Occupying a beautiful site between the Strand and the Thames, Somerset House was originally built for the Duke of Somerset in the 18th century. It became a government building following the civil war, and the body of Oliver Cromwell would lie in state there. Rebuilt later that century as a public building, it would house many learned societies including the Royal Academy. The UK Registrar of Births, Marriages and Deaths was based there from the 1850s to the 1970s. The historic site is now managed by a trust keen to revive its more cultural associations and encourage community participation.Mogway at Somwerset House by Wonker
To music lovers in London and across the country this imposing neo-classical building, in grounds which inspired paintings by Canaletto, is now a superior, atmospheric urban outdoor venue with an impressive record for presenting quality, cutting-edge music.
For eleven days in July the 55 dancing fountains in its award-winning cobblestoned public space, the Edmond J. Safra Fountain Court, are turned off, creating the 3,000 capacity venue of the Summer Series gigs. London’s Metro newspaper said of the space “[it] feels uniquely intimate, the acoustics are cool and it’s arguably the most beautiful live music setting in the capital.”
Over 15 years the prestigious festival has presented inspiring, innovative artists like Adele, Grace Jones, Elbow, Robert Plant, Blondie, Sigur Ros and Bert Jansch. Underworld fans still reminisce about dancing deliriously in 2003 to Three Months Off, holding hands as the sun set over the spectacular architecture. And no-one witnessing post-rockers Mogwai’s swirling surround-sound 2007 Series opener has been quite the same since. The soulful, troubled Amy Winehouse, already struggling with her demons onstage by then, would play a poignantly accomplished set that same year, not long before her tragic death.
Last year’s eleven date programme featured re-appearances by Goldfrapp, Richard Hawley, Band of Horses and Basement Jaxx, while hipsters particularly warmed to newcomers First Aid Kit and Tom Odell and cheerful Icelandic folksters Of Monsters and Men turned plenty of heads.
A similar sweep of music trailblazers old and new is on offer between 10 and 20 July 2014. London-based trio Daughter pretty much owned 2013 with spellbinding debut album If You Leave and some stunning live shows. Arch-collaborators Little Dragon’s constantly evolving R&B, electro, dance pop with Yukimi Nagano’s otherworldly vocals have already entranced us across three critically-lauded albums.
Timeless Danish singer/songwriter Agnes Obel, whose album Philharmonics won five Danish Music Awards, will be showcasing intriguing new album Aventine. Melancholic songwriter Sam Smith, best known for unforgettable vocals on Disclosure’s Latch and Naughty Boy’s La La La, was this year’s BRITS Critics Choice.
Also appearing are household names Kelis and Franz Ferdinand – both still pushing the boundaries of their own sounds – and BRIT Award winning synth-rockers and Glastonbury phenomenon Bastille. Analogue synthpop experimentalists Chvrches wowed us with their self-produced Top 10 debut album The Bones Of What You Believe. Melodic Irish four-piece Kodaline, genre-busting festival faves The Cat Empire and the bass, beats and soaring strings and vocals of Clean Bandit will also be showcased.
Individual tickets at £28.50 + booking fee are on sale from 9.00am on Friday 21st March.