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Lift up your heads, ye lasting doors, they sing...

posted on 17/05/19

Choral music has always been a large part of my life. As a teenager I was lucky enough to sing regularly in Gloucester Cathedral with its wonderful Youth Choir, I was a Lanfine Choral Scholar and a Lay Clerk in Glasgow Cathedral Choir at University. I also sang under Timothy Noon (the now director of Exeter Cathedral Choir) in Auckland Cathedral Choir. Since moving to London I have sung with the Bach Choir as well as in various smaller ensembles. For me, the chance to create the West Country Choral Festival alongside Martin is a real privilege. Working with renowned choral directors and some of my good friends from the music world to put together a festival in some of the most beautiful buildings in the country is not the sort of opportunity that comes around very often.

The music that we have selected for the festival is incredibly wide ranging but an exciting mix of old and new. From Tallis’ 40-part motet, Spem in Alium in Bath Abbey to the National Youth Chamber Choir of Great Britain performing a programme of music written by women. Many of the pieces included are (perhaps rather indulgently) some of my favourites. The festival opens with some of Handel’s Coronation Anthems which I last sang at the Three Choirs Festival some years ago, we have also included Pärt’s Bogoróditse Djévo, a brilliantly quick piece originally commissioned by King’s College Cambridge for their annual Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols. I have always loved the perhaps apocryphal tale that Pärt charged per minute of composition which is why the piece lasts exactly that amount of time (more or less). It is certainly a tongue twister to sing in Russian at that speed. The festival also features another of my favourites, Allegri’s Miserere sung by the brilliant Stile Antico, performed in St Mary Redcliffe, Bristol, ‘the fairest, goodliest, and most famous parish church in England,’ and an astounding building.

As a Gloucester girl I am perhaps most looking forward to the concert with the Cathedral Choir in one of the finest buildings in the land (in my opinion) Gloucester Cathedral, conducted by my friend, the very talented Adrian Partington. Gloucester has an incredibly rich musical heritage; some of the greatest choral composers of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries have close links with the cathedral, including Holst, Howells, Finzi, Parry and Vaughan Williams. Working out a programme with Adrian that highlights these composers was a joy. The concert will end with the audience and choir processing to the newly renovated Lady Chapel, while the choir sing Holst’s hauntingly beautiful Nunc Dimittis from the gallery. It will doubtless be a special moment.


By Lizzy Holsgrove, Festival Manager for West Country Choral Festival


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