William Walton

Featured Organisations:

The Cambridge University Orchestra ; The Cambridge University Chorus; The Kings College Choristers; The Royal Artillery; The Vienna Boys' Choir

Featured Events:

The International Theatre Festival, Paris, 1967; The Aldeburgh Festival, 1967

Featured Buildings:

The Church of St. Peter and St. Paul, Aldeburgh The Guildhall, Cambridge; The Moot Hall, Aldeburgh Kings College, Cambridge; The Jubilee Hall, Aldeburgh Kings College Chapel; The Church of Holy Trinity, Blythburgh The Royal Albert Hall; The Eiffel Tower Snape Maltings


Tony Palmer

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