Sit back, relax – a music-lovers guide to Hay Festival 2023

It’s not just words that change the world. Music is a defining feature of the Hay Festival experience. Whether you are looking for classical, folk, global music or feel good performances then we’ve got it covered. You’ll also find people from the music world sharing ideas, stories from their careers and teaming up with writers to produce some thought provoking experimental word and music events.

You’ll need to book ahead as some events are already sold out. Here are just some of our top picks.

If you are looking for something uplifting and entertaining the Brass Band Blowout will bring party classics and thrilling New Orleans Jazz. Judi Jackson presents her American Songbook and why not come along to our wrap party? One final chance to soak up the Hay Festival energy with DJ Max Galactic, a regular on the festival circuit, bringing all of the big tunes and big smiles.

Don’t miss Dr Cheddar Gorgeous, queer culture mentor and hilarious star of Drag Race with their sensational performative take on masculinity.

A festival site is the best possible place to enjoy folk musicThe Levellers Collective will bring their unique rock folk energy with an acoustic set, Sarah Smout presents an environmentally inspired cello and vocal performance and Kathryn Roberts and Sean Wakeman bring ballads and their own brand of storytelling.

Away from the Hay Festival site the glorious surroundings of St Mary’s Church provides an intimate and atmospheric setting for some remarkable classical concerts.  Don’t miss the Radio 3 lunchtime concerts which will feature works by Schubert and many other composers, for strings and piano. Plus, The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment offer Mozart and his contemporaries for violin and viola.

Offering up different perspectives is a big part of the Hay Festival experience so we’re especially excited to be showcasing some amazing global music artists. Baaba Maal, N’Famady Kouyate and Arooj Aftab, Vijay Iyer and Shahzad Ismaily with Love in Exile. Plus, Zhadan and the Dogs with music from Eastern Ukraine.

Want to immerse yourself in the culture of this incredible place? We’re also offering events that can only be found in Hay. Classical music from the 20th and 21st century from Hay Music, our local Chamber Orchestra plus the RIOT Ensemble of saxophone and percussion. Father Richard, our well known and loved parish priest will provide organ accompaniment to 1920 German silent horror film The Cabinet of Dr Caligari at St Mary’s Church and Hay Community Choir present their musical collaborations - Earth Song.

For those looking for a more experimental musical experience, why not try some of the events that combine music and words. Aleksandar Hemon’s reads from his latest novel The World and All That It Holds with a rich soundtrack by fellow Sarajevan Damir Imamović. Poet Carol Ann Duffy joins instrumentalist John Sampson, and we welcome sound artist Wajid Yaseen, combining soundscapes and poetry in four mesmerising opportunities to experience Then Before.

And you’ll find figures from the music world in conversation throughout the festival. Hear from Sharon Robinson (on life with Leonard Cohen) Nick CaveCraig DavidDua LipaBob StanleyTara MacLean and Colin McIntyre AKA Mull Historical Society.