Bernstein in Chichester festival will mark centenary of extraordinary man of music

Lenny Bernstein and Walter Hussey (right)
Lenny Bernstein and Walter Hussey (right)

An impressive programme of events has been put together to celebrate the strong ties between Chichester and Leonard Bernstein in his centenary year.

The composer of West Side Story was also the composer of the Chichester Psalms.

Edward Milward-Oliver, who lives in the city, said he was surprised that apparently nothing was being planned to mark what would have been Bernstein’s 100th birthday year.

With founder and originator, Emma-Jane Wyatt, he resolved to do something about it. The result is Bernstein in Chichester, a community-wide festival comprising concerts, recitals, workshops, revues, talks, film shows and exhibitions all with a Bernstein theme.

“The link goes back to 1965 when the Cathedral’s then Dean, Walter Hussey, commissioned from him the Chichester Psalms for the Southern Cathedrals Festival, which was attended by the composer, his wife and two of their children.

“Chichester Psalms has since taken its place in the concert repertory as one of the most frequently-performed pieces of 20th-century American choral music.

“The enthusiastic feedback from across the community has vindicated our efforts and has enabled us to assemble a strong programme of some 18 events extending to late November when the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra performs the Chichester Psalms in the Cathedral under the baton of Bernstein’s protégée Marin Alsop.

“Bernstein in Chichester will join the city to London, New York, Los Angeles, Paris, Berlin, Vienna, Tokyo and other major centres, in the global remembrance of one of the most vital musical figures of modern times, and we are delighted to have received the support of the Bernstein family.

“It is hoped that the legacy of this year’s festival will be an annual event marking the singular relationship between Leonard Bernstein and Chichester, reaffirming music’s role in the life of the city.”

Participants include Chichester Cathedral, Chichester Festival Theatre, the University of Chichester’s department of music and its department of history, Pallant House Gallery, The Prebendal School, Chichester Chamber Concerts, the 27th Chichester International Film Festival, Chichester Jazz Club and the West Sussex Record Office; composer Carl Davis, actress and singer Dame Patricia Routledge, the Camarilla Wind Ensemble, the Darius Brubeck Quartet, actor Peter McEnery, singer Sophie-Louise Dann and pianist Jason Carr and company members of the Stage Lek Project; and noted Bernstein authorities including his friend and biographer Humphrey Burton, the editor of The Leonard Bernstein Letters Nigel Simeone, the author of numerous Bernstein studies Paul Laird from the University of Kansas and historian Peter Webster whose study of Walter Hussey was published in 2017.

Among the events are: The Indomitable Persuader: A Hussey Symposium, Pallant House Gallery, April 20; Total Embrace: A Day of Bernstein and Music, University of Chichester, April 21; Remembering Lenny, Assembly Room, The Council House, June 8; and A Bernstein Songfest for the City Angels & Friends, Assembly Room, The Council House, June 9.

Also coming up are Family Concert: Camarilla Wind Ensemble, Assembly Room, The Council House, June 30; The Prebendal School Summer Concert, Chichester Cathedral, July 12; Bernstein Revealed: A Cabaret, Minerva Theatre, July 29; Bernstein and the Movies, 27th Chichester International Film Festival, August 9-26; Bernstein in Chichester exhibition, Chichester Cathedral, August 13-September 24: Walter & Lenny, Chichester Cathedral, September 5-8; Darius Brubeck Plays Bernstein, The Pallant Suite, September 7.

Also: Trouble in Tahiti, Assembly Room, The Council House, September 13; Bernstein, Hussey and the Chichester Psalms, West Sussex Record Office, September 18.

Also: Sing God a Simple Song, Chapel of Ascension, University of Chichester, October 28; Chichester Psalms: A Chorister Reunion, venue and date to be announced; Burton on Bernstein, venue to be announced, November 24; and Chichester Psalms, Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, Marin Alsop conductor, November 24.

Other stories by Phil on: https://www.chichester.co.uk/author/Phil.Hewitt2