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Past Events > 2021

30. Isolation Songbook

12 October 2021, 22:00 - 23:00

Song Futures is Oxford Lieder’s programme to perform and commission new music. This year we have a dedicated series of eight late-night Song Futures concerts, Tuesdays to Fridays in both weeks of the Festival. They are by no means the only performances of music by living composers in the Festival, nor are they exclusively contemporary music in all cases, but new music is their strong focus.

Tonight, for the first of these, we hear the Isolation Songbook. This songbook for the modern world was commissioned and curated by Helen Charlston (who has recently become a BBC New Generation Artist) during 2020, when she invited 15 composers to respond to their experiences of lockdown. Since then the Songbook has been recorded and widely acclaimed for its rich and inspiring variety. Tonight, we hear 12 of these existing works and add one more, specially commissioned by Oxford Lieder from the brilliant young composer Alex Ho.

Helen Charlston writes:

"To be a musician is to be a social creature. We need each other to express, connect and make music. As the UK went into lockdown at the outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic in March 2020, those avenues of connection were torn away from us. We were told to stay in our homes and wait. The Isolation Songbook is a collaborative outcome of this period: without normal outlets for creative expression, I sought a new way of making music and connecting with artists. Through an open call for scores I reached 4 poets and 15 composers looking for that impetus to turn their creativity into something tangible. It has been an extraordinary privilege to be invited into the composers’ and poets’ own experience through these songswhich are by turns witty and melancholic, brash and joyful.

Tonight, we perform selections of the 15 songs that make up the Isolation Songbook, alongside a new addition to the set: Alex Ho’s two connected souls. When Sholto approached me about the idea of adding to the songbook with an Oxford Lieder Commission it seemed like the perfect way to mark the time that has passed since these songs were first written. Alex and I both felt that we wanted to zoom in on a particular Oxford experience of and recovery from lockdown. Kwan-Ann Tan’s text encapsulates this perfectly, tracing the realities of distance and connection as restrictions changed.

The songs in the Isolation Songbook have had the unique experience of being created in a time in which they could not be shared with a live audience. We have given performances online, and recorded the set on Delphian Records, but for many of the songs we will perform this evening you are the first audience to sit in the same physical space with them. Thank you for being a part of this next stage of life for these songs. Art, love, joy, and friendship are all around us: in the everyday as well as in celebration and loss. That is what I hope we have captured here."



This event is an in-person and livestreamed event. Livestreamed performances will be available to watch live in our Digital Concert Hall at the advertised performance time and will be available to watch again and on demand until the end of November.

Want to watch this concert in person and at home? 'Hybrid' tickets, valid both in person and for the Digital Concert Hall, are also available for an additional £3 to the in-person price.

All our seating is unreserved. This means you are guaranteed a seat in your chosen area, but not a specific seat. In order to allow for social distancing, you will be seated as an individual or as a group, based on the number of tickets you booked for this concert.

For groups of more than 10, please phone or email the box office to book your tickets.

The performance duration is approximately 1 hour and there will be no interval.


(Online bookings only)

Book five or more concerts at the same time: 5% discount

Book ten or more concerts at the same time: 10% discount

Book fifteen or more concerts at the same time: 15% discount

For even further discounts click here for more information on our Festival Passes.

Tickets for both in-person and the Digital Concert Hall will be issued as eTickets by default. Printed tickets are available on request, for an additional fee.


Due to COVID-19 we have to do things a little differently this year. In order to keep everyone safe, our seating and concert conditions are subject to change in line with changing government guidance.

For more information about our COVID-19 safety measures, please click here.

If you are displaying symptoms of COVID-19 on the day of the concert, please do not attend, but get in touch with our box office to arrange a refund.

Artist Portrait

Helen Charlston

Helen Charlston


Hailed “a rather special mezzo” (Music Web International), Helen is a young artist increasingly in demand in the UK and abroad. Recent concert highlights include debuts with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra (Handel Messiah/Stephen Layton), Royal Northern Sinfonia (Mendelssohn Lobgesang/Paul McCreesh) and at the Palau de la Musica in Barcelona (Bach Matthew Passion/Gabrieli Consort and Players); a worldwide tour of Handel Messiah with the Seattle Symphony, the Western Australian Symphony Orchestra and Adelaide Symphon... Read Full Biography
Artist Portrait

Michael Craddock

Michael Craddock


Michael Craddock started his formal musical education with the choir of Trinity College Cambridge, with whom he sang for four years, whilst studying Mathematics, and now combines his time as a regular member of the Gesualdo Six with a busy schedule of freelance oratorio, operatic and song perfomances in the UK and further afield. Operatic performances include Walton The Bear (Smirnov) for Opera Anywhere, Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Bottom) in Aldeburgh, sharing the role with Matthew Rose, Donizetti Don Pasquale (Dr. M... Read Full Biography
Artist Portrait

Alexander Soares

Alexander Soares


Following his London debut at the Royal Festival Hall, Alexander Soares has garnered a reputation as a pianist who combines “huge intensity” (The Telegraph) with “diamond clarity and authority” (BBC Radio 3). Rising to international attention in 2015 after winning the Gold Medal in the prestigious Royal Overseas League Competition – and his subsequent selection as a solo artist by City Music Foundation – he has performed in major venues and festivals across the U.K., Europe and United States, and is regula... Read Full Biography

Festival Passes

This event is part of a series:

Nature's Songbook

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