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Cambridge Music Festival


When Justin Lee took the helm as director of Cambridge Music Festival in 2012, his mission was to bring musicians of the highest calibre to the city and explore the refreshingly unusual. Not only has he excelled in this task, but through innovative programming – embracing the eclectic and the extraordinary – he has shaken off the traditional image of ‘classical music’ and sparked the interest of a younger audience.


Whilst pandemic restrictions meant switching to some virtual concerts, Justin and his team presented each online show in an inspiring way, fusing music and video to atmospheric effect. In March 2021, to launch CMF’s 30th anniversary celebrations, he premiered two films of Dunedin Consort playing Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos Nos 5 & 6, in which cameras swept around in cinematic fashion, giving unfettered access to the musicians.
Equally bold and imaginative was Justin’s collaboration with experimental musician Joby Burgess on the YouTube premiere of A Percussionist’s Songbook; nine newly commissioned pieces for pitched percussion and electronics, inspired by songs, short poems or stories.


When restrictions eased, he masterminded a captivating live concert series, featuring remarkable young cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason, who performed at Harry and Meghan’s wedding; the Chineke! Chamber Ensemble and the world-renowned Academy of St Martin in the Fields.


For Justin, who has worked with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, the Academy of Ancient Music and the Southbank Sinfonia, live music has an unmatchable exhilarating quality. And thanks to CMF’s new model, audiences can savour more live music, with ‘seasons’ of concerts replacing the static two-week November festival, allowing more scope for innovation.


Talking of which, look out for a spectacular Carnival of the Animals themed sound and light projection, set to illuminate Cambridge in November 2022, with imagery created by local schoolchildren. Like all of CMF’s performances, it’s sure to be a showstopper.