There are several patches of England where this festival could have taken place, but probably none is more suitable than West Suffolk.
Located here is a clutch of glorious medieval churches, among the most beautiful and best preserved in the country. Some are of cathedral-like proportions. Those we have chosen are in Bury-St-Edmunds, Lavenham, Long Melford, Clare, Sudbury and Mildenhall – all to varying degrees outstandingly attractive towns or villages
In between is countryside with gently rolling farmland of irregular fields, centuries-old hedges and vintage trees. This is rural England at its most alluring. An additional advantage of the area is that there are enough good quality hotel rooms to accommodate both audience and musicians.
And for those for whom it matters, the region is only seventy miles from London – yet it feels a world apart, an age away.
Though musically intensive, there is some free time to see something of Lavenham, Bury, Clare and Long Melford, or three of these four. One morning there is the option of a trip to Sudbury to see the refurbished and expanded Gainsborough’s House. If you are travelling with friends and want to spend time with them, please ensure you book a hotel in the same place.
If you are unfamiliar with the area, we do recommend that you book extra nights at the hotel.
Sudbury and Gainsborough
Not long before our festival takes place, the lovely little town of Sudbury will have become an arts centre of international importance.
Not only will 2022 see the reopening of Gainsborough’s House after radical refurbishment, but a major new building will open on an adjacent site with galleries, event spaces and other modern facilities. Education, scholarship and outreach will all move up a gear, but most significantly the museum will become a venue for major exhibitions.
Thomas Gainsborough, one of England’s greatest painters, was born in the house in 1727. It has been a museum dedicated to the artist since 1961, and the collection has grown to become the most comprehensive holding of the artist’s work – paintings, drawings, prints – in the world.
During Music in Suffolk Churches there will be shows of French Impressionists from the Pushkin Museum in Moscow and a major loan exhibition of works by Gainsborough and contemporaries to augment the museum’s own.
We are offering two ways to see these riches, before the festival and during it. See 'Optional tour and excursion' in Practicalities.
The spoken word in an important ingredient in all our events, and this Suffolk festival is no exception – except that the talks will be in a series of webinars broadcast in advance of the festival. This will relieve the pressure on time, and, with the audience lodged in two different towns, on logistics.
There will be three or four episodes which will take the form of discussions between John Bryan, musicologist and practicing musician, and some of the directors of the ensembles. Each webinar will be an hour long and will be streamed at regular intervals a month or two before the festival. They will be free to those who have booked the festival and available upon payment to others.
Details will be made available early in 2022.
This festival is one of Martin Randall Travel’s own creations and follows the format which we established nearly thirty years ago.
Access to the concerts is exclusive to those who take a package which also includes hotel accommodation, dinners and a lunch, coach travel, interval drinks and much else.
Bury-St-Edmunds, St Mary
The Gesualdo Six
End of Day – Renaissance and contemporary polyphony
Owain Park (director)
Guy James & t.b.a. (countertenor), Joseph Wicks & Josh Cooter (tenor), Michael Craddock (baritone), Samuel Mitchell (bass)
Since forming at Cambridge in 2014, the Gesualdo Six has become one of the most successful and sought-after of British vocal ensembles. The director, Owain Park, is also a composer – one of his pieces is premièred in this concert. The members share a passion for ensemble singing that for many of them stemmed from formative years as choristers in chapels and cathedrals. The group regularly performs at festivals around Europe, has toured Australia and Canada and has plans for Mexico and the USA.
The programme is an adaptation of their latest recording, ‘Fading’, launched in 2020 and winner of the Limelight Magazine award for Vocal Recording of the Year. The ancient service of Compline marks the end of the day, and the accompanying music evokes a contemplative mood in preparation for the darkness of night. Renaissance polyphony by Byrd, Gombert and Gesualdo that contains startling harmonic shifts and expressive word painting is juxtaposed with contemporary compositions with reflections of the crepuscular theme and mood.
Among these are searingly beautiful compositions by Alison Willis, Joanna Marsh (her Fading provided the title of the CD on which this programme is based), Sarah Remkins, Veljo Tomkis and Owain Park, the group’s director and one of the most acclaimed of young British composers.
The town of Bury-St-Edmunds grew up around a monastery which was one of the richest in England before its dissolution in 1539. Nevertheless, the adjacent parish church of St Mary is comparable with the former abbey church (now the cathedral) in size and beauty, and exceeds it in harmony and coherence. Begun in 1424, it was completed in a single campaign. The hammer-beam roof is famously adorned with carved angels and mythical creatures.
Thomas Tallis (c.1505–1585), Te lucis ante terminum
William Byrd (c.1540–1623), Miserere mihi Domine
Jonathan Seers (born 1954), Look down, O Lord
Carlo Gesualdo (1566 – 1613), Illumina faciem tuam
Nicholas Gombert (1495–1560), Media vita
Hildegard von Bingen (1098–1179), O Ecclesia, occuli tui
Owain Park (b. 1993), Phos hilaron
Alison Willis (b. 1971), The Wind’s Warning
Antoine Brumel (c.1460–1512/13), Sub tuum praesidium
Jean Mouton (1459–1522), Salva nos, Domine
Luca Marenzio (c.1553–1599), Potrò viver io più se senza luce
Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (c. 1525 – 1594), Io son ferito, ahi lasso
Joanna Marsh (born1970), Fading
William Byrd (c.1540–1623), Lullaby ‘My sweet little baby’
Veljo Tormis (1930–2017), Marjal aega magada
Gerda Blok-Wilson (born 1955), O Little Rose
Sarah Rimkus (born 1990), My heart is like a singing bird
Joanna Marsh, I take thee
Josef Rheinberger (1839 – 1901), Abendlied
Sudbury, Church of St Gregory
From Darkness to Light – Bachs and Buxtehude
Rachel Podger (director, violin)
with 4 singers and 8 other instrumentalists
Thomas Gainsborough was born in Sudbury, the son of a cloth merchant and silk weaver. The cloth industry continues to be a mainstay of the local economy: 90% of English woven silk is manufactured here. Shortly before the festival, his birthplace museum will have been reopened as an arts centre of international importance
Now a pretty market town, the irregular, curvaceous street pattern betrays Sudbury’s Anglo-Saxon origins. The Church of St Gregory was largely rebuilt in the 14th century at the cost of Simon of Sudbury, Archbishop of Canterbury, beheaded during the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381; his skull resides in the church. Of rather greater aesthetic interest is the 12-foot high font cover.
This is the most compact of the concert venues in the festival, a feature which fortuitously facilitates closeness to one of the most inspirational and simpatica of British (actually half German)musicians. Rachel Podger, “the unsurpassed British glory of the baroque violin” (The Times), has established herself as a leading interpreter of the Baroque and Classical music periods. Awards include being the first woman winner of the Royal Academy of Music/Kohn Foundation Bach Prize in 2015 and Gramophone Artist of the Year 2018.
Rachel founded and leads Brecon Baroque, an ensemble of world-class virtuosi. They have toured continental Europe and Japan and performed at many concert halls and festivals in the UK, including their very own Brecon Baroque Festival. Recordings have attracted universal acclaim and major awards, among them Bach’s Violin Concertos, Vivaldi’s L’Estro Armonico and Biber’s Rosary Sonatas.
We asked Rachel for a programme which would encompass lamentation and rejoicing, to resonate with the mood of an audience which would have suffered an interminable period of social restrictions, intermittent isolation, probably bereavement and innumerable disheartening frustrations. This Bachian programme was her response, with pieces by Johann Sebastian as well as two of his older cousins, Johann Michael (1648–94) and Johann Christoph (1642–1703). Dietrich Buxtehude (1637–1707), the dominant musician in northern Germany, was also a teacher of J.S. Bach.
Johann Sebastian Bach (1685–1750), Christ lag in Todesbanden BWV 4
Johann Michael Bach (1648–94), Ach wie sehnlich
Dietrich Buxtehude (1637–1707), Ciacona in E minor, BUXWV 160
Buxtehude, Mit Fried und Freud ich fahr dahin BUXWV 76
J.S. Bach, Lobet den Herrn BWV 230
J.M. Bach, Es ist ein großer Gewinn
Johann Christoph Bach (1642–1703), Mein Freund ist mein und ich bin sein – Ciaconne from Meine Freundin ist schön
J.S. Bach, Nach dir, Herr, verlanget mich BWV 150
Long Melford, Church of the Holy Trinity
Vespers from Venice – mostly Monteverdi
Robert Hollingworth (director)
with 8 singers and 12 instrumentalists
Appropriately named, Long Melford consists basically of one broad street nearly three miles long. This is lined with an attractive assortment of buildings of the 15th to the 19th centuries now housing now specialist shops, art galleries, restaurants, pubs and antiques emporia.
On a rise at one end, past the expansive green, Tudor almshouses and clipped yews, stands the Church of the Holy Trinity. One of the finest parish churches in England, it is a masterpiece of the Perpendicular style, with large windows, flint and ashlar flushwork, a great tower, much original stained glass and, uniquely for a parish church, an east end lady chapel. This is the setting, late in the evening, for this most deeply felt and intensely beautifyl sequence of music for Vespers.
For reasons unconnected with musical quality, much of Claudio Monteverdi’s church music has been shoved into relative obscurity by the collection known as the 1610 Vespers. Today’s programme reveals the sheer brilliance of some of other creations, and attempts a reconstruction of the sole recorded instance we have of Monteverdi directing the music for Vespers in Venice – by Constantijn Huygens in 1620 – by including works by a number of Monteverdi’s contemporaries.
The concert is a version of The Other Vespers, a recording by I Fagiolini and Robert Hollingworth released by Decca Classics to great acclaim in 2017 (“achieving a thrilling synergy of articulate instrumental playing, fulsome choral ripienos and dexterous solo singing” – Gramophone).
I Fagiolini is a British solo-voice ensemble founded and directed by Hollingworth. Internationally renowned for its imaginative programming and innovative productions, they have released 23 CDs and 5 films as well as being busy on the concert platform. Their inimical performances are characterised by superb ensemble playing, sensitivity, wit, pathos and sheer beauty.
Robert Hollingworth is also artistic director for the Stour Music festival, Reader in Music at the University of York and guest conductor with ensembles around the world.
Viadana (c.1560–1627), Deus in adiutorium
Monteverdi (1567–1643), Dixit Dominus (1640, secondo)
Palestrina/Giovanni Battista Bovicelli (1560–94), Ave verum corpus
Monteverdi, Confitebor tibi, Domine (1640)
Ignazio Donati (c.1570–1638), Dulcis amor lesu
Monteverdi, Beatus vir (1640, )
Monteverdi, Laudate pueri (1640)
Dario Castello (1602–31), Sonata in d minor
Monteverdi, Laudate Dominum (1640, primo)
Girolamo Frescobaldi (1583–1643), Toccata terza
Monteverdi, Ut queant laxis (1640)
Giovanni Gabrieli (c.1555–1612), Magnificat à 14
Francesco Usper (1561–1641), Sonata à 8
Monteverdi, Salve, O Regina (1624)
Clare, Church of St Peter & St Paul
Motets by Two Bachs – Johann Sebastian & Johann Christoph
Jonathan Sells (artistic director)
8 singers and 2 instrumentalists (organ, violone)
Growing around the River Stour, Clare is another attractive market town, regularly winning prizes for its floral displays. The Church of St Peter & St Paul is one of the largest and most beautiful in East Anglia, set within a spacious churchyard in the centre of town. The 14th-century building was enlarged in the 15th century, the piers being raised by the insertion of pedestals and capitals, the windows so large they leave little room for wall.
The programme here consists of motets by two members of the family which dominated musical life in Mitteldeutschland for over a century – the Bachs. Johann Christoph (1642-1703) was Johann Sebastian’s father’s cousin and the musical forebear whom he most admired. His motets in this programme use striking harmonies for emotional and descriptive effect, demonstrating an arresting marriage of text and music, and use Lutheran chorales with great impact.
Their power is not overshadowed by the contrapuntal complexity of the motets by Johann Sebastian.
Determined to communicate the full power of 17th- and 18th-century music as directly as possible, the collective Solomon’s Knot was founded in London in 2008. Led by artistic director Jonathan Sells, the group performs without a conductor, the singers sing off the book, learning their parts by heart.
What began as a promise never to lose the joy of performing, to blow the dust off early music and break down the barriers of classical music, has evolved into Solomon’s Knot’s reputation today: direct communication, adventurous programming and bold trademark performances from memory.
Johann Christoph Bach (1642–1703), Fürchte dich nicht (SSATB)
Johann Sebastian Bach (1685–1750), Fürchte dich nicht (SATBx2)
JSB, Komm Jesu, komm (SATBx2)
JCB, Lieber Herr Gott, wecke uns auf (SATBx2)
JCB, Herr, nun lässet du deinen Diener (SATBx2)
JSB, Jesu, meine Freude (SSATB)
JCB, Der Gerechte, ob er gleich zu zeitlich stirbt (SATTB)
JSB, Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied (SATBx2)
Lavenham, Church of St Peter & St Paul
The Sacred Lagoon: Legrenzi, Vinaccesi & Vivaldi
Adrian Chandler (director, violin)
Hilary Summers (alto)
Robin Bigwood (organ)
and 12 other instrumentalists
Lavenham is an almost completely mediaeval town, the timber-framed buildings preserved by the 500-year slump which followed a burst of prosperity in the wool trade in the 15th century. The result is one of the delights of England.
The Church of St Peter & St Paul has a Decorated chancel dating to the early 14th century and a Perpendicular nave begun in 1486, famous for its homogeoneity and beauty and one of the most perfect manifestations of the style. The fine furnishings include misericords, chancel screen and an exceptional pair of chantry chapels.
The wealth of great sacred music emanating from Venice at the turn of the eighteenth century has largely been neglected – with the exception of some widely loved pieces by Vivaldi. Giovanni Legrenzi (1626–1690) was Maestro di Coro at the Basilica di San Marco and composer of an immense output of vocal music and instrumental works. Benedetto Vinaccesi (1666–1719) was also an organist at San Marco, and subsequently Maestro di Coro at the Ospedaletto, one of the four famous orphanages for girls.
Vivaldi’s Nisi Dominus is one of the cornerstones of the alto repertoire and needs little introduction. His virtuosic concerto in C (RV 179) is a reworking of a piece written for the Feast of the Assumption; it retains all the brilliance of the original at a fraction of the cost! The relatively unknown Diogenio Bigaglia (c.1676–c.1745), a monk at San Giorgio Maggiore, was a composer of great skill and imagination.
In 1984, a 10-year-old child in Merseyside listened to Vivaldi’s Four Seasons on the radio for the very first time… This encounter resulted in a lifetime’s dedication to the music of 18th-century Venice for violinist Adrian Chandler and to the birth of La Serenissima: a world-class ensemble bringing life-affirming Italian baroque music to a global audience. They claim to be the only instrumental ensemble on the planet to work exclusively from their own performing editions. A bit like homemade pasta – it tastes better.
Giovanni Legrenzi, Sonata VI à 4, Opus 11/3
Benedetto Vinaccesi, Motet Astra campi, amati Zephyri for contralto, strings & continuo
Antonio Vivaldi, Concerto for violin, strings & continuo in C, RV 179 (arrangement of Concerto per la Santissima Assontione di Maria Vergine, RV 581)
Diogenio Bigaglia, Concerto for violin, organ, strings & continuo in G minor
Vivaldi, Nisi Dominus (Psalm 126) for contralto, strings & continuo, RV 608
Mildenhall, Church of St Mary
‘Exsultate, jubilate’: Haydn, Mozart & J.C. Bach
Jonathan Cohen (director)
Carolyn Sampson (soprano)
Ashley Riches (bass)
and 21 instrumentalists
The largest parish in Suffolk, close to the borders with Cambridgeshire and Norfolk, Mildenhall thrived in earlier times on fish from the Fens and rabbits from the Breckland heath. Now it is best know for nearby RAF Mildenhall, base for both British and American units.
The Church of St Mary is suitably magnificent for our finale. The chancel is 13th-century, with a particular fine east window, the nave 15th-century Perpendicular and the two-storey porch with lady chapel above is early 16th-century. Astonishly thin piers support one of the finest timber roofs in East Anglia, inhabited by large gilded angels.
For this splendid and spacious vessel a Classical programme has been chosen. Mozart and Haydn were recognisably modern musical celebrities with solo concert series, publishing deals and fan clubs, yet both had their start in the ancient church music tradition and wrote sacred music throughout their careers.
And what sacred music! Mozart’s extraordinary ‘Exsultate, Jubilate’ is an irreverent show-stopper; Haydn’s ‘Lamentation Symphony’ with its central plainsong theme is also an early example of tempestuous Sturm und Drang; his ‘Nicolai Mass’ sports wide leaps and syncopated rhythms. Michael Haydn’s sacred concert aria and Johann Christoph Bach’s festive Magnificat complete an uplifting programme of searing beauty.
Arcangelo is one of the world’s leading ensembles, an army of generals directed by Jonathan Cohen working principally in baroque and classical repertoire. Setting it apart from other ensembles is the commitment to the collaborative ideal of chamber music performance. Arcangelo exploded onto the musical scene in 2010 with the verve and energy that continue to be their hallmarks. They have appeared at major festivals and concert halls in Europe and America and their many recordings have won great critical and popular acclaim.
J. Haydn (1732-1809), Missa Sancti Nicolai Hob:XXII:6
J. Haydn, Lamentation Symphony (No.26) Hob I:26
Michael Haydn, Alme Deus, ST332/KLIII:29
Johann Christian Bach (1735–82), Magnificat
Mozart (1756-1791), Exsultate, jubilate
Concerts: the package includes access to all six concerts.
Talks: a series of webinars with festival musicians in conversation with John Bryan.
Accommodation: three nights in a comfortable hotel from a choice of two.
Meals and refreshments: three dinners, one lunch, breakfasts and interval drinks.
Transport: private coaches for travel to and from railway stations, hotels, concerts and dinners.
Tips: for restaurant and hotel staff, drivers etc.
Festival staff: a team of MRT staff and experienced event managers.
Programme booklet: a publication containing detailed timings, practical information, programme notes and much else.
Hotel accommodation in Bury St Edmunds or Lavenham for three nights is included in the price of the festival package.
The choice of hotel and room type determines the price of the package.
We have chosen the two hotels with care. For location, amenities, comfort, maintenance and service, within their respective price bands these are the best in the region. As is inevitable in historic buildings, rooms vary in size and outlook.
The Angel Hotel, Bury
Historic coaching inn in the centre of Bury St Edmunds, a short walk from St Mary’s. Now AA-rated 4-star.
Rooms are attractively furnished and range from the more traditional to contemporary, some with an occasional quirky design. Some bathrooms have a bath, others a shower.
The public areas are comfortable with a contemporary décor. There is a good restaurant, a lounge and a bar. Service is friendly. Car park: no need to book, no charge.
This is also the base for the Mediaeval East Anglia pre-festival tour.
Two sharing (per person)
Standard double/twin (Original): £1,960
Superior double (Impressions): £2,020
Junior suite (Ivy View double/twin or Contemporary double): £2,180
Contemporary Abbey View suite (double): £2,380
Standard (Original): £2,050
The Swan Hotel, Lavenham
An inn since 1667, The Swan spreads through a number of contiguous half-timber buildings which date to the 15th and 16th centuries.
Refurbishment of the rooms has retained their historical character – wooden beams, uneven floors, casement windows – and the modern insertions have been designed with taste and restraint. Most of the en-suite bathrooms have a bath with shower attachment.
Facilities include a bar, extensive lounges, brasserie and a good restaurant. Service is of a high standard. There is a car park opposite the hotel which is free of charge.
This is also the base for the Gainsborough and Constable pre-festival tour.
Two sharing (per person)
Superior double/twin (Heritage or Gainsborough): £2,070
Suite double/twin (Constable): £2,210
Standard (Lavenham): £2,210
Superior (Suffolk): £2,260
If you would like extra nights in Bury or Lavenham before or after the festival, ask us or contact the hotel direct. This would be better done sooner rather than later.
Three dinners and one lunch are included in the package, as well as breakfasts. Included meals are in the hotel in which you are staying and in The Black Lion, a hotel restaurant in Long Melford.
Monday 4th July
By train to Ely for Bury. Participants staying at Bury-St-Edmunds should select a train to arrive at Ely around noon. We will recommend one as soon as the timetable is published; the journey from London King’s Cross takes about 70 minutes. Trains from Manchester and many other towns can reach Ely via Cambridge or Peterborough. Private coaches take you from Ely to The Angel Hotel in Bury. You are free for three hours before first concert at 4.00pm in St Mary’s, Bury.
By train to Colchester for Lavenham. Participants staying at Lavenham should take a train to Colchester. The journey from London Liverpool Street takes about an hour. Coaches take you to The Swan at Lavenham (c. 40 minutes), and from Lavenham to Bury at 3.00pm (25 minutes).
By car. You may of course drive to Suffolk in your own car. Parking is available free of charge at all hotels. However, we recommend you to join the coaches for the transfers to concerts and other events except on the last day.
Thursday 7th July
Following lunch at a restaurant near the venue in Mildenhall, the last concert finishes at about 4.00pm. Participants travelling homeward by train join coaches from their hotels, their luggage on board. Those with their own cars drive to Mildenhall.
Homeward by train. After the concert, coaches take all intending rail passengers, whether staying at Lavenham or Bury, from Mildenhall to Ely. A train reaches London King’s Cross at c. 6.30pm.
Gainsborough House excursion
During the festival, you can opt to use an otherwise free morning for a special visit to Gainsborough’s House which includes a talk by the director, Mark Bills, refreshments, admission to the house and to the two major exhibitions. The House is within walking distance of the afternoon concert.
Details on booking will be sent in due course.
Gainsborough and Constable, 2–4 July 2022
A two-night pre-festival tour visits sites associated with these two Suffolk-born artists. The itinerary includes Sudbury, Ipswich, Dedham, East Bergholt and Flatford and the two outstanding collections of their art, Gainsborough’s family home and Christchurch Mansion.
The hotel is The Swan in Lavenham (which should therefore be your choice for the festival). It begins at Ipswich Station early on Saturday afternoon (if required, it will start in Lavenham) and finishes at Lavenham by lunchtime on Monday. At 3.00pm coaches take you to Bury for the first concert.
Full details will be available soon, but please register your interest when booking for the festival.
Exclusive access. The concerts are private, being planned and administered by Martin Randall Festivals exclusively for an audience consisting of those who have taken the full festival package.
Duration. Four of the concerts are up to two hours long with an interval and two are a little over an hour with no interval.
Seats. Specific seats are not reserved. You sit were you want or where there is space. In the churches seating is largely on pews.
There is some walking and stair climbing involved in this festival and reasonable fitness and agility are required. Participants will need to be able to walk unaided for up to 20 minutes, the time it will take slow walkers to reach the furthest event.
We are happy to talk to you in more detail about this.
If you have a medical condition or a disability which may affect your holiday or necessitate special arrangements being made for you, please discuss these with us before booking. If the condition develops or changes subsequently, as soon as possible before departure.
'The programme was so cleverly constructed, yet it could appear seamless. The concerts in beautiful settings were memorable.'
'Deeply moving performances, quite heavenly in all instances. Thank you so much.'
'Such a large number of quality performances, by outstanding musicians, in such apt locations, balanced by delightful country walks and all choreographed by MRT professionals – how can you beat this?'
'World-class musicians and it was a great privilege to see and hear them at close range in such intimate settings.'
'Everything is so well planned and one feels so 'looked after'. Music, hotel, food all most enjoyable as always on a MRT holiday.'
'Superb music, excellent programmes and all concerts beautifully performed by two very talented groups of musicians.'
'I feel nothing but the deepest gratitude to MRT in making this transporting experience possible.'
'The music was lovely! I was introduced to some music I hadn't heard before and enjoyed fine performances of pieces I did know.'
'Very good value for money. It is unique. There is great attention to detail in every aspect of the tour.'
'Keep up the good work! You are unparalleled in terms of customer service and imaginative offerings.'
'The music was outstanding, at the highest professional standard.'
'The music was absolutely brilliant, better than I had hoped, with wonderful artists and musicians.'