A brand new festival – Summer Music in City Churches – is launched this summer with a series of concerts at the end of June (21st to 29th) in churches in the City of London.

Presenting beautiful music chosen for its underlying theme and context, this festival aims to inspire, divert and engage a broad audience. The theme for this year’s inaugural festival, marking 100 years since 1918, will be ‘Swords and Ploughshares’: music recalling pre-Great War peace, the horror of war itself, and its legacy. Concerts will feature nostalgic reminiscence of a pastoral age irrevocably devastated by the outbreak of war, evocative settings of poetry by WWI poets, poignant music written in tribute to those who fell in the Great War, and stirring works of consolation and hope.

Each concert will be staged in one of the ancient and architecturally stunning churches in the Square Mile which stand cheek by jowl with City offices: oases of history, beauty and peace amidst the 24-7 hurly-burly of City life, and glorious settings in which to listen and reflect. This year’s venues will be St Giles-without-Cripplegate, St Mary-le-Bow, St Stephen Walbrook and St Bartholomew the Great – each with its own story of survival to tell in the face of world war, fire and man’s inhumanity to man over the centuries.

In the absence (since 2016) of the City of London Festival, Summer Music in City Churches aims to provide a cultural focus within the City on an intimate and accessible scale. The festival also hopes to throw a spotlight on, the Diocese of London’s new project re-asserting the central role of music in the life of its churches.

Founded by Jenny Robinson and Ian Maclay of Kestrel Music, Summer Music in City Churches opens on Thursday 21st June at St Giles-without-Cripplegate in the heart of the Barbican, with Storm and Refuge: a performance of Duruflé’s consoling Requiem, and music by Elgar and Holst. The closing concert, Flowers of the Field on Friday 29th June, features internationally acclaimed baritone Roderick Williams performing his own orchestration of George Butterworth’s heart-breaking Shropshire Lad Songs. The programme also includes Finzi’s haunting Requiem da Camera, a contemporary setting of Wilfred Owen’s I know the music by Patrick Hawes, Vaughan Williams’ uplifting Lark Ascending of 1914, and works by Elgar and Warlock, performed by the City of London Choir and London Mozart Players under the baton of Hilary Davan Wetton.

Other concerts during the festival include:
A secular Remembrance programme from innovative brass ensemble Septura
An evening of Weimar cabaret and prohibition songs performed by Mary Carewe with Harry the Piano
Music of the period from Britain and the continent, played by virtuoso wind quintet, the New London Chamber Ensemble
Holst’s Planets Suite for piano (four hands) played by John and Fiona York – marking the centenary of its first performance – with readings of poetry redolent of the backdrop against which it was written
A Myra Hess tribute lunchtime piano recital re-creating the first of Dame Myra’s legendary National Gallery concerts in the Second World War
A recital by acclaimed pianist Mark Bebbington of British pieces from the golden pastoral age which was shattered by the outbreak of war. Bebbington performs much-loved works alongside some rare gems – including the first public performance in modern times of Vaughan Williams’ Fantasia on a theme by Thomas Tallis transcribed for two pianos.
A recital by tenor Richard Robbins of songs written in response to war by Finzi, Gurney, Ireland, Howells and James Macmillan, woven together with stories from letters written at the Front. The programme culminates in Finzi’s Farewell to Arms which epitomises the act of turning swords into ploughshares.

Summer Music in City Churches is completely independent and presented without any public subsidy.


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