Time’s up: 30,000 culture-lovers celebrated anniversary edition of Flanders Festival Ghent

Time’s up: 30,000 culture-lovers celebrated anniversary edition of Flanders Festival Ghent

516 artists, 119 concerts, 43 locations  

Just like every year, for three whole weeks Ghent was a Mecca for wind players, string players, dancers, percussionists, keyboard players, singers and conductors. During this 65th edition of the Festival, the city was transformed into a sound carpet with well-known classics, innovative sounds and experimental surprises. 

‘it’s about time’. With this slogan we hung our theme on the hook of ‘Time’, not coincidentally in the year in which Marcel Proust died a hundred years previously. Indeed, the French author inspired us with his groundbreaking masterpiece In Search of Lost Time. In fact, this is a well-considered festival theme that is more topical than ever thanks to the challenging time in which the world finds itself, and a future climate that is hard to predict. But after two uncertain years, our focus lay primarily on the present, on emphasising the direct and unique contact between audience and musician during live concerts.  

Also room for innovation and experimentation 

Just like time, the evolution in music also does not stand still. The programming of classics such as Bach, Brahms and Bruckner is part of Flanders Festival Ghent’s DNA, but the organisers nevertheless still go in search of a discourse of innovation and experimentation. For example the Festival began with a contemporary interpretation of Gregorian music by Silbersee and Psallentes, which revived the spiritual nature of times of prayer with an immersive approach. Or the meditative soundscape of Jan Michiels with accompanying cinematic images during the day which was dedicated to Proust. At the festive opening concert in St Bavo’s Cathedral, Sweden’s most innovative ensemble O/Modernt with percussionist Evelyn Glennie chose to link Hildegard von Bingen and Philip Glass in an exciting way.  

Pendulum swings between young talent and big names  

At Visions of Eden the internationally renowned mezzosoprano Joyce DiDonato delivered an inspiring song of praise to nature in all its facets, while the leading German orchestra Bamberger Symphoniker delivered one climax after another during Bruckner’s Ninth. The creative version of the Four Seasons by Kremerata Baltica conducted by Gidon Kremer was also very well-received. And with piano virtuoso Lukáš Vondráček as one of the five laureates of the Queen Elisabeth Competition on the programme, the Festival enjoyed a stunning finale. 

It was not only big names and internationally-renowned orchestras who performed. Via masterclasses, coaching sessions and concerts, three international ensembles from the European Chamber Music Academy were given the chance to continue building on their promising careers as chamber musicians. What’s more, Flanders Festival Ghent called upon Frederik Sioen and Osama Abdulrasol to also offer performance opportunities for talented young Ghent musicians, with the 9000 Youth Collective, especially put together for OdeGand. The fact that there is a huge pool of talent in Belgium is proven by Opera Ballet Vlaanderen with a moving performance of Ein deutsches Requiem by Brahms, but violinist Bart Vandenbogaerde, cellist Stéphanie Huang and pianist Jean-Claude Vanden Eynden also stood out with their astounding technique and elegant sound. 

A wide selection of artists from both Belgium and abroad also took over Ghent city centre for the city festivals OdeGand En Route! and the second edition of Whispering Leaves. And young festival-goers were not forgotten either, and were well-served by KidsOdeGand, which was entirely devoted to musical experience for the very youngest children. 

OdeGand 2022 © Björn Comhaire
OdeGand 2022 © Björn Comhaire

OdeGand saved in the nick of time 

The adverse weather conditions meant that we had no choice but to change location for the 20th edition of OdeGand. A rapid and drastic decision had to be made to move the outdoor spectacle that usually takes place on the Graslei and Korenlei to ’t Kuipke. We absolutely wanted to avoid the edition literally falling into the water, and for that reason chose to flee. “An inevitable decision, if we wanted to offer the audience and the musicians a worthy anniversary edition of OdeGand." And this proved a success, with 6500 attending the overture and the final show of the XL edition on 16 and 17 September.  

 Veerle Simoens, Director of Flanders Festival Ghent: “At this 65th edition of Flanders Festival Ghent we brought a versatile range of top talent from both Belgium and abroad to Ghent. One notable finding was the increase in last-minute ticket sales by comparison to previous editions. Not only at our Festival, but also elsewhere in the sector, visitors are making the decision to attend a performance pretty close to the event. Finally, St Bavo’s cathedral did really well: with three more or less sold-out concerts, the cathedral continues to be an attractive musical magnet for local and international visitors alike.” 

OdeGand 2023 will take place on Saturday 16 September 2023. The exact dates for Flanders Festival Ghent 2023 will be announced at a later date.  

Festival in East Flanders  

Until mid-December the Festival in East Flanders will take place in several East Flemish cities and municipalities, offering all manner of concerts by talented ensembles. See our website for more info.