Chichester to host the Southern Cathedrals Festival

Charles Harrison
Charles Harrison
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Chichester Cathedral organist Charles Harrison is looking forward to his first Southern Cathedrals Festival as host.

The festival rotates from year to year between Chichester, Salisbury and Winchester. 2016 will be Charles’ first on home territory – and an exciting prospect.

“It is one of the most significant and exciting celebrations of cathedral music in the country, and second only to the Three Choirs Festival in its scope and ambition,” Charles said.

“It brings together some of the finest cathedral choirs, offering opportunities to hear them individually and in combination. Festival-goers can enjoy the stylistic differences between the choirs and revel in the subtlety, colour and sheer power of the joint forces.

“The festival is a truly wonderful testament to the skill and talent of children: much of the singing is done by the girl and boy choristers (83 in all) of the three cathedrals. The levels of professionalism they attain never fail to astonish me, especially when I remember that the youngest are just nine years old. It is worth coming to one of the events just to take in this minor miracle.”

As host, Charles is festival director this year: “This is an important responsibility for me. I have many distinguished predecessors, and they have set high standards for artistry and imaginative programming. There is terrific support from my colleagues here at Chichester, and at Salisbury and Winchester – but it is right to be just a little apprehensive as I take the reins for the first time.

“My responsibilities most importantly are planning a varied, satisfying and cohesive programme. That job took about 18 months, and involved lots of thinking and rethinking. Timetabling was surprisingly complicated, but vital to get right: while performing lots of wonderful music, it is important to look after our choirs, and ensure that no one is overworked. Fundraising is also important: sponsorship and advertising account for about half of the total income, and we are very fortunate to have many generous supporters. Then there are meals, accommodation, seating plans, rehearsal schedules, proof-reading… I want everyone – audience and performers – to enjoy themselves: the little details count just as much as the big artistic vision.

“We are marking the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death with several settings of his texts, including a newly-commissioned work from local composer Ned Bigham. Several notable composers of cathedral music have anniversaries this year, and these will be marked, particular in our recording for BBC Radio 3. I have also been keen to include music outside the English tradition: Czech, Hungarian, Russian and German music will feature prominently – and our choristers will be singing in five languages during the course of the festival!

“The festival has a special place in the artistic life of the south of England, and is much admired at national level. There is a large and loyal band of patrons, at least one of whom (known to me) has attended every festival since 1960! It inspires great affection among its supporters, and is respected for commissioning new pieces of music. Leonard Bernstein’s famous Chichester Psalms were written for the Southern Cathedrals Festival in 1965, the first of many works that have entered the repertoire via this route.

“Once the themes of the festival were established, my job was to develop a programme that has at its core the English choral tradition, while reaching out to less familiar strands. This is good for the choirs, and I hope stimulating for the audience. The singers want some repertoire in which they feel at home, but equally we don’t want to waste the opportunities that come with large choral forces, and with orchestral and instrumental resources. This is particularly true of the Chichester choir – the smallest cathedral choir in the country: we can sing much of the standard cathedral repertoire with great poise and flexibility, but some pieces are too large-scale for us on our own. By joining forces with our friends from Salisbury and Winchester, our choir can have the experience of performing works that are normally out of our reach. In addition to the main choral concerts, there are song recitals at Pallant House Gallery, jazz evenings in the Bishop’s Palace, and an organ performance by the internationally-acclaimed David Goode.”

THURSDAY, JULY 21

11am Church Music Society Lecture. St John’s Chapel

The Church Music of Charles Wood. The Dichotomy of Antiquarian versus Romantic

Lecturer: Professor Jeremy Dibble

Free admission

1.30pm Concert - Hear my Words

The combined boy choristers and lay clerks

Parry Hear my words, ye people

Andrea Gabrieli Magnificat a 12

J.S. Bach Meine Seele erhebt den Herren, BWV 733

J.S. Bach Ich lasse dich nicht, BWV 159

Gesualdo/Stravinsky Tres sacrae cantiones

Eben Moto Ostinato from ‘Musica Dominicalis’

Walton The Twelve

Tickets £17 centre nave £13 side aisles (restricted view)

3.15pm Songs and Sonnets: Shakespeare and Friends

Pallant House Gallery

Mark Wilde tenor

David Owen-Norris piano

Parry Four Sonnets of Shakespeare

Sterndale Bennett from Six Songs, Op.23 and Op.35

Battison Haynes Elizabethan Lyrics

Tickets £15 unreserved (includes admission to Gallery)

5.45pm Choral Evensong (recorded by BBC Radio 3 for future broadcast)

The girl choristers of Salisbury and Winchester and the combined lay clerks

Responses Rose

Reger Nachtlied

Wood Collegium Regale

S. Wesley In exitu Israel

Vierne Allegro maestoso from Symphony III

8pm Organ Recital - David Goode

Dupré Variations sur un Noël, Op.20

J.S. Bach Sonata No.2, BWV 530

Mathias Partita, Op.19

Duruflé Scherzo, Op.2

Reger Choral-Fantasy on Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern

Tickets £13 unreserved (Large TV screen in nave)

9.30pm Fringe Jazz Club

The Old Kitchen, Bishop’s Palace

Lucy Cronin voice

Liam Dunachie piano

Jazz for all tastes, excellent food and drink, and a relaxing and convivial atmosphere. The Fringe Jazz Club is the perfect way to round off you day at the Festival.

Tickets £5.50 (admission only) £12.75 (admission and barbecue)

FRIDAY, JULY 22

10am Mattins

The boy choristers and lay vicars of Salisbury Cathedral

Responses Radcliffe

Sumsion Te Deum in G

Howells Collegium Regale (Jubilate)

Wesley Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace

2.30pm Songs and Sonnets: Shakespeare and Friends

Pallant House Gallery

Mark Wilde tenor

David Owen-Norris piano

Parry Four Sonnets of Shakespeare

Sterndale Bennett from Six Songs, Op.23 and Op.35

Battison Haynes Elizabethan Lyrics

Tickets £15 unreserved (includes admission to Gallery)

5pm Evensong

The boy choristers and lay clerks of Winchester Cathedral

Responses Smith

Murrill in E

Jo Twist How shall we sing in a strange land

7pm Concert - Angel Voices

Music for choir, tenor and harp

The girl choristers of Salisbury and Winchester and the combined lay clerks

Mark Wilde tenor

Lucy Wakeford harp

Wood Hail! Gladdening light

Gowers Viri Galilei

Messiaen Transports de joie

Howells Sequence for St Michael

Britten Canticle 5

Grieg Ave Maris stella

Rachmaninov Bogoroditse Djevo

Ned Bigham Music to hear (SCF 2016 Commission)

Janácek Otce nas

Tickets £21 centre nave £15 side aisles (restricted view)

8.15pm Fringe Jazz Club

The Old Kitchen, Bishop’s Palace

Lucy Cronin voice

Liam Dunachie piano

Jazz for all tastes, excellent food and drink, and a relaxing and convivial atmosphere. The Fringe Jazz Club is the perfect way to round off you day at the Festival.

Tickets £5.50 (admission only) £12.75 (admission and barbecue)

SATURDAY, JULY 23

11am Festival Eucharist

The combined boy choristers and lay clerks

Kodály Missa brevis

Sharpe Venite commedite

Preacher: The Very Reverend Dr John Hall, Dean of Westminster

2.45pm Brighton Festival Youth Choir

St Paul’s Church

James Bingham conductor

Among the country’s leading youth choirs, BFYC performs an exciting programme including works by Lauridsen and Franck.

Tickets £10 unreserved

6pm Concert - Touches of Sweet Harmony

The combined boy choristers and lay clerks

Southern Sinfonia

Bozidar Smiljanic bass baritone

Vaughan Williams Serenade to Music

Vaughan Williams Five Mystical Songs

Dvorak Mass in D

Tickets £25 centre nave £18 side aisles (restricted view)

£12 south transept

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