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Grant given to allow 800 school children to perform in Cathedral

Over 800 primary and secondary children from across the Dorset and Wiltshire will be taking part in a series of four...

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Grant given to allow 800 school children to perform in Cathedral

Posted By : Roz Mitchell Wednesday 11th February 2015

Over 800 primary and secondary children from across the Dorset and Wiltshire will be taking part in a series of four ambitious musical performances in Salisbury Cathedral this July, thanks to a generous grant from the Magna Carta Trust’s 800th Anniversary Commemoration Committee.


The performances, which will feature songs and music that explore Magna Carta’s story and themes, like justice and freedom, are part of the Cathedral’s 800th Anniversary celebrations. They will take place across four consecutive nights and involve over 200 different school children each night.


The children and their staff will work closely with a professional team to create the work: Opera Director and Magna Cantata Artistic Director, Ben Occhipinti, Composer Philip Lawson and Librettist Andrew Mackay brought together under the baton of Ian Wick, Director of Music and Chorister Tutor at Salisbury Cathedral School. There will be special workshops run in schools, teaching children about Magna Carta and how to create historically relevant costumes.


Sarah Rickett, Director of Learning and Outreach at the Cathedral said: “The focus is on schools in Wiltshire and Dorset, but interest has already been expressed by schools even in Somerset as well, demonstrating the project’s appeal. One of its great strengths is that it is very easy to share with other places in the form of a score and words, and Salisbury Cathedral intends to actively do this.”


In the run up to the actual performances, the Cathedral’s team will support schools in their preparations, whilst older students will be given the opportunity to take part as soloists and band members.


Said Artistic Director, Ben Occhipiti “This is a hugely ambitious and exciting project that will use the children’s talents and ideas to explore an important topic both historically and from today’s perspective. It’s also an opportunity to encourage children to engage musically, which is something I feel very passionate about – and the idea that the score could reach beyond our immediate performances to schools across not just the UK but the world, is tremendously exciting.”


Magna Cantata will take place from July 7–10 in Salisbury Cathedral, over 1,600 parents and family members are expected to attend. 


Sir Robert Worcester, Chairman of the Magna Carta 800th Anniversary Committee says ‘We are pleased to be able to support Salisbury Cathedral and many other organisations across the country as they use the 800th anniversary to educate and inspire both young people and adults about the importance and continuing relevance of Magna Carta”’.


The Magna Carta Trust’s 800th Anniversary Commemoration Committee is charged by the Magna Carta Trust to co-ordinate celebration activities, raise the profile of the anniversary and deliver a number of key national and international aspirations. For more information, visit


For further information regarding Magna Cantata contact Sarah Rickett on or 01722 555124.


Notes to editors:

Salisbury Cathedral Learning and Outreach
Salisbury Cathedral provides a warm welcome to a range of different audiences from families and schools, to members of the local community and visitors from the UK and overseas. A wide range of activities and events are organized each year that enable people to discover more about the life of the Cathedral, the building and its art and heritage. In addition this engagement seeks to make a difference to groups locally through project-based work. 

Magna Cantata Project leader
Sarah Rickett, Director of Learning and Outreach, Salisbury Cathedral. Sarah has oversight of Salisbury Cathedral’s active learning and engagement programme, which builds upon the Cathedral’s long history of community outreach to deliver a diverse programme of events and activities, linking these with the Cathedral’s traditions of music, art, and craft.


Magna Cantata Performance Team:

·         Artistic director - Ben Occhipintii.
Ben is a highly experienced director of operas and performances particularly with young people and children. He has directed the Winterbourne Opera, works at Salisbury Playhouse, Salisbury Playhouse and the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Ben was Assistant Director with British Youth Opera at Sadlers Wells Theatre and The Song of Rhiannon for WWII opera at the Riverside Studios.

·         Composer - Philip Lawson
Philip enjoyed a career as a freelance baritone, performing regularly with The BBC Singers, The Taverner Choir, The Sixteen and the choirs of Salisbury Cathedral, St. Paul’s Cathedral and Westminster Abbey. He joined The King’s Singers in January 1994, and since the departure of Bob Chilcott in 1987 he was also the group’s principal arranger. In January 2012 Philip retired from The King’s Singers to pursue his growing arranger/composer/teacher career.

  • Librettist - Andrew Mackay
    Andrew read Classics at Cambridge, but devoted most of his time to music, singing under Sir David Willcocks and Philip Ledger. As a conductor he has worked with many choirs including Southern Voices, the Farrant Singers and Southampton University Chamber Choir. He founded the Sarum Consort in 1992. Also a playwright and lyricist, Andrew has written three shows in collaboration with former King's Singer Philip Lawson.
  • Musical Director - Ian Wicks
    Ian is currently Director of Music and Assistant Head at Salisbury Cathedral School. He founded and conducts the Salisbury Cathedral Junior Choir. Whilst reading Chemical Engineering at Exeter University he combined the posts of Choral Scholar in Exeter Cathedral Choir with that of Organ Scholar in the University Chapel and after university joined the St Albans Cathedral Choir. He is in regular demand as a tenor soloist and sings with Sarum Voices, as well as conducting The Romsey Singers since 2003.

Spirit of Justice, Power Of Words – New Salisbury Cathedral Magna Carta Exhibition
(Launches on March 6th 2015)
The Cathedral’s new Magna Carta Exhibition will present the world’s best preserved original 1215 Magna Carta document in its historic context, telling the story of the struggle between King John and his barons using displays, media, artefacts, interactive stations and video.

Animation and modern replicas of medieval armour will be used captivate the imagination of children and families and tactile elements will help to shed light on how medieval documents like the Magna Carta were made. Some of the Cathedral’s other rare medieval documents that reveal how and when the Magna Carta came to Salisbury will also be put on public display along with a selection of objects on loan from Salisbury Museum and other sources that tell other parts of the medieval story.