A version of this article was originally written for Londonist.
Advent is a good time to visit the historic buildings of E1. Two of East London’s finest churches – Hawksmoor’s Christ Church in Spitalfields and Shoreditch Church – host a range of baroque and contemporary music concerts as part of the Spitalfields Music Winter Festival.
Unsurprisingly, seasonal music plays a part in the programme with a performance of Handel’s Messiah on 20 December and a ‘medieval yuletide feast’ from innovative early music group Joglaresa on 19 December.
But there’s distinctly non-Christmas fare too, like the Tom Waits project put together by composer Gavin Bryars. On 13 December, songs by Waits can be heard in Shoreditch Church, a brilliant out-of-context setting for a songwriter whose music has always looked to the dark side of life for inspiration.
Firmly in context are the numerous choral performances and it is here that Spitalfields Music really makes its mark as a boutique festival. Renowned ensembles I Faglioni, Gallicantus (pictured), The Sixteen and La Nuova Musica will all sound sublime, whether singing Monteverdi or Handel.
Of these events, Gallicantus’ Spitalfields debut programme is perhaps the most interesting. Under the title ‘Dialogue of Sorrow’, the group performs music linked to the mourning for Prince Henry Frederick, son of James I and heir to the throne until his premature death at 18 years of age.
As an opportunity for reflection away from the season’s pressures, it’s hard to think of a better place to head to this month.
Spitalfields Music Winter Festival runs from 10 to 20 December. See the full festival listing here. We’ll be reviewing Gallicantus’ concert – look out for it later in the month.