Short Survey – Please tell us what you thought



14 Sept – 1 Oct

Over 100 outstanding international musicians, choreographers, dancers and composers.

View the brochure below or browse the events by scrolling down

Set sail aboard Hydrogen Saturday 9 September

Sail along the beautiful Colne and Blackwater estuaries in the majestic sailing barge Hydrogen, with an on-board concert given by charismatic young singer-songwriter Nichla Smith, who will perform exclusive material from her forthcoming album.


Matthew Sharp with celloOpening night Thursday 14 September

International artists led by Matthew Sharp perform some of the greatest music created in the 21st century, by Errolyn Wallen, John Adams and Arvo Pårt, in Colchester’s disused Queen Street bus depot. Bar 7 – 11pm, Music at 8pm.


Joseph ToongaJoseph Toonga Friday 15 September

Three dancers perform a new work by award-winning, emerging dance-maker Joseph Toonga, drawing on hip hop and street dance traditions, in a new collaboration with Matthew Sharp playing music by Bach, Britten and Giovanni Sollima. The setting is Colchester’s atmospheric St Martin’s Church in the Dutch Quarter.


Chiaroscuro Quartet Friday 15 September

Alina Ibragimova, one of the world’s leading violinists, brings her period-instrument quartet back to the festival for a refreshing and revealing take on Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven. Our first concert in the stunning St James’ Church in Colchester.


Maya Youssef playing the kanunMaya Youssef Friday 15 September


Maya Youssef is a virtuoso of the Syrian kanun, a traditional 78-stringed plucked zither. Her extraordinary musical gifts. A new collaboration with cellist Barney Morse-Brown and percussionist Antonio Romero.


Street Hunt starts at midday Saturday 16 September

Discover Colchester. Have fun. Win money. Get the book, check the clues and start hunting! Street Hunt is a visual crossword puzzle, a treasure hunt where the riches are the road names, a story emerging from the page – and your chance to win a lot of money!


hEARd Saturday 16 September

A chamber opera in the making by librettist Lila Palmer and composer Richard Melkonian, hEARd explores the gulf between what is said and what is meant and the consequences of disconnect in a very human relationship.


CLIP Saturday 16 September 

Led by creative “noise maker” Frazer Merrick, this  will feature installations, specially-created soundtracks and improvisations drawing on workshops taking place at Firstsite throughout the day.


Jessica Walker Saturday 16 September

Songs from some of the great ladies of popular song from the last century, including the ground-breaking Victorian male impersonators Vesta Tilley and Hetty King, 1930s Parisian cabaret queen Suzy Solidor, Britain’s lesser known WW2 sweetheart Pat Kirkwood and sultry French 1960s chanteuse Barbara.


NYC Fellows Sunday 17 September

An impressive octet of young professionals who have performed at the Royal Albert Hall, Snape Maltings, on tour in Malta and China and on BBC Radio 3, the NYC fellows are an engaging, talkative group who will knock you sideways with their amazing ensemble, quality of sound and communication.


Natalie Clein Sunday 17 September

Natalie Clein’s passionate playing of the Elgar concerto won her international fame. Ever artistically restless, Clein has curated a beautiful new disc of music by women composers, from which she will perform Rebecca Clarke’s Sonata.


Clio Gould & Chineke! Friday 22 September

Mendelssohn’s wonderful octet for strings, plus music by George Walker, Shostakovich and Strauss, in Dedham’s  beautiful church.



Harriet Mackenzie Saturday 23 September

International soloist Harriet Mackenzie plays the famous Chaconne by Bach and a music by Deborah Pritchard, who will introduce her amazing graphic scores, in one of our favourite venues – the beautiful, simple and intimate Abberton church with probably the best view in Essex, looking over the reservoir towards Mersea and the open sea.

Trio Apaches Saturday 23 September

Three international soloists perform Sally Beamish’s amazing arrangement of Debussy’s orchestral masterpiece La Mer  for piano trio, in one of Essex’s prettiest waterfront villages, Wivenhoe. Matthew Trusler violin  Thomas Carroll cello  Ashley Wass piano


Benjamin Grosvenor Saturday 23 September

Stunning playing from a superstar pianist. Brahms, Berg, Debussy and more, in the perfect recital venue Fordham Church.



Oboe Quartets Sunday 24 September

26-year-old oboist Tristan Cox brings his brimming musicality to three gorgeous, off-the-beaten-track chamber music pieces by Vaughan Williams, Britten and Mozart, in the light, airy whitewashed walls of Fingringhoe’s medieval church, where Roman River Music started 17 years ago.


Illyria Consort Sunday 24 September

Rising star baroque violinist Bojan Cicic is expert in discovering rare 18th-century musical truffles. Expect favourite Handel works stirred in with some Giovanni Stefano Carbonelli and fragrant works for viola d’amore by Arioste. Baroque vitality, rhythmic verve with the delicate, silvery exquisite tones of Esther Brazil.


Gwyneth Herbert Wednesday 27 September

Exclusive preview performance of Letters I Haven’t Written – the new album from composer, vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Gwyneth Herbert in collaboration with acclaimed video artist Will Duke (Royal Shakespeare Company, Complicité), and Gwyneth’s band.


The King’s Singers Thursday 28 September

The world-famous King’s Singers kick off our residency in the stunning acoustic and surroundings of Stoke by Nayland Church with music by William Byrd, Reger, Saint-Saëns, Mendelssohn, Steve Martland, Richard Rodney Bennett, Bob Chilcott, Lennon & McCartney and more.


Roman River Festival Orchestra in Stoke by Nayland, 2015Mahler’s 9th Symphony Friday 29 September

Mahler poured his rich life experience and passion into his symphonies. Conductor Orlando Jopling’s lifelong affinity with his music brings him back to this, the deepest and most personal of all of the symphonies.


Bach Mass in B minor Saturday 30 September

Bach’s greatest masterpiece, performed on period instruments with a stunning line-up of players and singers gathered by Orlando Jopling for a colourful, beautifully-shaped and compelling performance.


Alec Frank-GemmillFestival Finale Sunday 1 October

Our packed Festival Finale showcases the education and outreach work that takes place alongside the festival each year. Young players, local singers and musicians join the full forces of the Festival Orchestra for a rousing finale featuring the phenomenal horn playing of Alec Frank-Gemmill. Handel’s Zadok the Priest, Eric Whitacre, Mozart and more.


Sound Factory Saturday 16 September

Take your ears on a sonic adventure! Families with children aged 4-11 are invited to explore experimental sound and music with Firstsite resident ensemble CLIP and ‘noise maker’ Frazer Merrick who says ‘we’ll set up loads of equipment in a big space and allow people to experiment!’

Bus with farm animals and AbiAbi’s Adventure Friday 29 September

Join us on Abi’s Adventure for a trip to the farm where you will meet all your farmyard favourites. A fabulous concert in a relaxed environment designed for children under five years old to take part and explore music, sound and rhythm through storytelling. Under 5s concert led by Vanessa King and friends from the London Symphony Orchestra


Ben Vonberg-ClarkeCome and sing! Saturday 10 September

Treat yourself to an uplifting session with dynamic young choral director Ben Vonberg-Clark, who welcomes all ages and abilities for a day of singing, exercise, socialising and learning something new in warm, comfortable surroundings. No need to read music or have sung before – come and see what this feel-good craze is all about!


Perform at the festival!

For young musicians – your chance to be a part of Roman River Festival 17′




Carina Cosgrove, 30 September
Joseph Toonga
Joseph Toonga, 15 September
Natalie Clein and cello
Natalie Clein, 17 September
Benjamin Grosvenor, 23 September


Errollyn Wallen, 14 September
Emma Walsh, 30 September
Lila Palmer, 16 September
The King’s Singers, 28 September
Gwyneth Herbert, 27 September
Trio Apaches, 23 September
Deborah Pritchard, 23 September
Nicola Nicks, 22 September
Chineke!, Friday 22 September
Barney Morse-Brown, 15 September
Alina Ibragimova, 15 September
Matthew Sharp, 14 September
Jessica Walker, 16 September
Win up to £10,000 – competition launched 16 September

Alec Frank-Gemmill
Alec Frank-Gemmill, 1 October