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Cathedral plays host to Southern Cathedrals Festival

Posted By : Marie Thomas Wednesday 1st July 2015

Salisbury Cathedral prepares for Choral Festival

There are plenty of treats in store for fans of Classical and Choral Music in this year's Southern Cathedrals Festival line up! Once again the choirs of three cathedrals, Winchester, Salisbury and Chichester, will perform a programme of services and concerts from 15 – 19 July, with this year's event broadly themed around (but not solely devoted to) a celebration of the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta. 


Central to the festival’s exploration of the Charter’s values is a concert featuring Michael Tippett’s wonderful oratorio, A Child of Our Time, chosen because of its underlying themes of rights, oppression and liberty.  On Saturday 18 July, at 18.00, the combined choirs of Salisbury, Winchester and Chichester, with a large orchestra, will perform this masterpiece, conducted by David Halls, in the last concert of the Festival. The first part describes in detail the events leading up to Kristallnacht - the first of the pogroms against the Jews of Germany before the start of the second world war - prompted by the shooting dead of an official at the German embassy in Paris by Herschel Grynspan, who had found himself alone and desperate, while his parents were starving in No Man's Land to the East. The second part deals with the moral and psychological aspects in the most affecting terms - the famous settings of the negro spirituals divide up and comment upon the action, and the wintry chill of the first part gradually gives way to the redemptive ecstasy of spring in the beautiful finale.


Another Magna Carta centrepiece will be the illustrated lecture, Music and Magna Carta – An Exploration in Music and Word, led by Professor John Harper, Research Professor of Music and Liturgy  and Director of the new International Centre for Sacred Music Studies at Bangor. Professor Harper’s lecture will explore plainsong from its origins up to the present day with sung illustrations performed by the Salisbury Cathedral Chamber Choir. The soloists are Christopher Hodkinson, director of the Schola Gregoriana of Cambridge (a charity which promotes the study and performance of Gregorian chant), and Matthew Ward, Director of Music at St Joseph’s Church, New Malden. 


Professor John Harper said: Music and Magna Carta reflects on king and church, especially concepts of justice and rightness. Amongst the material I’ll explore in the course of the lecture are settings of coronation texts used from the Middle Ages onwards including some chant used at the coronation of King John, and some used at the coronation of an equally troubled king - James. Magna Carta comes at the end of a period when churches had been closed for up to six years (1208-14) because King John opposed the pope's candidate to be Archbishop of Canterbury." David Halls, Director of Music at Salisbury Cathedral said: “Magna Carta has made this a special year for Salisbury and has allowed us to re-examine the complex relationship between God, King, Church and Music in 13th Century Britain, but there is an even greater purpose behind this festival. It allows us to share liturgy and worship as well as music, and to celebrate the talents of young musicians alongside more established players and singers.” Music and Magna Carta takes place at 11.15am on Thursday 16 July in St Thomas’s Church. John Challenger, the Cathedral’s Assistant Director of Music conducts.


Other festival highlights include Handel’s youthful Dixit Dominus, part of an evening that also includes music by Bach and Mozart sung by the girl choristers of Salisbury and Winchester with the gentlemen singers from all three Cathedrals. They will be accompanied on period instruments by the Early Music specialists, Charivari Agréable Simfonie. The concert takes place in the Cathedral at 19.00 on Friday 17 July and will be conducted by David Halls, Charles Harrison and Andrew Lumsden.


There’s big screen action too, featuring renowned Lebanese composer and organist, Naji Hakim. Amongst other things, Naji will be playing his own composition, Trois Paraphrases sur Veni Creator, a piece commissioned by the Benedictine Monastery of Uri, France for Feast of Pentecost in 2014 and he will end his recital with a dazzling improvisation. Naji’s performance starts at 19.00 on Thursday 16 July in the Cathedral. As with other organ recitals this year, a camera set up in the organ loft will give concert-goers the opportunity to see the hidden performer play.


Finally, if candlelight, music and wine are to your taste, then try a little Late Night Bach in the Cathedral. Each evening from Wednesday 15 July to Friday 17 July the Bar Rest in the Cathedral Refectory will be serving wine and cheese before and after the 21.15 recitals. The performers of Bach's 6 English Suites are Peter Grove, David Halls, Alistair Watson and Ian Wicks.


For the full programme and further details check the Southern Cathedrals Festival website or book follow the link from this page on the Salisbury Cathedral website - for any other information contact Marie Thomas 01722 555148