The Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival (SHMF) is an enormously popular event in north German summers. It takes place every year in the months of June, July and August at a large number of diverse venues. These are mainly in Schleswig-Holstein, but also in Hamburg, Denmark and Niedersachsen. Begun in 1986, SHMF is one of the largest regional festivals in the world. It attracted around 171,000 visitors in 2017. The musical focus is on classical music, but also includes other genres, such as pop, jazz, electro, comedy, theatre and readings.
SHMF combines classical music with a relaxed atmosphere at unusual concert venues. The Christkirche church in Rendsburg is one such venue, as is the site of the Kunstwerk Carlshütte in Büdelsdorf: music and art merge to become one in the cavernous factory buildings housing the NordArt exhibition. Concerts in the ACO Thormann Hall are also unforgettable musical events.
The composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein, who would have been 100 years of age in 2018, established the international Schleswig-Holstein Festival Orchestra for young musicians in 1987. This has since become a major part of SHMF. All of the 120 young musicians in the orchestra have to qualify to take part every year by attending around 30 auditions in Asia, America and Europe. The winners receive a scholarship which includes their stay in the Nordkolleg Rendsburg during the festival season, as well as intense rehearsals with famous conductors. The principal conductor of the Schleswig-Holstein Festival Orchestra is Christoph Eschenbach. The rehearsals have always been open to the public. They have taken place in the ACO Thormann Hall since 2011. If you want to watch the dress rehearsals you have to be quick off the mark: the tickets are often sold out after a very short time.