When the Moers Festival (or mœrs festival) was first launched in the 1970s, it took place in the courtyard of Moers Castle in front of fewer than 2,000 spectators. Musically, it was about free jazz, a style based on free improvisation without music-theoretical restrictions, but it was also about the revolutionary spirit of the time.
Free jazz always stood for liberation from structures, and that was what festival founder Burkhard Hennen was also concerned with on a political level. In the following years, Moers opened up to world and pop music, but the aspirations for innovative musical concepts remains. In the meantime, the concerts are held in front of up to 2,000 spectators each in the Moers Festspielhalle, the Schlosshof and a dozen other locations.
Joëlle Landré at the 2021 Moers Festival.
Will Guthrie at the 2021 Moers Festival.
The Bad Plus
Harald Boje (1978)
A hippie thing: The Festival in 1978
You will find tenor berserkers here, subversive audio agitators, electro nerds, angry poets, weird instantaneous composers, breathtaking virtuosos and the legends of tomorrow. A look back at the billings makes quite an impression as the big names of experimental music, especially from jazz, are almost all represented. Sun Ra, Fred Frith, Jan Garbarek, Abdullah Ibrahim, David Murray, Archie Shepp, Mantana Roberts, and Cecil Taylor, but also The Residents, the Dub Trio, and Colin Stetson have played here.
Free spirits, untamed curiosity, and fearless experimentation are demanded of performers and audiences alike, and the revolutionary spirit that was the driving force behind the festival’s existence back when it was founded lives on under festival director Tim Isfort (since 2016), a native of Moers and jazz musician. Back in the day, it was about shaking up structures that had hardly been grappled with in post-war Germany (the town’s mayor, for example, still had a Nazi past). Today, there are other challenges to be met. For example, the festival is currently committed to counteracting the male dominance that still prevails in the experimental jazz scene.
The broadcaster ARTE is a partner of the festival and streamed the entire festival live for its 50th anniversary in 2021, the second year of the pandemic:
Moers festival in Numbers
Genre: Jazz, Experimental music, Electronic music
Next event: Whitsun 2022