The rest is noise

Britten’s Centenary

Britten’s Centenary

‘I believe in roots, in associations, in backgrounds, in personal relationships’, Benjamin Britten once said, and there is perhaps no composer whose work has so powerfully grappled with ideas of place, nationhood and community.

The windswept fishing town of Aldeburgh was the place Britten called home. His works channel the rhythm of the waves, the vast expanse of the ocean, and the sense of Englishness and village life. But Britten was a steely individual – in the fraught Cold War atmosphere after the war, Britten’s pacifism, his socialist leanings and his homosexuality went against social norms and made him an outsider. Likewise when avant-garde composers were purging music of its expressive content, his communicativeness, tonal harmonies and surface simplicity were viewed as highly suspect.

Britten’s dark and brooding operatic masterpiece Peter Grimes tells the story of a fisherman driven to a watery grave by a claustrophobic and oppressive village community. First staged a month after VE day, it changed the face of British opera, and secured Britten’s status as one of the greatest composers of the 20th century.

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(From 10am - 6pm. Note, passes do NOT include entry to concerts)

In the fraught atmosphere of the Cold War, Benjamin Britten’s pacifism, socialist leanings and homosexuality cast him as an outsider. Likewise, his tonal, communicative music was viewed as suspicious by his avant-garde contemporaries.

Buy a weekend or day pass to join us as we look at his remarkable work in the context of post-war Britain.

See the full timetable for the weekend

Events include:


Alex Ross, author of The Rest Is Noise, considers how composers navigated the fractured cultural universe at the end of Second World War.

Documentary film-maker John Bridcut and writer and commentator Susie Orbach discuss the issue of Britten and children.

Paul Kildea, author of Benjamin Britten: A Life in the Twentieth Century gives a survey of this original and iconic mind.

The arrival of the SS Empire Windrush in June 1948 marked the beginning of post-war mass migration. Paul Gilroy and Susheila Nasta discuss The Windrush Generation.

Alexandra Harris, author of Romantic Moderns, discusses post-war pastoral in the work of John Piper and Graham Sutherland, with artist George Shaw.


15 minutes on each of the need-to-know topics of the era including:

At almost 60 years old, we look back at the life and labours of The National Health Service.

In the stifling atmosphere of the Cold War, Britten was an outsider, not only because of his homosexuality, but also due to his pacifism.

Imogen Holst – the overlooked but talented composer who travelled the world, helped composers exiled by fascism and was a life-long friend of Britten.

The Angry Young Men included poets John Osborne and Kingsley Amis in their ranks. But who were they angry with and why?


Grab a coffee and delve inside the music of The Rest Is Noise festival. Composer and presenter John Browne leads a fun and informal workshop about Britten’s Peter Grimes on Sunday.


Britten and Russia – Alexander Ivashkin and Andrew Zolinsky present Britten's cello music inspired by the composer’s friendship with Shostakovich and Rostropovich.

Noyes Fludde – Britten’s colourful opera inspired by Noah and his ark.


Don’t know where to start? Let our experts bring Britten’s music to life in these beginner’s guides.


Including Moonrise Kingdom by Wes Anderson.


Britten's Centenary Saturday Day Pass - Saturday 28 September 2013. Book now

Britten's Centenary Sunday Day Pass - Sunday 29 September 2013. Book now

Britten's Centenary Weekend Pass - Saturday 28 September  - Sunday 29 September 2013. Book now


Photos from the weekend




Separate tickets required for each event      

Benjamin Britten: Peter Grimes - 28 September 2013. The London Philarmonic Orchestra perform one of the landmark operas of the 20th Century as part of the Britten Centenary Celebrations. Book Now


Music From Across The Iron Curtain - 27 September 2013. The City Of London Sinfonia and Michael Collins present works from Britten, Copland and Shostakovich. Book Now

Britten: Noye's Fludde 28 September , 29 September and 12 October 2013.  A free concert for families taking place at various times. Join Noye, his family and a cast of animals as they escape the great flood. More info and times

Zeitgeist: Britten Films 29 September 2013.  Aurora Orchestra perform the composer's complete existing documentary film scores alongside the original films. Book Now

From Darkness To Light 2 October 2013. Principal Conductor and Artistic Advisor Vladimir Jurowski conducts orchestral gems by Benjamin Britten in his centenary year. Book Now

Benjamin Britten: War Requiem 12 October 2013. Vladimir Jurowski conducts a work that has lost none of its power or relevance half a century on as part of the Britten Centenary Celebrations. Book Now